Protection From Abuse Defendants – What You Need to Know
Disagreements with a family member or dating partner can sometimes lead to discord. In some cases, a family member or dating partner files a Protection From Abuse action against the alleged abuser (e.g. ‘Defendant’). Because of the discord, many Defendants are often eager to agree to stay away from the alleged victim (e.g., ‘Plaintiff’), even if that means staying away from the Plaintiff for up to three years. However, it is important to note that other rights of the Defendant can be affected when a Protection From Abuse Order is granted by the Court, besides the ability to associate with the Plaintiff. Here are a few examples:
1. Your Right to Parent Your Child. In either a temporary or Final Protection From Abuse Order, the Court has the authority under 23 Pa.C.S.A. Sec. 6108(a)(4) to award the Plaintiff temporary custody of minor children the Plaintiff and Defendant co-parent. An award of custody does not necessarily have to include provisions for partial custody or visitation for the Defendant. The Court additionally has authority, under 23 Pa.C.S.A. Sec. 6108(a)(1), to grant a Protection From Abuse order on behalf of minor children against the Defendant. In both of these cases, if the Defendant is prevented or limited in seeing or visiting with the children under these orders, he/she would have to pursue a separate custody action in order to attempt to expand custodial rights.
2. Your Right to Live in Your House. Under 23 Pa.C.S.A. Sec. 6108(a)(2), the Court can give the Plaintiff ‘exclusive possession’ of a house, meaning that the Court can specifically allow the Plaintiff to live in a residence and also exclude the Defendant from living in that residence. The Defendant can be excluded from living at his/her own residence, even if the Defendant owns the house (certain limitations apply). Additionally, if the Court finds that the Defendant has a duty to support either the Plaintiff or children in Plaintiff’s care, the Court can Order the Defendant to provide the Plaintiff with suitable ‘alternative’ housing.
3. Your Obligation to Pay Child or Spousal Support. The Court can also award a Plaintiff money for temporary support (medical, spousal or child support) or money for damages. The Court has broad authority in determining what, if any, amount a Plaintiff should be awarded.
4. Your second amendment rights. The Court can Order a Defendant to relinquish all firearms, weapons, ammunition, and/or firearms license if it is alleged that there were weapons involved in the perpetration of abuse. The Court can also prevent a Defendant from possessing new firearms for the duration of the Protection From Abuse Order.
5. Possibility of Imprisonment. If a Court finds that a Defendant violated a temporary or Final Protection From Abuse Order, the Court, as punishment, can fine the Defendant an amount of up to $1,000.00 and can imprison the Defendant for a period of up to six months.
Please note that this article is intended only to provide a general, non-specific overview of this particular area of law and is not intended for purposes of providing legal advice for any specific legal situation.