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Orders of Protection

West Chester Lawyer Helps You Pursue a Protective Order

Guarding victims of domestic violence and abuse

As a former social worker, attorney Catherine H. Voit knows firsthand how devastating domestic abuse can be. Relying on more than two decades of legal experience, she helps victims find their voice by pursuing protection from abuse orders and other legal remedies. In a difficult time, Catherine provides compassionate guidance that allows you to safely move on with your life.

What is a protection from abuse order?

A protection from abuse order (PFA) is a civil order that protects victims of domestic violence from further abuse. Pennsylvania’s Protection from Abuse Act defines abuse as any of the following:

  • Causing or attempting to bodily injury, either intentionally or recklessly
  • Causing fear of imminent bodily injury
  • False imprisonment
  • Physically or sexually abusing minor children
  • Stalking

Mental or emotional abuse alone does not qualify as “abuse” under the law.

For you to pursue a PFA, your abuser must be a relative or intimate partner, including your parent, child, current or former spouse, current or former intimate partner, same-sex partner or household member related by blood or marriage.

While you are not required to have an attorney to file a PFA petition, an experienced family lawyer can reduce the stress and uncertainty of the process. Catherine H. Voit and her West Chester family law firm can determine the proper location to file the petition, help you complete the paperwork and appear with you at all court hearings.

Types of protective orders in Pennsylvania

The court will consider your petition the same day you file it. If the court determines that you need immediate protection, it will issue a temporary protective order, which prohibits the abuser from having any contact with you.

The abuser will be notified of the order, and the court will schedule a hearing for a final PFA within 10 days. At the hearing, you will be given the opportunity to provide evidence of the abuse, including witness testimony, photographs, police reports and threatening texts, emails and voicemails. If the court concludes that the defendant was abusive, the judge will issue a permanent protection from abuse order. It can last from one month to three years.

Protection available under a PFA

The relief provided under a PFA will vary based on the circumstances of your case. It may include:

  • An order directing the abuser not to abuse, threaten, harass or stalk you
  • An order awarding you temporary custody of your children
  • An order directing the abuser to leave your household
  • An order directing the abuser to stay away from your school or workplace
  • An order directing the abuser to refrain from harassing you or your relatives
  • An order prohibiting the abuser from possessing a firearm or firearms license
  • An order awarding temporary support for you and the children of the abuser
  • An order directing the abuser to pay for any financial losses resulting from the abuse, including medical bills and lost wages

Enforcement of a PFA

If the abuser violates the PFA, there are several steps you can take. If you believe you are in danger, you should immediately call 911. The police will investigate the violation and file paperwork relating to contempt of court, if warranted. You also can file a contempt complaint with the court.

The court will schedule a hearing on the PFA violation and may issue an arrest warrant for the abuser. If the judge determines that the abuser violated the PFA, the consequences can be severe. Potential penalties include six months in jail and a $1,000 fine for each violation.

Domestic violence is a serious problem that affects far too many people in the West Chester area. Catherine H. Voit stands up for victims and guides them through very step of the PFA process, from filing the initial petition, proving abuse in court and enforcing the order.

If you have been abused, you need an advocate in West Chester

Catherine H. Voit can help you end the cycle of abuse. To find out more about filing a protection from abuse order, call Catherine today at 484.881.3185 or contact her online. Evening and early morning appointments are available on request.

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