*Safety First - When seeking legal options, it is important to make safety a top priority.
This page includes resources in areas of civil law frequently relevant to individuals confronted with domestic violence.
Separation Violence is real! If you are an attorney, or using this information for yourself or a friend, it is important to know that the most dangerous time for a victim, her children, and those assisting her (e.g., law enforcement officers, attorneys), is when she leaves. Safety planning is essential. Speak with an advocate trained in domestic violence to develop your own personalized safety plan.
Many people who are not experienced with the dynamics of domestic violence understandably assume that domestic violence victims would be safer if they left their abusive partners. In fact, in the short term, the contrary is true. Domestic violence victims are at great risk of serious physical abuse after they separate from their perpetrators, and run the greatest risk of being killed during the separation stage.
"Women are often highly at risk for homicide and repeat severe violence for the first year after they have left their abusers (with the first three months especially dangerous) or when it is clear to the abuser that the woman is leaving for good." Jacquelyn C. Campbell, Prediction of Homicide of and by Battered Women, in Assessing Dangerousness: Violence by Batterers and Child Abusers 85, 96 (Jacquelyn C. Campbell ed., 2d ed. 2007)
Children may also be in greater danger from a batterer once parents separate. Learn about 10 myths about child custody and domestic violence.
A PFA, or Protection From Abuse order, is a court which prohibits abusive behavior.
In order to petition the court for a PFA, an individual (or party) must demonstrate the following:
Relationship - The person who is filing for the PFA must be related to the abusive party in one of the following ways: married, sexual partners, parents of the same children, or related by blood or affinity (marriage)
Abuse - As well as demonstrating a relationship, the person filing for the PFA must show one or more of the following types of abuse:
There are three stages, or types, of PFAs:
What type of relief can be requested in a PFA?
If the PFA is violated, the person can be arrested and charged with indirect criminal contempt. If found guilty, the defendant could face a fine and/or up to 6 months imprisonment.
To obtain a PFA Order in Montgomery County, go to the Prothonotary's Office, located on the first floor of the Montgomery County Court House. The Prothonotary's Office will provide you with the appropriate paperwork and provide further directions. (Protection from Abuse information for Montgomery County is no longer available through the web.)
You may be eligible for free legal representation through Legal Aid of Southeastern Pennsylvania.
In Montgomery County, through its Legal Advocacy Project, non-lawyer advocates from the Women's Center of Montgomery County provide assistance to individuals seeking Protection from Abuse Orders and provide court accompaniment to victims.
A domestic violence counselor/advocate may accompany a party to any legal proceeding or hearing under the PFA law. 23 Pa. C.S. 6111
More legal information and support for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault may be found at:
Legal Aid of Southeastern Pennsylvania - limited free legal representation is available for low-income and vulnerable people. Legal Aid of Southeastern Pennsylvania provides such legal representation in Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery counties. The Montgomery County offices are located in Norristown and Pottstown:
Lawyer Referral Service - The Montgomery Bar Association may be a potential resource if you are looking to hire an attorney. Their Lawyer Referral Service matches prospective clients with attorneys based on the type of legal matter and the client's location.
For online resources, self-help resources and forms (including in languages other than English) visit the PALawHelp Domestic Violence & Protection From Abuse Page