Living life in an abusive relationship is something no one should have to suffer through. It is never your fault, and it is never okay. But often, escaping the grasp of an abuser is not as simple as walking away or ending the abusive relationship. If you live with your abuser, have children with your abuser, or if you do not know how to end your abuser's controlling and violent behavior, you may wish to seek a Restraining Order, or a "Protection from Abuse Order," as they are known in Pennsylvania.
A Protection from Abuse Order will keep your abuser from contacting you or your children, or from coming to your workplace. You can also request other relief in your petition, such as forcing your abuser to vacate the home if you share a home, forcing your abuser to surrender any firearms, or obtaining sole custody of your children if the children are in danger.
To file for a Protection from Abuse Order, you should go to the Protection from Abuse Office at the Courthouse in your county. For Allentown, go to the Lehigh County Courthouse ("Lehigh County Court of Common Pleas") at 455 West Hamilton Street, Allentown, PA 18101. For Easton, you should go to the Northampton County Courthouse ("Northampton County Court of Common Pleas") at 669 Washington Street, Easton, PA 18042. Bethlehem is located in both Northampton and Lehigh counties, and you should check your address to confirm which county you should file in.
The first step in requesting a Protection from Abuse Order is filling out a Protection from Abuse Petition. The Court will not charge you a fee for filing a Protection from Abuse Petition. The Northampton County Protection from Abuse Office helps people with the filling out and filing of Protection from Abuse Petitions between 8:00AM and 12:15PM, Monday through Friday. The Lehigh County Protection from Abuse Office helps people with the filling out and filing of Protection from Abuse Petitions between 8:30AM and 2:00PM, Monday through Friday. If it is an emergency and you need to file for a Protection from Abuse Order outside of these hours, contact your local police station and they will direct you to the appropriate Magisterial District Judge to request an Emergency Protection from Abuse Order.
In your petition, you will need to say who you are seeking protection from, who you are seeking to protect (you can file on behalf of yourself and your children), and what the individual events or patterns of abuse are. It is advisable to provide as much detail as you can about the events or patterns of abuse that have occurred.
Once the petition is filed, you may present your case to a Judge, who will determine if there is an "immediate and present danger of abuse" to the parties seeking protection. If the Judge finds that such danger exists, the Judge will issue a Temporary Protection from Abuse Order, which will grant some or all of the relief you are seeking.
Whether the Court grants a Temporary Protection from Abuse Order or not, the Court will schedule a hearing for a Final Protection from Abuse Order for within ten (10) days of the petition being filed. At the hearing for a Final Protection from Abuse Order, the Court will make a final determination about whether the allegations of abuse occurred, and may issue a Final Protection from Abuse Order, which may last for as long as three (3) years.
A hearing for a Final Protection from Abuse Order should not be taken lightly. The Courtroom can be very intimidating, and individuals frequently find it difficult and nerve-wracking to explain their case in front of a Judge. Sometimes individuals with a legitimate case for a Final Protective Order walk away without the protection they need because they were not able to effectively present their case to a Judge. If you feel you may need help with your Protection from Abuse case, please contact one of our experienced Family Law and Protection from Abuse attorneys today to set up a free consultation.