Can I Get a Restraining Order Against Someone Who is Not a Member of my Family or Household?
Recognizing that abuse can anywhere, Pennsylvania has worked hard to protect those who are at risk. It’s critical that those who are at risk get the help and protection they need before it’s too late. Unfortunately, navigating the protective order process is not easy, especially when you are emotionally distraught and under tremendous stress.
Victims’ rights attorney Lauren Wimmer has dedicated herself to protecting those who are vulnerable. She can help you get the protection you need so that you can begin building a better life. If you would like to schedule a free and confidential consultation, contact Wimmer Criminal Defense Law at 215-712-1212 to discuss your case and how we can help you.
Protection from Abuse Orders and the Protection from Sexual Violence and Intimidation Act
There are various types of protective orders available in Pennsylvania. The most common type is a Protection From Abuse (PFA) Order. However, PFA Orders are available only when the abuse occurred among family or household members. This limitation can be confusing, as you do not need to live or have lived with the abuser to seek a PFA Order. Under the law, you can obtain a PFA Order against the following people:
- Your spouse or ex-spouse
- Someone who lives with you
- Your adult siblings, parents, children, or relatives
- The parent of your child
- Anyone with whom you have an “intimate” relationship
If the abuser doesn’t fall into one of those categories, you cannot obtain a PFA Order against them.
Recognizing the need for restraining orders outside the context of home and family, Pennsylvania adopted the Protection from Sexual Violence and Intimidation Act (the “PSVI Act”). Under the PSVI Act, adults and minors can get a restraining order against someone who is not a member of their family or household as a result of harassment, stalking, intimidation, or sexual violence.
Sexual Violence Protection Orders vs. Protection from Intimidation Orders
The Act created two new orders in addition to the PFA Order for instances where victims are being abused by someone who is not a member of their family or household.
A Sexual Violence Protection (PSV) Order is available to both adults and minors who are victims of sexual violence. Sexual violence is defined under the Act to include the following:
- Most sex offenses
- Endangering the welfare of children
- Sexual corruption of minors
- Sexual abuse or exploitation of children
- Unlawful contact with a minor
A Protection from Intimidation (PFI) Order is for minors who are being victimized by someone 18 years or older. Generally speaking, the PFI Order is designed to protect minors from abuse that does not fall under the categories provided for under the PSV Order.
It’s important to note that both of these orders are civil actions available to victims regardless of whether or not they choose to pursue criminal charges. However, you or your attorney will have to file a petition with the court to obtain one – unlike criminal charges, the process is not handled by the authorities.
When to Get a PSV or PFI Order vs. A PFA Order
Another important distinction is that PSV and PFI Orders are available only when the abuser is not a member of your family or household. For example, a PSV or PFI Order would be appropriate in cases where you are being harassed or have been assaulted by one of the following:
- A co-worker
- Your neighbor
- A fellow student who is over the age of 18
- An acquaintance
You should seek a PFA Order rather than a PFI or PSV Order only if the abuser is a member of your household or family. Knowing which kind of restraining order you need will minimize delays so that you can get the protection you need as soon as possible.
How Do I Obtain a PSV or Protection from Intimidation Order?
To obtain either a PSV or a Protection from Intimidation Order, you will need to first file a petition with the court where you live or work. These cases are handled in the family division of the civil court. You will have to obtain the appropriate forms, fill them out, and file them. The clerk can help you, but they cannot give you legal advice.
Once you have filed the appropriate forms, your case will be reviewed by a judge with you. The abuser will not be present. The judge may ask you questions regarding the abuse to determine whether an order is necessary, whether you are at continued risk for abuse, and whether the risk is imminent. If you are in imminent danger, the judge may grant a temporary order that takes effect immediately.
A more formal hearing with be scheduled to be held within 10 business days. The abuser will be notified of the hearing and have the opportunity to attend. At the hearing, you will have to present evidence that the abuse happened, any harm you suffered, and why the order is necessary. The abuser will have the opportunity to argue why the judge should not grant the order.
It’s extremely important that you attend the hearing – if you do not, your case will be dismissed. If a temporary order was granted, it will expire, and you will not be protected.
If the judge finds that the order is necessary, he or she will enter a final order that can be put in place for three years. The order will essentially require the abuser to stay away from you and will lay out various specific terms designed for your protection.
How a Lawyer Can Help
You can obtain a restraining order without the help of an attorney, but an experienced domestic abuse lawyer can help you navigate the process more efficiently and with better results. Your lawyer will know which forms you will need, how to complete them, and what information to provide that the judge will find compelling.
Your lawyer can also represent you at the hearing and can assemble the evidence that you will need and formulate a persuasive argument as to why the order is necessary. He or she will also know how to respond to any arguments raised by the abuser. Finally, your attorney can make sure that the order you obtain contains terms that offer you the best possible protection.
Contact Philadelphia Attorney Lauren Wimmer if You Are the Victim of Abuse
Too many victims wait until it’s too late to get help – don’t let that happen to you. Victims’ rights lawyer Lauren Wimmer can help you manage a bad situation and protect you from future violence. To schedule a free and confidential consultation, call us at 215-712-1212 or complete our online contact form and let us help you start working towards a better future.