Protection from Abuse Orders: A sad reality of some divorce cases

By Tom Clark, Family Law Attorney

As anyone who has followed the news during the last six months can tell you, the topic of domestic violence has reached the forefront of our national conversation, where divorce is concerned.

In Pennsylvania, the Protection from Abuse (PFA) statute defines domestic abuse as “the occurrence of one or more of the following acts between family or household members, sexual or intimate partners or persons who share biological parenthood:

  • Attempting to cause or intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causing bodily injury, serious bodily injury, rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, sexual assault, statutory sexual assault, aggravated indecent assault, indecent assault or incest with or without a deadly weapon.
  • 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 toward another person, including following the person, without proper authority, under circumstances which place the person in reasonable fear of bodily injury.”

Emotions run high in divorce cases but that is NEVER an excuse to resort to physical violence or intimidation. If you or someone you know feels they are in danger, seek immediate protection. A temporary PFA petition can be drafted and presented to a judge very quickly. Within 10 days of granting a temporary PFA, the court will schedule a final hearing PFA, which can extend the order for up to three years (or longer in some situations.)

There are occasions, however, when PFAs are sought as a way to achieve an award of child custody and child support quickly and much less expensively than through the traditional custody and support process, which can take longer to work its way through the courts. In those cases, we will vigorously defend clients who face frivolous PFA filings and require family services.

But if you or someone you know faces real and imminent danger related to domestic abuse, the YWCA of Greater Harrisburg and the YWCA of York are two local organizations that can help provide immediate and temporary safe harbor.

For the location of shelters in other neighboring counties, visit the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence at www.pcadv.org. Then call our 24-hour emergency phone number—(800) 615-0115—so that we can immediately begin proceedings to secure a PFA. Don’t wait. Seek safety and professional help from the best divorce lawyers in PA as soon as possible.

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