During the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of people have been forced to stay at home for months. Cases of child abuse and domestic violence are on the rise, as are separation and divorce. Those dealing with these issues face unique challenges and may not know where to turn to find help. Although some courts are operating on a limited basis, if you are a victim of domestic abuse you can still seek a Protection from Abuse order. If you are considering divorce, a lawyer can advise you of the next steps to take to get the process started.
Filing for a Protection from Abuse Order
If you are being abused by a spouse, partner or family member, getting a PFA can help put a stop to the violence and even save your life. Although the Protection from Abuse Act is Pennsylvania law, the process for obtaining a PFA varies from county to county. A local family law attorney can help you file a petition for a temporary PFA and act as your advocate at the subsequent hearing, which is usually held within 10 business days of the filing of the petition.
This proceeding may be held via teleconference during the COVID-19 pandemic, which can make it even more difficult to communicate your reasons for requesting a final PFA. It is also important to keep in mind that the defendant will most likely be present at the hearing, which can be rattling to some victims of domestic violence. Your lawyer can prepare you for the hearing and speak on your behalf when it is time to go to court.
What Can a PFA Order Accomplish?
If you are concerned for your safety and the safety of your children, a PFA can address these issues in several different ways. Some of the requests you can present to the judge in a PFA petition include:
- Ordering the abuser to stop abusing, harassing, threatening, or stalking you and your children
- Making the abuser leave the home (even if it is owned by both parties or both parties are on the lease)
- Requesting temporary custody of your children
- Forbidding the abuser from contacting you, your children or other family members
- Asking the abuser to relinquish firearms or other weapons
- Asking the judge to order “any other appropriate relief” such as the return of important documents, pets, or other personal property
The judge will consider your requests and may grant them in the final order.
Dealing with Divorce and Child Custody Issues
Even if you are not facing physical abuse, emotional abuse can take a serious toll on your mental health and overall wellness. Although it may seem like an inconvenient time to file for divorce, if your relationship has broken down to an irrevocable point, speaking with an attorney can empower you to take action. Leaving a toxic relationship is life-changing for victims of physical and emotional abuse. A divorce lawyer can advise you of your rights and provide the support you need during these difficult times. If you’re dealing with issues surrounding child support or custody, your attorney can also fight to ensure your children’s interests are protected.
If you’re having trouble at home and need legal help, our compassionate family law team at Carosella & Associates is here for you during the COVID-19 pandemic.
If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or (TTY) at 1-800-787-3224 .