Pittsburgh Domestic Abuse Lawyer
Helping Clients File for Protection from Abuse
Domestic violence is a serious and, unfortunately, prevalent issue in Pennsylvania and across the country. The family law attorneys at Bunde & Roberts, P.C., are committed to helping our clients escape dangerous domestic situations and obtain the protections available to them under the law. Our Pittsburgh domestic abuse lawyers are also equipped to appropriately advocate for those who have had a protection from abuse proceeding wrongly filed against them.
Protection From Abuse Orders
In Pennsylvania, a person may obtain a protection from abuse order (PFA) from a court if they have faced actual or threatened physical abuse by a spouse, family or household member, or a current or former sexual or intimate partner. Pennsylvania’s Protection from Abuse Act defines domestic abuse as committing any of the following predicate actions:
- physical or sexual abuse, causing a person bodily harm either intentionally or recklessly;
- false imprisonment;
- putting a person in fear of imminent bodily injury; or
It is important that a victim seek a PFA close in time to any abuse to obtain the full protections afforded under the law.
A PFA proceeding should not be taken lightly as the consequences can be enormous, including criminal sanctions. The associated criminal punishments, particularly if the target of the PFA violates the order, may lead to incarceration. If you are the accused or target in a PFA action, it is imperative that you act quickly to engage an attorney to defend against it.
Here at Bunde & Roberts, we assist clients through the PFA process, either while the threat remains or shortly thereafter. If you feel you are in immediate danger, call the police immediately. Get yourself and your children to a safe space. When you are safe, call Bunde & Roberts for help getting a PFA to ensure that you and your family remain protected.
Types of PFAS
Pennsylvania law allows for several different types of protection from abuse orders – emergency PFA orders, temporary PFA orders, and final PFA orders.
Emergency PFA orders are granted when immediate protection is needed but the courts are closed, including weekends, holidays, and evenings. Victims initiate these orders with the help of their local police, who will contact an “on-call” judge. If that judge determines that protection is warranted, the judge will grant the victim a temporary emergency PFA order that will prevent the alleged abuser from contacting or physically approaching the victim. The order may also exclude the abuser from the house if the victim and abuser live together.
You can obtain a PFA without notifying the alleged abuser. The emergency PFA order remains in effect until the next business day when the victim may go to court and file for a temporary PFA order.
A temporary PFA order is obtained by going to the local court and following an intake process with the assistance of court personnel. Temporary PFA orders are entered based upon information provided by one party without the accused abuser’s testimony or input being heard by the court.
If the court finds there to be abuse as defined by law, then a temporary PFA order will be entered and will last until a final hearing. Temporary orders not only prevent the alleged abuser from contacting or approaching the victim but can also require the removal of weapons from the abuser’s possession, establish an interim child custody schedule, establish an interim child or spousal support order, and award temporary possession of a shared home to the victim.
The accused may not be aware that a protection proceeding has been filed against him or her until receipt of the emergency or temporary PFA, which is served by a police officer or constable. The order may immediately exclude the accused from the home, preclude custody of children, or confiscate weapons. The accused must act quickly to engage an attorney to prepare for a final hearing, which will occur within the following week to ten days. Once engaged, the attorney can assist the accused to secure clothing and personal items and arrange for custody prior to the final hearing.
A final PFA may be granted after a hearing where both the victim and the accused present their sides of the story to the court, and a judge decides whether there was abuse and whether further protection is necessary. A final PFA order may last for any period up to three years. The order may be extended if the judge believes there is a continuing risk of harm where the abuser has violated the original order.
PFA orders are very powerful because they may temporarily address custody, spousal and child support, and possession of a shared home. These orders may further require the confiscation of weapons, which is particularly problematic for those who use firearms to work in security or law enforcement.
It is important to recognize that PFA orders will surface on background checks done by current or potential employers and may impact employability. Having a final PFA order appear during a background search will also prevent a firearm purchase during the term of the order and even after its expiration. The entry of a final PFA order should not be taken lightly due to the serious consequences that may arise, including criminal sanctions, which may lead to incarceration.
Help from a Seasoned Pittsburgh Domestic Abuse Lawyer
If you have been the victim of domestic abuse, if you fear domestic violence may occur in the immediate future, or if you have been wrongfully made the target of a protection from abuse order, the compassionate and effective Pittsburgh family law attorneys at Bunde & Roberts, P.C., are available to provide advice and representation. Call our Pittsburgh family law office today at 412-391-4330 for a consultation.