The Protection from Abuse Act is designed to offer victims protection from a domestic abuser. The Act gives judges a wide variety of remedies to choose from in order to ensure that protection. A PFA case begins with the filing of a Petition. The Petition will include details of the abuse that allegedly occurred. Abuse for the purposes of a PFA is defined as the following acts:
– Attempting to cause or intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causing bodily injury, serious bodily injury, rape, etc.
– Placing another in reasonable fear of imminent serious bodily injury
– The infliction of false imprisonment
– Physically or sexually abusing minor children
– Knowingly engaging in a course of conduct or repeatedly committing acts towards another person, including following that person, under circumstances which place the person in reasonable fear of bodily injury.
**Note that actual injury is not required in order for a PFA to be granted.
The petitioner (person filing the PFA petition), or the protected party (if the PFA is filed on behalf of a minor) must have a one of the following types of relationships with the defendant:
– spouse or former spouse
– parent or child
– other family member related by blood or marriage
– current or former sexual or intimate partner
A petitioner can ask that the defendant be prohibited from having any contact with the protected party and can request that the defendant be evicted and excluded from a residence and place of employment. A petitioner can also request that custody be granted in the PFA. Any custody terms in a PFA are temporary and can be superseded by an Order from a custody court. There are a variety of other requests that can be made in order to offer relief to the petitioner including the payment of child support and the return of personal property.
Once the Petition has been completed, it is presented to a Berks County Court of Common Pleas judge at a petition hearing. This is typically done without the involvement of attorneys and is done ex parte meaning that the defendant is not present for the hearing. The petition judge will grant a Temporary PFA if the petitioner shows an immediate and present danger of abuse.
If a Temporary PFA is granted, a hearing on the Final PFA will be scheduled within 10 business days. At this hearing, the petitioner must prove that abuse occurred by a preponderance of the evidence. The court will hear testimony from both the plaintiff and defendant and will make a determination. Both parties are entitled to be represented by counsel of their own choosing at the Final PFA hearing.
A Final PFA can be in place for up to 3 years and can include all of the forms of relief that are available under a Temporary PFA. While a PFA is a civil order, a violation of the PFA will lead to criminal Indirect Criminal Contempt (ICC) charges.
There is a lot at stake at PFA hearings including property and custody rights so it is in your best interest to be represented by a knowledgeable Berks County PFA attorney. Whether you have had a PFA filed against you or have filed a PFA in Berks County, contact our experienced PFA attorneys today at 610-372-5128 or email us at [email protected]