DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AND ABUSE
If you are a victim of domestic violence and abuse, then you should remove yourself from the dangerous situation, contact law enforcement, and seek an Order of Protection under the Pennsylvania Protection from Abuse Act (23 P.S. § 6101 et seq.) also known as the PFA Act.
PROTECTION FROM ABUSE LAW
The PFA Act empowers the Court to grant a protection order to stop further abuse of a victim and children. Such an Order is referred to as a PFA or PFA Order. A PFA Order can provide many types of protective relief that may include:
- Directing the defendant to refrain from abusing the plaintiff or minor children;
- Prohibiting the defendant from having any contact with you or your minor children, including the place where you live, work or attend school;
- Granting you exclusive possession of a shared residence;
- Awarding temporary custody or establishing temporary visitation rights with regard to minor children;
- Directing the defendant to pay you financial support in the form of rent, health insurance, or other expenses;
- Prohibiting the defendant from harassing your relatives;
- Limiting the defendant’s ability to have a gun or a gun permit; and
- Directing the defendant to pay you for reasonable losses suffered as a result of the abuse, including medical, dental, relocation and moving expenses, counseling, loss of earnings, attorney’s fees, and/or repair or replacement of any real or personal property damaged.
Abuse includes any of the following acts:
- Attempting to cause or intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causing bodily injury, serious bodily injury, rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, sexual assault, statutory sexual assault, aggravated indecent assault, indecent assault or incest with or without a deadly weapon;
- Placing another in reasonable fear of imminent serious bodily injury;
- The infliction of false imprisonment;
- Physically or sexually abusing minor children; or
- Knowingly engaging in a course of conduct or repeatedly committing acts toward another person, including following the person, without proper authority, under circumstances which place the person in reasonable fear of bodily injury.
WHO CAN OBTAIN A PFA ORDER
A victim of PA domestic violence may file for a PFA Order any of the following individuals:
- Spouses or ex-spouses
- Domestic partners (individuals who are living or have lived together)
- Relatives by blood or by marriage
- Current or former sexual or intimate partners (including dating relationships)
- Someone with whom you have a child together
HOW TO GET A PFA ORDER
To obtain a PFA Order, an individual must file a Petition with the Court. In Montgomery County, PA, a Petition should be filed by appearing in person at the courthouse in Norristown on Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The courthouse is located at 2 East Airy Street, Norristown, PA 19401. There are no fees or costs associated with the filing of the Petition.
After the Petition is filed, if the individual alleges an immediate and present danger of abuse to himself or herself or minor children, the court will conduct an ex parte proceeding. This means that the Judge will speak with the individual to determine whether an immediate and present danger of abuse exists. If so, the Judge will issue a Temporary PFA Order. To determine whether an immediate and present danger of abuse exists, the court will consider the following factors:
- Whether the temporary order of protection from abuse is likely to achieve its purpose in the absence of such a condition;
- Whether the defendant has previously violated a PFA Order;
- Whether past or present abuse to the victim or the victim’s minor children resulted in injury;
- Whether the abuse occurred in public; and/or
- Whether the abuse includes threats of abuse or suicide, killing or threatening to kill pets, an escalation of violence, stalking or obsessive behavior, sexual violence or drug or excessive alcohol use.
Whether a Temporary PFA Order issued or not, the court will schedule a hearing within 10 business days of the filing of the Petition. At the hearing, the victim must prove the allegations of abuse by a preponderance of the evidence. Victims should strongly consider having an attorney at the hearing. The victim and the defendant will have an opportunity to testify and to present evidence and witnesses. After considering the evidence, the Judge may then issue the Final PFA Order. A Final PFA Order can provide protection for up to 3 years. A victim has the right to file for an extension of the Final PFA Order.
PROTECTION FROM ABUSE LAWYERS – THE MARTIN LAW FIRM, P.C.
It is very important for victims of domestic violence to realize that they have legal rights and that they should seek help immediately. It is also important to keep in mind that a PFA Order cannot guarantee the absolute safety of any victim. Obtaining a PFA Order is just one step that must be taken in conjunction with a comprehensive safety plan for your family. At The Martin Law Firm, our attorneys will make sure that you are well-informed of your legal rights and assist you with the PFA process and procedure during this difficult time. Contact The Martin Law Firm today at 215-687-4053.