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In Pennsylvania, if there has been actual or threatened physical abuse including the placing of another in reasonable fear of bodily injury, a protection from abuse (PFA) order may be entered by the court. PFAs may only be filed against family or household members including parents and current or former sexual or intimate partners including spouses. (In cases where both parents have committed child abuse or neglect, a juvenile court action under the juvenile dependency laws could also be initiated.)
A PFA order can remove the abusing person from a jointly occupied residence and provide that no contact may occur for up to eighteen months. In addition to ordering the perpetrator of abuse to vacate a jointly occupied residence, a PFA order would direct that the abuser refrain from any contact with the victim. If a PFA order has been entered, the alleged abuser could be arrested and incarcerated pending any allegations on the alleged victim's part that the PFA has been violated. Furthermore, as part of a PFA order, a judge could enter an order granting the victim custody of any minor children and payment of support on a temporary basis pending a support hearing.
If domestic violence is alleged and a PFA petition filed, a hearing on the PFA is oftentimes the first contact the parties have with the family court system. Because a PFA can have a significant impact on the possession of a jointly occupied residence, custody of minor children and support, it is highly recommended that both the alleged victim and the alleged perpetrator obtain legal representation at any PFA proceeding.
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