If while following a stay at home order, you feel that you and/or your children are being threatened or at risk for abuse, you are encouraged to apply for a PFA (Protection From Abuse) Order.
But first, what constitutes abuse?
Simply put, it is a court order directing the defendant, your loved one, to refrain from abusing you. For example, in the state of Pennsylvania, abuse is defined 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:
(1) 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.
(2) Placing another in reasonable fear of imminent serious bodily injury.
(3) The infliction of false imprisonment pursuant to 18 Pa.C.S. § 2903 (relating to false imprisonment).
(4) Physically or sexually abusing minor children, including such terms as defined in Chapter 63 (relating to child protective services).
(5) 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. The definition of this paragraph applies only to proceedings commenced under this title and is inapplicable to any criminal prosecutions commenced under Title 18 (relating to crimes and offenses). 23 Pa.C.S. § 6102
How to Apply For a PFA
Even if a coronavirus stay at home order is in effect where you live, are you required to stay in the unsafe environment and continue to be the subject of your loved one’s torment and abuse? ABSOLUTELY NOT!
While local courthouses are closed to the public to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Protection From Abuse (PFA) offices remain open. If you believe your situation constitutes abuse, call your local courthouse to confirm their procedure for applying for a PFA. You will be provided with instructions of when you will be able to see a judge to tell him/her of the facts surrounding your reason for the PFA application.
Upon hearing your presentation of your case, a judge may provide you with a temporary PFA. A temporary PFA can be granted immediately, without your alleged abuser present, and lasts until a final PFA hearing takes place.
You will also receive a court date for the final PFA hearing, at which time the defendant will be present to either share his/her version of the alleged events or he/she may remain silent upon the advice of counsel. Nonetheless, upon conclusion of the hearing, the judge will determine if a final PFA shall issue and how long it will last (note: the longest allowable period of time for a PFA is 36 months.).
The Right to Feel Safe
If at the expiration of the PFA, you continue to feel unsafe, you may ask the court for a further extension of the Order; however, you must provide current proof as to why an extension is warranted.
Just as the coronavirus crosses all demographics, no matter the race, religion or financial status, so does domestic violence. With so much going on in the world to cause you angst and despair, living in a constant threat of danger can be one fear that you can strike from your list by seeking relief from the court via a PFA.
Stay in place and get your abuser out!
A version of this article originally appeared on www.grossmcginley.com
A former prosecutor, Constance K. Nelson counsels families and individuals facing domestic matters including custody, divorce, adoption, alimony and more. www.grossmcginley.com