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Law offers protection for domestic violence victims

Sadly, domestic assault is not uncommon among married couples and people in intimate relationships. There are many types of domestic violence, as described in a previous blog post. Victims of domestic violence hold the key to stop the abuse. Here in Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, local residents should know their rights so that they understand what to do if they become victims of abuse.

Abuse, as clearly defined by the law, involves stalking, false imprisonment, sexual assault, threatening partners or spouses or causing physical injury. If a person suffers from any of these types of abuse, they should file a legal complaint. The court can issue a Protection From Abuse Order, or PFA, which orders the defendant or the abuser to surrender their weapons to authorities, stay away from the victim at work or school, stay away from the victim's house and preventing the defendant from stalking, harassing or abusing the victim. The PFA also can direct the abuser to pay the plaintiff's attorneys' fees, pay the victims for their incurred losses and grant the victims with temporary child support and child custody.

A child, parent, spouse, intimate partner and relative by blood are all entitled to a PFA order. The order may last up to 36 months. During such time, both parties may attempt to fix their issues by undergoing counseling to prevent the abuse from happening in the future.

Domestic violence can go both ways. There are cases in which one party wrongfully accuses the other of abuse to prevent the defendant from getting custody of the children. If that is the case, it is best to review all legal options available so the defendant can fight the accusations and prevent losing custody of the children.

Source: Family Law of the Section of the Philadelphia Bar Association, "Protection from abuse in Philadelphia County," accessed on Oct. 23, 2014

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