Home should be a place where you feel safe and comfortable. Unfortunately, for victims of domestic violence, this is not always the case. Our attorneys at Thomas, Conrad & Conrad provide compassionate legal support and fight for the rights of those who suffer abuse. We are well-versed in the multifaceted aspects of Pennsylvania’s Protection from Abuse Orders that safeguard victims’ safety and well-being.
If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, these restraining order FAQs can help you understand the steps to take to protect yourself.
What Is A Restraining Order?
Known as a Protection from Abuse order (PFA) in Pennsylvania, a restraining order is issued by the court. It is designed to protect victims of domestic violence from all types of physical and emotional abuse, such as physical injury, threats of physical harm, and stalking.
Who Can File for A Restraining Order In Pennsylvania?
You may file for a PFA against an intimate partner or family member, including spouses, former spouses, same-sex couples, household members or persons related by blood or marriage, and parents or children.
In Pennsylvania, you may not file for a Protection from Abuse order against roommates, neighbors, co-workers, strangers, or classmates. If you are an adult household member, parent, or guardian of a minor child who is being abused, you may file for a PFA on their behalf.
What Is Considered Abuse?
According to the Pennsylvania Protection from Abuse Act, abuse is defined as:
- Attempting to cause bodily injury intentionally or recklessly
- Placing another person in fear of imminent serious bodily injury
- False imprisonment, such as barring someone from leaving the home
- Sexual abuse, rape, or forced unwanted sex acts
- Physical or sexual abuse of minor children
- Stalking that places a person in reasonable fear of bodily injury
What Types of Protections Does A Restraining Order Provide?
PFA coverage depends on specific circumstances. A temporary or final PFA may:
- Order the defendant not to abuse, threaten, harass, or stalk you
- Order them to stay away from your home (even if it is jointly owned or leased), work, or school
- Prohibit them from having firearms
- Order the defendant to pay for losses, such as medical bills or lost wages, that resulted from abuse
- In some cases, award you temporary custody of your children and grant temporary support for yourself and/or the children of the defendant
- Order the defendant to attend a batterers’ counseling program
How Do I File for A Temporary PFA?
In most counties, you must go to the county courthouse to file a petition for a Protection from Abuse order. On the form, you must describe the abuse you have suffered and why you are seeking protection. You will also specify which types of protections you are seeking. Our attorneys can assist you with filling out a petition form to ensure that the PFA covers all relevant issues surrounding the abuse.
How Do I File for A Final PFA?
Within 10 business days, a hearing will be held in front of a judge. You may have a lawyer represent you in this hearing. The judge will listen to arguments and evaluate the facts of the case. If the judge finds that accusations of abuse are valid, they will issue a Final Order of Protection, which may be from 1-36 months.
The defendant is entitled to present their case as well, so it is important to keep in mind that your abuser may be in the courtroom. Having a skilled family law attorney by your side can ensure that your rights are protected and provide much-needed support. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, you may be required to appear for court proceedings remotely via videoconferencing.
What If I’ve Been Wrongly Accused of Domestic Violence In Pennsylvania?
Unfortunately, false accusations of domestic abuse are all too common. The best way to protect your rights is to contact an attorney right away. Do not contact the person who filed for the PFA in any way, including in-person, via phone, text, email, or any other written communications. If they contact you, make sure to keep all documentation.
Contact A Lehigh Valley Family Law Attorney
Whether you are a victim of domestic abuse or need assistance with fighting false accusations, our family law attorneys at Thomas, Conrad & Conrad are here to help you get through challenging times. Our experienced, caring team serves clients throughout the Lehigh Valley and Poconos region.
If you or someone you know needs help, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline 24 hours a day at 1-800-799-7233 or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY).