Family violence is a very serious issue that happens usually behind closed doors. These victims often feel terrified, helpless, and alone with no way out. However, there is a lifeline and help can be found. The courts can provide protection through the law when needed. A protection from abuse order can help victims of family violence during this dark time.
Firstly, a protection from abuse order, or PFA, can only protect victims from certain abusers. The abuser must be an adult household member or an adult guardian on behalf of a minor child. The victim must also have one of the following relationships with the abuser, they must be related by marriage, related by bloodline, biological parents, or current or past intimate partners. Intimate in this situation does not necessarily mean in a sexual sense either. There is no longer a requirement that you live with the abuser now or in the past.
This doesn’t mean that if you are being abused by someone who is not one of these categories that these is no way for you to get help. There are still ways the court can protect victims of violence from someone other than these listed relationships, however, a protection from abuse order is designed to handle these narrowly applicable abusive situations. There are other avenues to pursue if you are being abused by someone other than these relationships but a PFA is not one of them if you do not have one of these specified relationships. If there is violence involved it is recommended to go to the police and file a report that way an arrest can be made, and the violence can be handled through the proper channels.
One exception under a PFA is reprimanding a child. If the parent or adult uses reasonable corporal punishment, there is no basis for a PFA to be issued. A PFA is intended to give people who are suffering a level of protection from the abuse and the law does not view reasonable punishment from a parent or guardian as unwarranted abuse. However, if the punishment is not within a reasonable corporal punishment threshold and greatly outweighs the behavior the court may view this as grounds for getting involved, but it is the courts discretion on how to handle the given situation and usually Child Protective Services will get involved.
There are many examples of different actions that can warrant abuse. One of which is making terroristic threats that can make someone reasonably fear for their safety. Phrases such as “I’m going to kill you” or “I am going to beat you is you do X, Y, and Z” are examples of a threat that a reasonable person can perceive as a credible threat or bodily harm. However, abuse is also physical as well. Many cases of family abuse, which happen in private, are instances of beating and other physical harm. The commission of battery, assault, stalking, criminal damages to property, unlawful restraint, or criminal trespass are all examples of things a PFA can protect against.
Things to look out for when filing for a PFA are lack of evidence. If you have been married for twenty years and there is one little flash of rage where during an argument which causes no lasting physical harm to you and you move to file for a PFA, the court doesn’t have much evidence, and you probably aren’t going to be able to get a court to issue a PFA. However, if there is a routine pattern, and it’s incredibly severe there is a much greater threat to the victim then the judge is not going to have any question about issuing you the protection you require.
While you can file in most family divisions for a protection from abuse order pro se, or on your own, an attorney or even a local legal services office can be of great help when moving for a PFA. The victim does not pay any initial fees related to the filing, serving, or enforcing of the PFA, but it can be incredibly beneficial to have someone to confide in if you are the victim of abuse. Seeking legal counsel with The Law Offices of Michael Kuldiner, P.C. can help guide you through the emotional stress that comes with being a victim of family abuse.