Victims of domestic violence abuse in Pennsylvania can file a “protection from abuse” (PFA) order. This is a civil order that can be granted to adults (age 18 or older) and offers them and their children protection from abuse from a family or household member (including a spouse, ex-spouse, sibling, parent, relative by blood or marriage, or a child), sexual or intimate partner (including same-sex), or a person with which they have a child in common with. Under the Protection From Abuse Act, abuse is defined as physical or sexual abuse; causing a person bodily injury either intentionally or recklessly; false imprisonment; putting a person in fear of “imminent bodily injury”; and stalking.
To file a petition for a PFA, you will have to go to a county courthouse, where courthouse staff will help you fill out the necessary paperwork, but will not offer legal advice. You will then be taken before a judge, who will review the petition and converse with you to conclude whether a PFA should be issued. If they do, you will be granted a temporary PFA, and a hearing will be scheduled in about 10 days. During this time, your abuser will be served and notified of the court hearing.
At the hearing, a judge will listen to the facts of the Pennsylvania domestic violence case. Both you and your abuser will be given an opportunity to testify and present evidence and witnesses. It may be in your best interests to hire a Philadelphia family law attorney to represent you, especially if your abuser will have a lawyer. If the judge determines abuse has taken place, a final PFA will be granted, which can range in length between one to 36 months. Depending on the circumstances of a case, the terms of a PFA can vary, but under most PFAs, an assailant cannot abuse, harass, stalk, or threaten you; they must stay away from where you live, work, or attend school; they are not permitted to harass your relatives; they cannot have a gun or a gun permit; and they are required to pay for any losses you suffered as a result of their abuse, which could include medical bills and lost wages. You are able to file for an extension of your PFA for an unlimited number of times.
It is important for victims of domestic violence in Pennsylvania to remember that they have legal rights. At The Law Offices of Sheryl R. Rentz, our Pennsylvania domestic violence lawyers will protect your rights and help you during this difficult time in your life. Call 610-645-0100 today.