A protection from abuse (PFA) order is civil protection entered by a court that prohibits abusive behavior. They are established when the parties involved are members of the same family or household or among those in a current or former intimate relationship. Data from the Pennsylvania State Police shows that more than 47,000 PFAs were implemented statewide in 2018.
In 2018, there were an estimated 381 PFAs established in Monroe County. Those seeking to file a petition may do so at the Monroe County Prothonotary located at 610 Monroe Street in Suite #323. The Women's Resources of Monroe County is a designated crisis center for sexual assault and domestic violence that is publicly funded.
Defining Acts of Abuse
- Acts of abuse are committed with intent (knowingly) with or without a weapon
- Attempts to create bodily injury, rape, involuntary sexual intercourse or sexual assault
- The acts may involve sexually or physically assaulting a minor or incest
- Placing the victim in “fear of imminent serious bodily injury”
- Subjecting the victim to false imprisonment
Temporary or Emergency PFA Orders
The petitioner may be granted a temporary order of protection when a judge believes they may be in danger. After the temporary order is obtained, the alleged abuser will be formally served with paperwork. This will include a summons for a hearing that is typically held within 10 business days. Petitioners are not subject to any fees for filing.
What Happens at a PFA Hearing?
The hearing is conducted to determine if the allegations of abuse have merit. The petitioner must show that abuse occurred in a way that satisfies a preponderance of the evidence standard. It is strongly recommended that the parties are accompanied by legal counsel. The hearing may involve presentations of evidence and witness testimony.
If the abuse is proven, the judge will implement a permanent (final) order. Once this occurs, state agencies of law enforcement are required to enter relevant details into a state database. Keep in mind that this is a civil process; however, any details of criminal convictions that are related will be documented as well.
Possible PFA Conditions
Some conditions are generally included in all of these orders. Examples include that the abuser refrains from having any contact with the victim or committing any further acts that constitute harassment, stalking, or abuse.
Based on the individual circumstances, the court may use their discretion in creating provisions. A party may be no longer able to reside in the household when the parties share a residence. Custody and visitation arrangements may be implemented when there are minor children. The abuser may be prohibited from owning or possessing any weapons.
Financial reparations may be ordered if the victim had losses stemming from the abuse. Financial orders of support may be made such as for housing or medical expenses.
Legal Representation for Defending Protection From Abuse Orders in Pennsylvania
A PFA is a civil court order; however, failing to comply with the provisions can quickly result in charges for criminal contempt. Those who are subject to a PFA may encounter problems when their background is checked by a potential employer or for certain professional licenses. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has spent many years representing clients in these matters in the Monroe County region. Contact the office at (888) 535-3686 for a case consultation.