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The ins and outs of restraining orders in Pennsylvania

Domestic violence is an issue that the state of Pennsylvania takes very seriously. Anyone accused of committing acts of domestic violence will be investigated, charged if appropriate and convicted if the evidence against them is solid. Those who allege to be victims of domestic abuse can take steps to protect themselves, such as seeking restraining orders against their abusers while simultaneously working to dissolve their relationships officially.

Restraining orders in Pennsylvania are actually called Protection From Abuse Orders. Anyone can apply for one for themselves or their children. If granted, the PFA is good for a maximum of three years. What does it take to get a PFA? What does this order stop an abuser from doing?

PFA Qualifications/Process

In order to qualify to receive a PFA, the victim or the guardian of the victim has to file an official request. The filing has to be against a family member or an intimate partner. The application for a PFA is typically filled out at a county courthouse. In the request, the victim has to identify which protections they want, and he or she has to describe the abuse endured. After submitting the petition:

  • A judge will review the case.
  • The court may seek additional information.
  • The court will set a date for a hearing.
  • The sheriff's office serves the petition to the alleged abuser.
  • Both parties have the chance to state their case in front of a judge.
  • A judge will grant or deny the request.

If both parties agree to the need for the order and they agree to the proposed terms, they may seek a PFA by consent agreement. If a PFA request receives approval, the court will make the order official. In the order documents, the court will include the length of time the PFA is good for -- up to three years.

What a PFA does

A PFA makes it illegal for an abuser to contact the victim in any way, harass the victim, and abuse the victim and his or her children. The order may state that the abuser must return certain property to the victim as well. Failure to abide by the terms of a PFA can result in the abuser facing criminal charges.

You are not alone

Many victims of domestic violence stay in their situations because they are scared to leave or feel that they do not deserve better. No one should have to live in fear in his or her own home. If you are ready to get out of an abusive relationship, you can seek assistance to do so. Legal counsel can be at your side as you seek a PFA and again as you work to dissolve your relationship.

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