A protection from abuse case begins with a party filing for a protection order due to abuse or the fear of abuse. In Pennsylvania, a party can obtain a temporary protection order from a local district justice without going to a court of common pleas. However, the temporary protection order obtained is only effective until the next day that the court of common pleas is open and the party must go to that court for a longer term protection order because the temporary order will automatically expire. There are certain rules as to who can file a petition and who such a petition can protect. For example, not only can a spouse file a protection from abuse petition against the other spouse, but a parent can also file a protection from abuse petition seeking to protect a child from abuse by the other parent. There are many more rules governing who can file which are too numerous to discuss in this limited space.
The filing of a protection from abuse petition is one area in which a party can obtain a court order without the other party’s knowledge or consent. If the court accepts the filing of the protection of abuse petition, it will usually grant an interim protection order excluding the defendant from the home of the complaining party and scheduling a final hearing within a short period of time. The petition and the interim protection order are typically served on the defendant by a law enforcement official and the defendant is physically removed from the complaining party’s residence while awaiting the final hearing. Most protection from abuse petitions are resolved by voluntary dismissal or by entry of a civil order requiring the defendant to “stay away” from the complaining party. Some petitions are heard by the court at a final hearing. If a final protection order is granted, it provides additional rights to law enforcement officials which make it easier for them to arrest someone who is alleged to have violated the order. A protection from abuse order is very different from a civil “stay away” order and you should consult with an attorney before reaching an agreement to entry of either order.
The court has also certain powers in a protection from abuse case to decide who resides in the marital home and to resolve support and custody issues on a temporary basis. The court’s decision on these issues can have serious implications on how the divorce, support, and/or custody cases are ultimately resolved. Custody provisions may also be negotiated as part of a settlement of the protection from abuse case, but then the parties may end up having to abide by the custody provisions for many months or more until a custody case works its way through the system.
If a protection from abuse case is filed, the bottom line is that both parties should be very careful in deciding how to resolve the petition and legal advice should be obtained about your individual situation. The information provided in this short summary is not intended to provide legal advice. There is much more to filing and defending against a protection from abuse petition than can be described in this limited space. Please feel free to contact me via email or by telephone to schedule an appointment to discuss this claim further.