I Need Protection (From Abuse)

A protection from abuse is a court order issued by a Judge that excludes one person from a residence and requires that person to not have any contact with the personal alleging abuse. These orders can be incredibly helpful in cases of abuse to remove the partner committing the abuse. But what happens after the initial Order of Court is issued? Where does the case go from there?

Within 10 days of the preliminary protection from abuse, a hearing will be scheduled at the Court of Common Pleas in Downtown Pittsburgh to determine if the Protection from Abuse should be extended beyond the initial 10 day period. At this point, both parties should appear with counsel to ensure their rights are represented and protected.

Upon arrival, all parties check in and the Plaintiff and Defendant sit in separate waiting rooms. If you have an attorney, this is the opportunity for the attorneys to speak and potentially workout an agreement for the parties. There are a few different outcomes at this time:

The entire PFA can be terminated and no longer proceed forward to a hearing.
A civil no contact order can be entered into. This means that the Defendant cannot have contact with the Plaintiff but if the Defendant does violate the Order they must be brought back to Court for contempt.
A Protection From Abuse Order can be entered into. This means the Defendant still cannot have contact with the Plaintiff but if the Defendant does violate the Order then the Plaintiff can immediately call law enforcement and have the Defendant arrested. Defendant will then face criminal charges for violation of the Protection From Abuse Order.

At this time, it is a good time to note that there are many times a Protection From Abuse is used as a self-help tool to circumvent the parties’ current custody order. This is not the purpose of a Protection From Abuse. If a parent is looking to change custody in an emergency type setting, they should attend Motions Court to obtain an Order of Court to change their custody schedule. If it is not an emergency, the party wishing to change their custody Order should file for a custody modification and address all ongoing issues that way.

If the parties cannot reach an agreement and are going to proceed to a hearing, you will likely wait well into the afternoon. You may also be rescheduled for a different day in order to have the judge assigned to your case preside over the PFA hearing. When a PFA hearing is heard, the Judge will make a decision on the merits of the PFA only. The Judge will not address changes in a custody schedule if the abuse is not directed towards the children. The Judge will direct you to follow the custody procedures set forth by the Court. This is important to remember.

Protection From Abuse filings can be great and a lifesaver in many situations. Without these very important tools, victims of abuse may not be able to obtain the help that they need. Unfortunately, this valuable tool can also be used by others to circumvent a system that is set up for a specific reason.

If you had a PFA filed against you, please contact my office immediately at 412-295-8066 or jennifer@jdlawpa.com so you do not have to face this alone.

This article was written by owner and attorney, Jennifer Dickquist.


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