Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Protection from Abuse - the Pennsylvania Restraining Order

Protection from abuse (PFA) orders (the Pennsylvania version of a restraining order) is an order directing a person's conduct toward another. It is commonly employed to prevent abusive conduct, harassment or other unwanted behaviour.

Unlike some other states there are only certain categories of people who are permitted to file for a PFA with the courts. This typically includes immediate family members, sexual or intimate partners, and household members. It does not extend to neighbours, co-workers, or others you do not have a personal relationship with. 23 PA.C.S.A. 6102(a).

The PFA can take many forms. The most drastic form is that of a "no contact" PFA, which means the parties are not allowed to have any contact with each other whatsoever. The order may alternatively provide that the parties may have certain specified contact - such as for custody exchanges if there are children involved - or may provide for the eviction of one party from the joint home, or provide immediate support to a dependent spouse. The court has wide discretion in how to fashion the PFA.

As the PFA is a civil matter the evidentiary standard is simply by a preponderance of the evidence. This is much lower than the criminal law standard of beyond any reasonable doubt.

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