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.

If you are currently married and in a physically or mentally abusive relationship, it can be a very tarrying situation that you might be desperate to get out of. You might be thinking of leaving or filing for divorce but have that voice in your head telling you it is not a good idea because of the potential reaction from your spouse. What if filing for the divorce causes the abuse to escalate when they find out? If your spouse already has a history of abuse towards you, the fear you have might take over and prevent you from following through with the decision to follow through with filing for divorce, and separating from them finally.

If there is a history of abuse you can file a petition for a Protection from Abuse Order while you prepare to file for divorce. To get a protection from abuse order you would first want to file with the court. Then likely, a Judge would issue a temporary order without the abuser being present while a future hearing date is scheduled. Both you and the abuser would then have to appear before a Judge at the later date. At this hearing either the abuser can consent to the Protection Order, or request to have a hearing where the Judge would hear testimony and make an order. These types of orders can last for any duration of time up to 36 months. If the abuser were to violate any such order they would be held in contemp. Consequences of a contempt violation can range from fines to jail time. When you are in an abusive marriage and desperate to get out but just fearful of what will happen if you try, a Protection from Abuse order can grant you that peace of mind to be able to file and get divorced with added protection from your abuser’s potential reaction.

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.

Any party experiencing abuse by a partner/spouse (current or former), family member related by blood or marriage or person with whom you share a child may obtain a Protection from Abuse (PFA) Order. The first step is to file a PFA petition with the court. After you have filed, the court will determine if a temporary order should be put in place right away. Specifically, 23 Pa. C.S. 6107 (b) requires the court to conduct an ex parte hearing to determine if a temporary order is warranted. This hearing is only attended by the filing party. It is now required to safeguard the defendant’s due process rights by way of questioning the filing party as to the truth of their petition.

A final PFA hearing is to be held within ten (10) days. The Defendant has a right to appear at the final hearing and defend themselves. The Sheriff’s office is regularly tasked with making sure Defendants are served with notice of the final hearing date as well as any temporary order if applicable. Bucks County has a great program available where attorneys volunteer to offer pro bono representation to PFA Plaintiffs and Defendants. You may also hire a private attorney for assistance in your PFA matter. A Final PFA Order may issue for a period of up to three (3) years. While a PFA Order is initially civil in nature, violations of a PFA Order may result in criminal charges.

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. You can visit www.nnedv.org for details on the daily initiatives. The goal is to provide information on what constitutes domestic violence and how to address it once recognized. Thursday, October 19th, is purple Thursday and people are encouraged to wear purple to raise awareness. Pennsylvania has several laws in place to protect victims of domestic violence.

The Protection from Abuse (PFA) Act provides a civil remedy in the form of a stay away order. The PFA Act can only be utilized if there is a certain relationship between the victim and the offender; specifically, family or household members, sexual or intimate partners, or persons who share biological parenthood. Abuse under the PFA Act includes causing or attempting to cause bodily injury, rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, sexual assault, placing another in fear of imminent serious bodily injury, infliction of false imprisonment, physically or sexually abusing minor children, and stalking in the sense of engaging in a course of conduct which place a person in reasonable fear of bodily injury. Three years is the maximum length of a PFA Order. Violations of a PFA Order can carry criminal violations.

Pennsylvania’s Protection from Sexual Violence and/or Intimidation Act (PSVI) is another civil remedy that allows victims to obtain a civil no-contact order for up to three (3) years. Adults and minors can petition for an Order on the basis of sexual violence. Only minors may obtain an Order on the basis of intimidation provided the offender is over 18 years old. There is no filing fee to file. A temporary Order can be granted following an ex parte hearing. A final hearing must be held within ten (10) days of when the Petition is filed. The victim must establish sexual violence and/or intimidation by a preponderance of the evidence. The PSVI Act does not restrict protection based on relationship of the parties involved. Sexual violence for purposes of the PSVI Act includes but is not limited to rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, sexual assault, indecent exposure, and unlawful dissemination of an intimate image. Violation of a PSVI Order can also carry criminal consequences.

Click here to read more about domestic violence.

Pennsylvania’s Protection from Sexual Violence and/or Intimidation Act (PSVI) became effective July 2015. The Act allows victims to obtain a civil no-contact order for up to three (3) years. Adults and minors can petition for an Order on the basis of sexual violence. Only minors may obtain an Order on the basis of intimidation provided the offender is over 18 years old. There is no filing fee to file. A temporary Order can be granted following an ex parte hearing. A final hearing must be held within ten (10) days of when the Petition is filed. The victim must establish sexual violence and/or intimidation by a preponderance of the evidence.

The Protection from Abuse (PFA) Act also provides a civil remedy in the form of a stay away order however the PFA Act can only be utilized if there is a certain relationship between the victim and the offender. The PSVI Act does not restrict protection based on relationship of the parties involved. Sexual violence for purposes of the PSVI Act includes but is not limited to rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, sexual assault, indecent exposure, and unlawful dissemination of an intimate image. Violation of a PSVI Order can carry criminal consequences. Pennsylvania is the 34th state to pass such an Act to provide some protection for victims of sexual assault since many cases do not make it into the criminal justice system.

