If you are in a relationship that is unsafe, it is critical to remove yourself and your children and immediately get to safety. Here in Bucks and Montgomery Counties of PA, we have many resources available to assist you. Physical and psychological abuse can have serious long-term consequences on your life. Our attorneys want to make sure you have the legal protection you need.  

How do I get a restraining order in Bucks and Montgomery Counties?  

A Protection From Abuse (PFA) Order, commonly called a restraining order, is a court order that raises the legal stakes for your abuser. Once obtained, if the person contacts you, comes to your home, place of work, or within a certain distance of you, he or she risks arrest and criminal penalties. If you need a PFA or feel you’ve been wrongly accused of abuse and are the subject of a PFA, Karen Ann Ulmer can help.

What’s the Process to Get a Protection From Abuse Order?

A PFA can be sought by:

  • Anyone 18 or older, and
  • A teen or a child accompanied by a parent, an adult household member, or a guardian ad litem

You (the plaintiff or petitioner) can start the process to obtain a temporary PFA  at a police station or courthouse depending on the time and day. As the plaintiff, you can fill out a petition. You will need to:

  • Explain why you need protection 
  • Describe the abuse you’ve suffered
  • State what protection you seek

A judge will consider your petition and may have additional questions for you at a hearing. The judge will either grant you a temporary PFA or deny your request. If it’s granted, a final hearing will be scheduled within ten business days. 

This temporary PFA provides you legal protection through the date of the final hearing. The county sheriff’s office will serve copies of the petition, the order, and a notice of the final hearing on the accused abuser (the defendant).

The PFA can make it illegal for the person to contact, harass, or abuse you or your children. It could order the abuser to move out of your home, return your personal property, and grant you temporary custody of your children.  Additionally, your abuser may be required to surrender all weapons including guns and ammunition.  

What Role Does a Judge Play in the Process?

You and the defendant will have an opportunity to come before the judge at the final hearing. Both can tell their sides of the story and have legal representation. If you and the defendant agree on the terms of an order, the judge will review it and may make it official, with or without changes. 

Without an agreement, the judge decides what to do based on the testimony and evidence presented at the hearing. The plaintiff must show he or she fears serious and imminent harm. There must be evidence showing a recent violent incident, prior violence, or firearm ownership for a court to issue the order. The judge can deny the petition or create a final PFA, which could last for up to three years.

Where Does a PFA Apply?

The Protection from Abuse Order is valid everywhere in Pennsylvania, in every state, and on tribal lands. Protection orders from other parts of the US are also valid in Pennsylvania due to federal law. Defendants’ names are put into a law enforcement database, making it easier for police to check if you have a protection order and whether the defendant is violating it. If you travel or move, have a copy of the order with you to help prove your status. 

Compassionate Advocacy From Lawyers Who Care

Everyone should feel safe and secure in their own homes. If you or someone you know feels threatened, contact us immediately. If you are a defendant in a PFA case, schedule an appointment to discuss the situation, how Pennsylvania law may apply in your case, and how we can help. Learn more by calling our office at (215)515-5172, booking an appointment online, or by filling out our contact form. We can meet in our office or speak with you by phone.

A PFA Order is a civil remedy to end abusive relationships. Remedies for a successful PFA petition can include having the Defendant removed from a residence that was previously shared, restrictions on contact for up to three (3) years, relinquishment of firearms or other weapons, reimbursement for related expenses or out of pocket costs suffered, temporary support, and in some cases, a custody schedule. It is possible to list multiple persons in need of protection under the PFA in one petition including children. A Protection from Abuse (PFA) petition requires the petitioner to identify the defendant, state the incidents constituting the “abuse” as well as any prior history of similar incidents, provide notice of any weapons involved, and set out the relief requested.

A PFA can only be filed if there is a relationship between the Petitioner and Defendant. Recognized relationships include spouse or former spouse, parent of child with Defendant, current or former sexual/intimate partner, child of Plaintiff or Defendant, family member related by blood or marriage, and sibling. Abuse, for purposes of obtaining a PFA, is defined as

physical violence or imminent threat thereof, stalking or any other course of conduct which would place a person in fear of bodily injury. The party pursuing a PFA order must establish by a preponderance of the evidence, or more likely than not, that some abuse occurred. Violations of a PFA may be criminal in nature depending on the nature of the violation. Criminal charges may also be pending simultaneously with a PFA petition.

Victims of domestic abuse may need help from others to get a divorce. It can also help to create an escape plan and seek a protective order.

For countless people in Pennsylvania and elsewhere, marriage is a nightmare that they may feel they can never escape. Tragically, domestic violence affects millions of men, women and children every year. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, one in three women and one in four men will be abused by an intimate partner at some point during their lives. The problem is so serious, in fact, that 15 percent of all violent crimes are committed by abusers against their partners. The following questions address some that abuse victims are likely to ask when preparing to end a marriage.

IS DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ALWAYS PHYSICAL?
In many cases, an abuser physically strikes or otherwise causes bodily harm to his or her victim. However, domestic abuse may be emotional, psychological, sexual or financial. Abusers often resort to threats and manipulation to maintain control over their victims. They may restrict their partners from seeing their family members or friends; prevent them from having access to the phone, Internet or the car; and not allow them to work or have any money. Non-violent abusive relationships do not always escalate to physical violence, but often they do.

