If someone is being abused or sexually assaulted in Pennsylvania, they can go to court and get a protection from abuse order. This order will help protect the person from the abuser. The protection from abuse order became available when the Protection from Abuse Act was passed in Pennsylvania in 1990. If violence or abuse takes place within a family or domestic relationship, a protection from abuse order can prevent the alleged abuser from several activities and can include no-contact orders and custody orders.
If you are facing a protection from abuse order and have children in common with the person seeking the order, then it is critical that you act quickly. Protection from abuse cases can immediately affect existing child custody orders and can prevent you from seeing your family. If you are facing a protection from abuse order, then it is important that you speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.
What Is a Protection from Abuse Order?
A protection from abuse (PFA) order is court-ordered protection meant to protect someone from another person with whom they have a family or domestic relationship with. If a protection from abuse is granted, then the defendant can be banned from contacting anyone on the list of people protected by the protection from abuse. To get a protection from abuse order, an alleged victim needs to tell the court about physical abuse or sexual violence in a written petition. When a protection from abuse order is granted, it will be put on law enforcement databases, and if someone violates any conditions of the order, then he or she will be arrested and charged with a crime.
What Are the Different Types of Protection from Abuse Orders?
PFAs come in two varieties, temporary and final PFAs. Both PFAs can protect the petitioner in similar ways but last for different lengths of time. They are discussed as follows:
Temporary Protection from Abuse
The first protection from abuse order that someone can ask for is a temporary protection from abuse (PFA). The person who files for a protection from abuse is called the petitioner, while the person who is defending against a protection from abuse is called the defendant. In a protection from abuse petition, the petitioner must detail what type of abuse or sexual violence occurred, along with several other questions.
A hearing will take place with the petitioner and judge to determine if a temporary protection from abuse should be authorized. If one is authorized, then it can contain several protections, and the temporary order will then be served on the defendant by local law enforcement. A hearing will be set within ten days to determine if the temporary order should be made permanent.
Final Protection from Abuse
Before a temporary protection from abuse order can become permanent, a hearing must take place in front of a judge with both petitioner and defendant. In this hearing, both sides will be able to present witnesses and evidence to support their cases. At the end of the hearing, the judge will decide whether the petitioner has met the burden of proof that abuse or sexual violence occurred and that continued protection is necessary to ensure the safety of the petitioner or others involved.
The petitioner is required to prove that abuse or sexual violence occurred. The defendant is not under a requirement to prove his or her innocence but can do so if he or she chooses. The burden of proof on the petitioner in these hearings is a preponderance of the evidence standard. This means that it is proven that the defendant more likely than not committed abuse or sexual violence. If the court authorizes a final protection from abuse order, its provisions can be valid for up to three years.
How Can a Protection From Abuse Affect Child Custody?
A protection from abuse order can affect child custody in several ways. It can determine your parenting time and whether you are allowed to see your children at all while the protection from abuse is in place. You can later challenge the provisions of a protection from abuse that deal with child custody in a later hearing in a family court. Until that happens, you will be required to follow all custody provisions contained in a protection from abuse order.
Can a Protection from Abuse Supersede Current Child Custody Orders?
In some cases, a protection from abuse order will take precedence over pre-existing custody orders. If the court finds that the defendant is likely to abuse the children or take them away from the jurisdiction before the final protection from abuse hearing, it can revoke custody. If your children are not named in the protection order, then the court cannot take away your custody rights unless it finds you likely to abuse your children.
Do I Get Child Custody Rights Back Once a Protection from Abuse Order Expires?
When a protection from abuse expires, you are no longer bound by the restrictions it imposes on you. This means that if you were not prohibited from seeing your children before the protection from abuse was put into place, then you may see them again. But do not violate the orders of any active protection from abuse because your accuser might use evidence of this against you if they are looking to renew the order.
Can Child Support Be Ordered as Part of a Protection from Abuse Order?
If a protection from abuse order is granted against you, the court may require you to provide financial support to the accuser and any children in common with the accuser. This may include medical support, health coverage, and payment for any unreimbursed medical expenses caused by your abuse. The court may also require you to pay rent or mortgage payments.
Who Can Seek a Protection from Abuse Order?
If you need a protection from abuse order, you must be in a family or domestic relationship with the person who is abusing you. This includes anyone who is married to, in a relationship with, or has had a sexual relationship with the abuser. It also includes any relatives who live together. It doesn't matter if the people are related by marriage or blood. If a minor wants to get protection from abuse, an adult must petition on their behalf.
How Protections from Abuse Are Filed in Schuylkill County
If someone lives in Schuylkill County and wants a protection from abuse order, then the request can be filed at the Schuylkill County Court of Common Pleas in Schuylkill, Pennsylvania. The Court's physical address is:
401 N. Second Street
Pottsville, PA 17901
Direct information from the Schuylkill County Court regarding protection from abuse requirements and procedures can be found here.
What Happens if Someone Violates a Protection from Abuse Order?
If someone violates a protection from abuse order, then they can be arrested and charged with a crime. This can happen anytime someone breaks the rules of the order. After someone is arrested for violating a protection from abuse order, they have the right to a hearing to decide if the violation actually happened. If the judge finds that the defendant violated the protection from abuse order, then he or she may be sentenced to up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. Protection from abuse orders are civil matters, but they can become criminal there is a violation. A violation can also cause other issues, such as state-issued professional licenses such as a physician, real estate, or pharmacy licenses, as examples.
What to Do If Facing a Protection from Abuse Petition
Protection from abuse cases can move quickly. It is important to get legal help right away. If the petitioner is granted a temporary protection from abuse, then the defendant will have ten days or less to prepare for a hearing that determines if a final order should be put into place. If you don't do everything you can and present your best argument, then you can end up with significant consequences if a final protection from abuse is ordered against you. This can include the loss of custody of your children. If you have legal questions, then call us at the Lento Law Firm so we can help!
Contact the Lento Law Firm Today
If you have questions about protection from abuse orders in Schuylkill County, then it is important that you speak to an experienced attorney. Make sure you understand how a protection from abuse order can affect your child custody. The attorneys at the Lento Law Firm have the experience that you need to help put you in the best position in your case. To learn why attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm are the right choice, call at 888-535-3686 or contact us online.