Tag Archive for: restraining order

Filing for a restraining order — legally called a “Protection From Abuse” (PFA) order here in Pennsylvania — can keep you and your children safe from an abuser. Initially, the process of filing for a restraining order in Pennsylvania may sound overwhelming or confusing. But it actually just involves a few simple steps, and once you complete them, you can gain peace of mind. 

What a Restraining Order Can Give You

You can file for a restraining order against an intimate partner or a family member, including a spouse or ex-spouse, parent, child, domestic partner, or person related by marriage. In Pennsylvania, these orders do not protect victims who experience abuse from a stranger or a person with whom they are not “intimately involved.”

A restraining order or PFA offers these protections:

  • The abuser cannot go near the victim’s home — even if the abuser owns it.
  • The abuser cannot have any contact with the victim or their kids.
  • The abuser will need to turn over their weapons.

A judge may order a restraining order to stay in place for up to three years to protect the victim’s safety. In some cases, a victim can use a restraining order to require the abuser to provide financial support. 

How To File for a Restraining Order in Pennsylvania 

If you are in immediate danger of domestic violence or abuse, you will file for a temporary PFA that will go into effect instantly. A judge will review this temporary order at a hearing and determine whether to order a final PFA. 

This is the process to file for a temporary PFA:

  1. You will fill out a petition: If you are filing on a weekday, go to the courthouse to fill out a petition for a restraining order. If you are in immediate danger on an evening or weekend, call the police; they can provide protection until you file at the courthouse the next weekday. 
  2. A judge will review the petition: A judge may ask questions about your reasons for filing the petition. Then, they will grant or deny the temporary PFA and schedule a final hearing within 10 business days. 
  3. The sheriff will deliver the petition to your abuser: A local sheriff will deliver the temporary PFA order, a petition, and the notice of the final hearing to your abuser. 
  4. You will attend the final hearing: You can have an attorney and/or a domestic violence advocate with you at the final hearing. If you and the defendant agree on the terms of the order, the judge will grant it; if either party disagrees, they will share their account with the judge. Your attorney can provide evidence of why the restraining order is necessary.

Your abuser does not need to be present when you file. However, they can attend the final hearing. 

Karen Ann Ulmer, P.C., Can Help You Through This Process

We understand that filing for a PFA (Protection From Abuse) can be scary and overwhelming. Our compassionate attorneys at Karen Ann Ulmer, P.C., are here to guide you through the process and provide legal representation. Contact us today at (866) 349-4265 for assistance filing for a restraining order. 

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. 

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.