Click here to read more about domestic violence.

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Next week, October 16th – 22nd, is the week of action. You can visit www.nnedv.org for details on the daily initiatives. Thursday, October 20th, is purple Thursday and people are encouraged to wear purple to raise awareness. Pennsylvania has several laws in place to protect victims of domestic violence.

The Protection from Abuse (PFA) Act provides a civil remedy in the form of a stay away order. The PFA Act can only be utilized if there is a certain relationship between the victim and the offender; specifically, family or household members, sexual or intimate partners, or persons who share biological parenthood. Abuse under the PFA Act includes causing or attempting to cause bodily injury, rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, sexual assault, placing another in fear of imminent serious bodily injury, infliction of false imprisonment, physically or sexually abusing minor children, and stalking in the sense of engaging in a course of conduct which place a person in reasonable fear of bodily injury. Three years is the maximum length of a PFA Order. Violations of a PFA Order can carry criminal violations.

Pennsylvania’s Protection from Sexual Violence and/or Intimidation Act (PSVI) is another civil remedy that allows victims to obtain a civil no-contact order for up to three (3) years. Adults and minors can petition for an Order on the basis of sexual violence. Only minors may obtain an Order on the basis of intimidation provided the offender is over 18 years old. There is no filing fee to file. A temporary Order can be granted following an ex parte hearing. A final hearing must be held within ten (10) days of when the Petition is filed. The victim must establish sexual violence and/or intimidation by a preponderance of the evidence. The PSVI Act does not restrict protection based on relationship of the parties involved. Sexual violence for purposes of the PSVI Act includes but is not limited to rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, sexual assault, indecent exposure, and unlawful dissemination of an intimate image. Violation of a PSVI Order can also carry criminal consequences.

Click here to read more about Protection from Abuse.

This weekend many will be celebrating Valentine’s Day with their loved ones. Cards and gifts are exchanged to express love and friendship. February 14th also marks V-Day: a global activist movement to end violence against women. This movement started in 1998 and has raised millions of dollars in addition to bringing awareness of the issue of violence against women on an international scale. Pennsylvania recently enacted the Protection from Sexual Violence and/or Intimidation Act (PSVI). The Act allows victims to obtain a civil no-contact order for up to three (3) years on the basis of sexual violence.

In addition to the Protection available under the PSVI, Pennsylvania has the Protection from Abuse (PFA) Act which also provides a civil remedy in the form of a stay away order. The PFA Act can only be utilized if there is a certain relationship between the victim and the offender (e.g. spouse or former spouse, parent of child with Defendant, current or former intimate partner or family member of the Defendant). The PSVI Act does not restrict protection based on relationship of the parties involved. Violation of either a PFA or PSVI Order can carry criminal consequences. A Woman’s Place is a domestic violence organization based in Bucks County that serves as an invaluable resource to victims of domestic violence.

Click here to find out more about A Woman’s Place.

Pennsylvania’s Protection from Sexual Violence and/or Intimidation Act (PSVI) became effective this month. The Act allows victims to obtain a civil no-contact order for up to three (3) years. Adults and minors can petition for an Order on the basis of sexual violence. Only minors may obtain an Order on the basis of intimidation provided the offender is over 18 years old. There is no filing fee to file. A temporary Order can be granted following an ex parte hearing. A final hearing must be held within ten (10) days of when the Petition is filed. The victim must establish sexual violence and/or intimidation by a preponderance of the evidence.

The Protection from Abuse (PFA) Act also provides a civil remedy in the form of a stay away order however the PFA Act can only be utilized if there is a certain relationship between the victim and the offender. The PSVI Act does not restrict protection based on relationship of the parties involved. Sexual violence for purposes of the PSVI Act includes but is not limited to rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, sexual assault, indecent exposure, and unlawful dissemination of an intimate image. Violation of a PSVI Order can carry criminal consequences. Pennsylvania is the 34th state to pass such an Act to provide some protection for victims of sexual assault since many cases do not make it into the criminal justice system.

Click here to read more about Protection from Abuse.

Chapter 1900 of the Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure discusses the appropriate method in pursuing a Protection from Abuse (PFA) matter. The first issue addressed is venue and outlines where a PFA action can be initiated. Under Pa. R.C.P. 1901.1, a PFA may be filed in the county where the Plaintiff resides, where the Defendant resides or may be served, where the abuse occurred, or if exclusion from a residence is desired, in the county where the residence is located. The complaint should be filed at the Prothonotary’s Office of the local courthouse during business hours or at the local district court if after-hours or on weekends. There is no filing fee payable by the Plaintiff.

Once the complaint is filed, any temporary order and notice of the final hearing should be served on the Defendant. The Sheriff is able to effectuate the service. The Rules provide that the final hearing should occur within ten (10) days of the petition being filed. The Plaintiff must prove abuse beyond a preponderance of the evidence. Abuse is defined as attempting to cause bodily injury, placing another in fear of imminent bodily harm, false imprisonment, child abuse, or a course of conduct placing one in fear of harm (e.g. stalking or harassment).

Click here to read more on PFAs.