Many relationships are fruitful endeavors where both parties experience personal growth. Unfortunately, some relationships are troubled from the start where one party engages in physical or mental abuse against the other. In other scenarios, previous stable relationships may encounter significant stresses that results in one partner becoming mentally or physically abusive against the other. However, regardless of the cause of the abuse, such behavior is not acceptable or tolerated in the State of Pennsylvania. As such, the state has developed procedures where a member of a household can request the court to provide protection. Our Philadelphia divorce lawyers explain further.
What Is Considered Abuse in Pennsylvania?
Pennsylvania law defines abuse broadly. Types of behavior that are considered abuse in Pennsylvania includes any attempt to cause another person physical injury. Furthermore, even placing another person in fear of physical harm or bodily injury is sufficient to constitute abuse in Pennsylvania. Individuals are also prohibited from an array of sexual offenses, unwanted sexual advances, and conduct constituting sexual assault. Furthermore, false imprisonment and stalking are also considered abuse in the state.
Whether the matter is eligible for a protection from abuse order (PFA) is contingent upon the party perpetrating the abuse. A PFA order is available if the abuse is carried out by one’s husband, wife, or former spouse. Abuse by a child or abuse by a parent is also eligible for a PFA. Other individuals who can successfully petition for a PFA include those abused by former sexual partners, including same-sex partners. Finally, any person abused by a blood relative or relative by marriage can apply for a PFA.
How Can a PFA Protect Me?
The exact benefits of a PFA order are dependent on the type of abuse you experienced and the type of relief you need to address the specific facts of your situation. A PFA order can contain language requiring the other party to cease all contact with you. This means that he or she will be required to stay away from you and not engage with you at work, at home, at school, or in any other location. If your abuser is the home owner, the order can evict the abuser from the property – even when it is the abuser’s home. The PFA can also order the abuser to turn over all weapons or firearms to the police.
In situations where the abused party can no longer remain at home, the PFA may also include an award for temporary child support or temporary child custody. The order may also entitle the abused party to compensation for expenses and losses caused by the abuse. In appropriate situations, the abuser can also be forced to cover your attorney’s fees incurred securing the PFA.
What Can I expect from the PFA Process?
One must first file a protection from abuse petition with the appropriate court. If the need for the PFA arises at night, on a holiday, or on a weekend, emergency filing procedures exist. While the exact procedures will differ somewhat from court to court, assuming you file during normal court hours in Philadelphia County, a judge will review you PFA while you wait in room 242. After some time a judge will inform you whether a temporary PFA has been granted. You will be assigned a court date within ten days, provided with court papers, and told to serve the other party. A hearing into the alleged abuse will then take place.
As part of the PFA hearing, the abused party must present evidence of abuse. Thus, it is essential to prepare and gather this proof prior to the proceedings. Proof of abuse can include hospital records, but a full medical report is necessary and a discharge summary alone will be insufficient to prove abuse. Additional proof one may introduce to show abuse includes:
- Written communications from the abuser such as letters or text messages. The communication must be placed into context for the court.
- Reports of financial loss suffered due to the abuse.
- Police reports.
- Phone records and recorded calls and messages.
As for the last item, individuals without lawyers can have difficulty introducing this evidence. In the case of a recorded voice message and similar evidence, the petitioning party must lay the foundation for the evidence including how he or she knows that the speaker is the abuser. Furthermore, in the case of phone conversations, Pennsylvania is a two-party consent state. As such, the failure to obtain consent prior to recording a phone conversation can render the evidence inadmissible.
Work With a Philadelphia Divorce Lawyer of Sadek & Cooper Today
The Philadelphia family law attorneys of Sadek & Cooper can handle situations where household and familial abuse is present by filing for a protection from abuse (PFA) order. We can provide evidence and ensure that the filing is legally sufficient to increase the likelihood that timely protect will be ordered. To schedule a free and confidential consultation, call our firm at 215-814-0395 or contact us online today.