Can You Use Pennsylvania’s Protection from Abuse Law?
Domestic violence is a sad reality in the state and the nation. Fortunately, Pennsylvania’s legislature has taken the problem seriously, and the state’s Protection from Abuse Law (PFA) can provide a critical source of protection for those in Pennsylvania.
In this post, our Media family attorney reviews what you need to know. It might not be immediately apparent whether you can seek a protection order, so please speak to an attorney.
Relationship to Your Abuser
The PFA law does not allow you to get a protection order against anyone. Instead, you must have a certain relationship to your abuser as identified in 23 Pa.C.S. §6102:
- You are part of the same family
- You live in the same household
- You are sexual or intimate partners
- You are both biological parents of at least one child
If you are being abused from someone else—such as a stranger or a neighbor—you should consider seeking a Sexual Violence Protection Order. These are available for sexual abuse and intimidation, and our firm can help you get one of those as well.
This statute also identifies the type of abuse that can trigger a victim’s ability to seek a protective order. Again, not any intimidation or coercion qualifies. Simplifying somewhat, the statute allows you to seek an order for the following:
- Falsely imprisoning you
- Intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causing (or attempting to cause) bodily injury, rape, sexual assault, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, indecent assault, or incest
- Placing you in reasonable fear of imminent serious bodily injury
- Sexually or physically abusing minor children
- Repeatedly committing acts which instill a reasonable fear of bodily injury
This last example requires a close look. By its language, your abuser needs to commit “repeated” acts, such as repeated stalking. One instance of threatening behavior might not be enough. However, you should definitely meet with a Delaware County lawyer to review. The last thing a victim should do is assume he or she does not qualify for help.
How the Order Protects You
A protection order is signed by a judge and has the full weight of the court behind it. An order should identify what the named abuser cannot do, such as:
- Prevents your abuser from purchasing a firearm
- Prohibits your abuser from contacting you or your children, including visiting your home, school, or workplace
- Prohibits your abuser from harassing, following, or threatening you
If you live with the abuser, then you can ask the judge to award you the home and order your abuser to move out. If you have children, you can request child custody and support at the same time so that you can still care for your children.
Police can arrest an abuser for violating the conditions of the order. A judge can also impose sanctions, such as contempt, resulting in fines or even time in jail. These are very powerful orders to have.
How to Obtain a Prevention from Abuse Order
Those seeking an order can obtain a temporary order on an ex parte basis, meaning the order is issued without a hearing. However, a judge will schedule a hearing with all parties before deciding whether to make the order permanent.
Barbara Flum Stein & Associates strongly encourages those being abused to reach out to our office today. A lawyer can make a big difference in the process. We can also discuss whether you wish to seek divorce at the same time.