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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.

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.

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.

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.

Under Pennsylvania’s Unfair Insurance Practice Act, an insurance company may not deny a claim by an innocent co-insured where the loss was caused by the intentional act of another insured if the innocent co-insured is a victim of domestic violence. The Superior Court of Pennsylvania recently addressed this provision in Lynn v. Nationwide Insurance Company.

In this case, Husband and Wife owned a home, which was insured by Nationwide. Without Husband’s knowledge, Wife contacted their insurance agent and requested that the insurance policy be cancelled. Wife then drugged the couple’s children and set fire to the home while she and the children were inside. Wife’s plan failed and she was arrested.

Husband presented a claim to Nationwide for the fire damage. Nationwide denied coverage in part based on an exclusion for loss caused by intentional acts. Husband argued that he was a victim of domestic violence and that Wife’s attempted arson was part of a pattern of abuse. The Superior Court held that the issue needed to be submitted to a fact finder to determine if the Unfair Insurance Practices Act prevented Nationwide from denying coverage based on Wife’s conduct.

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.

On April 21, 2016, Governor Wolf signed into law a bill which essentially simplifies the process for victims of domestic violence to obtain a divorce. Currently, under the Divorce Code, even in the case of domestic violence, if a spouse refuses to consent to the divorce after 90 days, the divorce cannot proceed until there has been a two-year separation. In the new law that takes effect in sixty days (around June 22, 2016), a victim of domestic abuse can file for divorce and the law presumes consent of a party if they have been convicted of committing a personal injury crime against the other party.

Additionally, the new law allows the victim to object to court-mandated divorce counseling if they have a protection from abuse order. The victim can also object to court-mandated counseling if they were a victim of a personal injury crime for which the other spouse has been convicted or is in an accelerated rehabilitation disposition program as a result of conduct for which the other party was a victim.

For purposes of presuming consent to a divorce under this new law, the party has to have been convicted, meaning having been found guilty, having entered a plea of guilty or nolo contendere or having been accepted into an accelerated rehabilitative disposition program. A personal injury crime under this new law is defined as an act that constitutes either a misdemeanor or felony or criminal attempt, solicitation, or conspiracy to commit any of the following: criminal homicide, assault, kidnapping, human trafficking, sexual offenses, arson and related offenses, robbery, victim and witness intimidation, homicide by vehicle, or accidents involving death or personal injury.