Lawyer Helping Victims of Domestic Violence in Montgomery County, PA
Legal Help for Domestic Abuse Victims in Montgomery County
Domestic violence can occur in many different ways and they are all illegal. Domestic violence, whether it is physical or emotional, directed at a spouse or a child, is against the law. If you or someone you love is living with domestic violence in Montgomery County, PA then you need to contact our law firm immediately.
The Law Offices of Sheryl R. Rentz, PC offer free consultations on what rights you have and what you can do about your situation. In many instances, you are entitled to significant benefits after a divorce if domestic abuse was taking place. Because no one should have to live under threatening situations, and you may be eligible to claim several things if you were the victim of abuse. You can claim the house, finances, custody of the children, custody of any bank accounts or stocks, and many other things even if you were not the primary employed spouse. To learn what options are available to you in a domestic violence case, contact an experienced and compassionate Montgomery County family law attorney at (610) 645-0100.
Pennsylvania’s Prevention of Domestic Violence Act
In the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, victims of domestic violence are protected under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act (PDVA). This law outline clear rules for how courts and law enforcement respond to domestic violence allegations, per Title 18 § 2711.
If an individual is accused of domestic violence, the police have the right to:
- Arrest the accused without a warrant if there is probable cause
- Remove the accused from the victim’s home or shared household
- Issue an emergency restraining order
- Seize all weapons owned by the accused
Accusations of domestic violence can also lead to a temporary protection from abuse order and, following a domestic violence hearing, a final order. How Pennsylvania courts access domestic violence allegations vary on a case-by-case basis, but they can have a significant impact on family law matters, such as child custody orders, visitation plans, and divorces.
Acts that Pennsylvania courts can consider domestic violence, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, include:
- Physical abuse in the form of hitting, slapping, kicking, shoving, or choking
- Threatening violence against a victim, a victim’s children, or a victim’s pet
- Sexual assault and rape
- Destruction of property or harming pets
- Abusive language, including online messages, calls, voice mails, or text messages
- Limiting a victim’s ability to go to work, see friends and family, and go outside (false imprisonment)
Any of these acts can constitute domestic violence and lead to serious changes in family law cases, including financial compensation and a change in asset distribution in a divorce.
What Should I Do if I Experience Domestic Violence?
The most important thing you can do about domestic violence, however, is to remove yourself from the situation or otherwise make it stop. Filing a restraining order can be a good first step but it may not be enough. Family and criminal courts can have the offending partner stay away from the house, stop the abuse, grant custody of children to the abused partner and take away any guns from the abuser. These measures are important but because the safety of the abused lies with their notifying the police, the measures can sometimes fail.
How Can I File a Restraining Order in Pennsylvania?
In order to file a restraining order under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act (PDVA) several important steps must be taken. The abused must appear before a court of law and file several documents with them. A judge will then see the person and hear their side of the story and be presented with any evidence that may sway their decision. The abused must convince the judge that their partner is a danger to the health of the abused partner or the couple’s children.
While many cases of abuse are very real and not enough is done to combat them some cases of alleged abuse are filed falsely or vindictively. The person who alleges abuse does not have to notify the partner that they are filing for a restraining order and they can have their partner legally banned from coming home. In this case, if you are facing a restraining order or charge of abuse and you believe it is false then you are highly recommended to contact our law office immediately.
Who Can File for a Restraining Order?
Protection from abuse orders are not universal restraining orders, however, and victims must meet specific criteria to file for one. In domestic violence cases, a victim must be 18-years or older or the guardian of a minor who has experienced domestic violence in order to file for an order. The victim must also have a familial or intimate relationship with the accused, meaning they must be a:
- Domestic partner
- Extended family (cousin, nephew, niece, aunt, or uncle)
- Ex-partner or have some type of current or former intimate relationship with the accused
Any one of these individuals can seek a PFA as a result of domestic violence or be subject to a PFA if they are accused of domestic violence. This is in contrast to an accusation of harassment, which may occur between co-workers, friends, non-intimate roommates, and strangers.
What Happens After Filing for a Restraining Order?
If you are granted a restraining order by the court, then your abuser is legally barred from coming in contact with you, which includes being within a certain distance of you, calling or texting you, visiting your residence or work, and in any way attempting to abuse or harm you. Any violation of this order can result in jail time and potentially punitive damages.
However, at this stage, the court only has the right to award you a temporary ex-parte restraining order. These orders only last for 10 days typically, during which you must attend a hearing to determine if you can receive an extension. The accused must also receive a notice of the hearing and can choose to attend. They are allowed to defend themselves against any accusations and have legal counsel to support their case. Accusers are granted the same rights and should work with an attorney to build a strong case for an extension. This court may also make decisions regarding property rights, such as if you shared a household with the accused, as well as child custody.
If the court agrees that you and your child require further protection from the accused, they may grant you a final protection order, which can last up to three years with the option for an extension. This order goes into effect the moment the judge issues it and, from that point forward, the accused is legally barred from being near you or contacting you.
Protecting Family Members from Harm in Pennsylvania
Because everyone has important rights it is vital that you have the best law firm on your side working for you. Regardless of your legal case or particular circumstances if you are involved in or need to file a domestic abuse charge you should contact our offices for a free consultation. The Law Offices of Sheryl R. Rentz, P.C. has locations in Pennsylvania and have years of divorce law experience that you can trust. Contact us today at (610) 645-0100 for a free evaluation on your case.
- Divorcing a Violent or Dangerous Person
- What Is Child Abuse?
- Signs of a Controlling Spouse
- Putting an End to Domestic Violence in Pennsylvania
- Laws And Regulations - The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence (PCADV)
- Domestic Violence Crisis and Prevention - PA Department of Human Services