The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania enacted the Protection From Abuse Act (PFA Act), 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 6101, et at., in December of 1990. When properly utilized, the PFA Act provides victims of domestic violence with swift, meaningful, tools to remove themselves from an ongoing abusive situation and protection from future acts. When maliciously utilized, the PFA Act can create undue hardships and strict legal barriers for those falsely accused. Thus, understanding the PFA Act and its processes is imperative to protect yourself from both ongoing suffering from abuse and false accusations of abusiveness. This is a broad overview provided for educational purposes only and is not designed to be all inclusive. For an in-depth explanation of the PFA Act and processes, do not hesitate in contacting Banks Law Group at 844-815-9632.
WHAT KIND OF RELIEF IS AVAILABLE?
A person suffering from abuse can obtain a legally enforceable Protection From Abuse Order from the courts against the perpetrators of their suffered abuse. The remedies available can include a judge ordering the abuser to stop any further abusive actions, to cease any and all contact with you, to stay away from your home, work, or school and to surrender any firearms or weapons to the Sheriff of the county. The PFA Act also authorizes the court, in certain circumstances, to evict the abuser from your residence, pay financial support, and establish custody and visitation rights of children.
WHO IS ELIGIBLE FOR RELIEF?
The PFA Act allows family or household members, sexual or intimate partners or siblings to seek relief if they can demonstrate to the court that their abuser inflicted or attempted to inflict bodily injury upon them, sexually assaulted them, committed acts which put them in fear of bodily injury, or committed these acts upon a minor child.
It is important to remember that a Protection From Abuse Order cannot be sought against just anyone. It must be someone inflicting that abuse who has the relationship status of family or household members, sexual or intimate partners or siblings.
HOW DO I GET A PROTECTION FROM ABUSE ORDER?
The process starts with submitting a Petition with the court which alleges abuse. Notice of the petition will be sent to the abuser and a hearing is to be held within ten days of filing the Petition. At that hearing, the person filing the petition must prove to the court the abuse or fear of future abuse before and Protection From Abuse Order may be granted. This is an official legal proceeding where you will need to call witnesses, present evidence, and make legal arguments. You have the right to have an attorney represent you in this proceeding and should take advantage of that right.
In an emergency or where ongoing abuse is present, the court may hold a hearing immediately upon the filing of the petition ex parte, or without the abuser present. The court will hear from the person filing the petition and may enter a temporary order that is fully enforceable against the abuser until the full hearing with both parties may be held.
WHAT HAPPENS IF THE PERSON VIOLATES THE ORDER?
A Protection From Abuse Order is a legally enforceable court order. Thus, if a person does not comply with the court’s orders they are subject to contempt of court. The police may arrest a person for violating the order and then a contempt trial is held on those violations. If the court finds the person in violation they may impose penalties ranging from fines, to probation and even imprisonment for each violation.
WHAT DO I DO IF I AM ACCUSED OF BEING THE ABUSER?
A Protection From Abuse Order can greatly restrict your legal rights and impose personal, professional, and financial hardships upon you. You may be evicted from your residence or excluded from otherwise public places. You may be ordered to surrender any firearms or weapons that you might own. You may lose custody and visitation rights with your children or be forced to pay support to the accuser. The mere existence of the Protection From Abuse Order may have a negative impact on your personal relationships or negatively affect your employment.
If you are served with a Petition alleging abuse, you should contact an attorney immediately. The hearing on that Petition is a formal legal proceeding in which you may not be aware of the rules which govern that hearing. You may inadvertently give up valuable rights that you have if you try to represent yourself and are not fully educated on the law.