Do you feel that your life or safety is threatened by a loved one, family member, or someone who is close to you?
If so, a restraining order or a Protection From Abuse (PFA) Order requires an abuser, or potential abuser, to stay away from you and leave you alone. If an order is in place and violated, the person can be arrested. It is not a perfect solution to domestic violence, but victims are in a better position when one is in force.
What is a PFA?
A PFA is a court order giving protective “relief” to victims (and their children) for up to three years if the order is made final. You can file for a PFA order from the court for yourself and/or your children, but the forms are complicated, so you should seek legal help. The order could make it illegal for the alleged abuser to contact, abuse, or harass you and your children. The abuser could also be ordered to return your personal property.
Who Must be Involved to Qualify for a PFA?
The incidents must involve:
- Family or household members
- Sexual or intimate partners
- Parents of the same child or children
They can be:
- Married or divorced
- Domestic partners who never married
- Current or former sexual or intimate partners
- Same-sex partners
- Parents, children, or siblings
If your situation does not involve these individuals, other orders may help:
- Adults and minors could ask a court for a Sexual Violence Protection Order if a stranger, acquaintance, or co-worker committed a sexual assault.
- A Protection From Intimidation Order can help minors if they are stalked or harassed by a non-relative like a neighbor, coach, or someone known by the family who is 18 or older.
In addition to these orders, if a crime happened, the police can be called to the scene, and the abuser may be arrested. If the incident is in the past, a police report can be filed, which may also lead to an arrest.
What Situations May Lead to a PFA?
If you are going through these circumstances or have recently, you should consider getting a PFA:
- The person caused or is trying to cause you physical injury.
- You are in fear of imminent serious bodily injury.
- You are the victim of sexual assault or rape.
- The person is stalking you. This is engaging in conduct or repeatedly communicating to another in circumstances showing an intent to put the person in reasonable fear of physical harm or cause substantial emotional distress.
- Your child suffered physical or sexual abuse.
- The person is interfering with your freedom of movement.
Please call our office if you have any questions or doubts about whether your situation is severe enough to qualify for a PFA.
How to File for a PFA in Bucks County
The Bucks County Court of Common Pleas Domestic Relations Division in Doylestown is the right place to file a completed PFA form if the county is where:
- You work or live (It must be where you live if you are asking the court to order the abuser to leave your home.)
- The abuser works or lives so they can be served court filings
- The abuse took place
If it is an emergency and the court is closed, there are time-limited orders that a District Justice can grant.
You will get a hearing date in Doylestown. The judge may have additional questions and may grant your request for a temporary court order. The abuser is served with the order, and another hearing will be scheduled with both parties to determine whether it should be made final with a term of up to three years.
Often the parties will negotiate terms of an agreement which the judge may make part of the final order. If there is no agreement, both parties will give their side of the story, and other testimony and evidence may be submitted. The judge would decide whether to extend the PFA and, if so, under what conditions and length. Attorneys can represent both parties.
What if the Abuser Violates the PFA?
You should contact the police. If enough evidence shows the order was violated, officers can arrest the person who would be charged with indirect criminal contempt. If those charges go to trial, you may need to testify.
Like most arrests, the abuser will probably be released from custody after being processed. If you feel you may still be in danger, you should contact a domestic violence advocate to discuss what you can do to protect your safety.
Is My PFA Order Valid in Another State?
Your order is valid across the state and in every other state, and on tribal lands. If you travel or move, you should have a copy of the order certified by the court (it has the court’s seal) and others with you in case it becomes an issue.
If you think you will need a PFA, or you want legal representation because you have been served with one or have a PFA hearing, contact Karen Ann Ulmer, P.C., Attorneys at Law. We can help protect your rights and safety and those of your children.