Protection From Abuse Indirect Criminal Contempt

Under Pennsylvania law, if there has been actual or threatened physical abuse including the placing of another in reasonable fear of bodily injury by stalking or otherwise, a Protection From Abuse (PFA) order may be entered by the court.  The PFA statute is available to families, including spouses, former spouses, parents of children, people related by blood or marriage, and current or former sexual or intimate partners, to stop and prevent domestic violence.  

For purposes of PFA, abuse is defined as the occurrence of one or more of the following acts between family or household members, sexual or intimate partners or persons who share biological parenthood: 

  • Attempting to cause or intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causing bodily injury, serious bodily injury, rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, sexual assault, statutory sexual assault, aggravated indecent assault, indecent assault or incest with or without a deadly weapon. 
  • Placing another in reasonable fear of imminent serious bodily injury. 
  • The infliction of false imprisonment. 
  • Physically or sexually abusing minor children. 
  • Knowingly engaging in a course of conduct or repeatedly committing acts toward another person, including following the person, without proper authority, under circumstances which place the person in reasonable fear of bodily injury. 

PFA does not require that the abuse rise to the level of criminality or for removing a child from the home, nor is force a requirement to establish abuse. 

A PFA order can remove the abusing person from a jointly occupied residence and provides that no contact may occur for a period of up to three years.  In addition to ordering the perpetrator of abuse to vacate a jointly occupied residence, a PFA order would direct that the abuser refrain from any contact with the victim.  Furthermore, as part of a PFA order, a judge could enter an order granting the victim custody of any minor children and payment of both Pennsylvania spousal and child support on a temporary basis pending a support hearing.  Additionally, a violation of a PFA order is called indirect criminal contempt, which can result in a fine of up to $1,000.00 and imprisonment of up to six months. 

Our law firm’s family law attorneys are available to assist you with initiating a Protection from Abuse action or representing you in a final hearing on your petition.  Furthermore, since it is strongly recommended that any individual accused of domestic violence or spousal abuse also have private counsel, our law firm is available to defend the rights of a person accused of domestic violence.