HOW CAN I ESCAPE AN ABUSIVE MARRIAGE?
It is rarely easy to escape an abusive relationship; this is why it is important to create an escape plan. The National Domestic Violence Hotline suggests implementing the following type of plan:

• Enlisting the help of trusted loved ones

• Keeping emergency cash, clothing and documents in a safe place that the abuser does not know about

• Documenting evidence of physical injuries and keeping a journal of the abuser’s behavior

• Memorizing the phone numbers and addresses of abuse shelters and law enforcement offices

It may also be a good idea at this point to seek a protection order.

WHAT IS A PROTECTIVE ORDER AND HOW DOES IT WORK?
A family law court can issue a protective order to abuse victims that extends certain legal protections. While the order is in effect, the abuser will not be allowed to approach or contact the victims. This may give the victim time to get to a safe place and to begin divorce proceedings. Protective orders are not initially permanent. Both sides will be given the chance to tell their side in court, and a judge can then decide if additional protection is necessary.

You are likely to need professional assistance to leave an abusive marriage. This may include help from law enforcement and abuse counselors. A Pennsylvania family law attorney with experience in domestic violence cases can also be an invaluable ally. Your attorney may be able to help you obtain a protective order, as well as start you on the road to freedom from abuse.

Victims of domestic abuse may need help from others to get a divorce. It can also help to create an escape plan and seek a protective order.

For countless people in Pennsylvania and elsewhere, marriage is a nightmare that they may feel they can never escape. Tragically, domestic violence affects millions of men, women and children every year. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, one in three women and one in four men will be abused by an intimate partner at some point during their lives. The problem is so serious, in fact, that 15 percent of all violent crimes are committed by abusers against their partners. The following questions address some that abuse victims are likely to ask when preparing to end a marriage.

IS DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ALWAYS PHYSICAL?
In many cases, an abuser physically strikes or otherwise causes bodily harm to his or her victim. However, domestic abuse may be emotional, psychological, sexual or financial. Abusers often resort to threats and manipulation to maintain control over their victims. They may restrict their partners from seeing their family members or friends; prevent them from having access to the phone, Internet or the car; and not allow them to work or have any money. Non-violent abusive relationships do not always escalate to physical violence, but often they do.

HOW CAN I ESCAPE AN ABUSIVE MARRIAGE?
It is rarely easy to escape an abusive relationship; this is why it is important to create an escape plan. The National Domestic Violence Hotline suggests implementing the following type of plan:

• Enlisting the help of trusted loved ones

• Keeping emergency cash, clothing and documents in a safe place that the abuser does not know about

• Documenting evidence of physical injuries and keeping a journal of the abuser’s behavior

• Memorizing the phone numbers and addresses of abuse shelters and law enforcement offices

It may also be a good idea at this point to seek a protection order.

WHAT IS A PROTECTIVE ORDER AND HOW DOES IT WORK?
A family law court can issue a protective order to abuse victims that extends certain legal protections. While the order is in effect, the abuser will not be allowed to approach or contact the victims. This may give the victim time to get to a safe place and to begin divorce proceedings. Protective orders are not initially permanent. Both sides will be given the chance to tell their side in court, and a judge can then decide if additional protection is necessary.

You are likely to need professional assistance to leave an abusive marriage. This may include help from law enforcement and abuse counselors. A Pennsylvania family law attorney with experience in domestic violence cases can also be an invaluable ally. Your attorney may be able to help you obtain a protective order, as well as start you on the road to freedom from abuse.

Emotions run high in any child custody discussion.  When you are fighting with your soon-to-be-ex, in person or through your attorneys, that arguing adds extra pressure to the process.  When violence and abuse are already present in the relationship, there is added urgency along with a fear of you or your children being victimized.  

 

Whether you are negotiating parenting time and a custody schedule for the first time or you think an existing schedule should be reviewed, it is very important for you to tell your attorney about any abuse.  As divorce and family attorneys, we have helped many families through these situations.

First and foremost, if your spouse is abusing you and/or your children, it is critical that you get yourself to safety and follow the protocols of the Bucks and Montgomery County Protection from Abuse (PFA) procedures.

Next, an experienced attorney can help you unravel the tangle of domestic violence as it relates to your custody case.  To be clear, just because you say you are being abused does not mean the judge is going to grant you full custody or take away the other parent’s rights.  While protection and safety are of primary concern, there needs to be documented proof of abuse.  This is where an experienced attorney can help you.  

Documentation is a very important part of any abuse case and should include as much detail as you can by date.  Remember to not only include details about any physical abuse, but also emotional abuse as well.  You will need to find a safe place to store your documentation and sometimes the best place is out of your home and away from where your spouse may find it.  Sometimes your computer or phone can be safe.  We can help you put the right system in place.  Record incidents of physical abuse with a doctor (including pictures) and even with a therapist or social worker.  As you document, also make sure to tell at least one trusted confidant what is happening; this can be a friend or family member.  This level of documentation is critical so that you have a trail of proof should it ever be needed.  

As mentioned above, your safety is of utmost importance and stopping the abuse is the goal.  When your emotions run high, working through the legal process can seem tedious and a waste of time.  However, all custody issues in Montgomery and Bucks County, PA need to be resolved following a legal procedure and we can help you work through it quickly to obtain the best possible resolution.