A Protection from Abuse Order can be filed when someone alleges abuse, harassment, or threats of violence at the hands of a spouse, former spouse, common-law spouse, or parent of a shared child. The Protection from Abuse Act ensures that a harassed or abused partner and any children are protected by the courts. This is not the same as a divorce, but does form a legal separation. Although having an attorney can be helpful, it is not necessary to have an attorney to see a PFA order. There is no fee associated with filing. Simply visit your local circuit court clerk and ask for the appropriate paperwork. The paperwork is simple and can be filled out immediately. Afterwards, you will meet with the magistrate and explain the situation. If the magistrate believes there is just cause, a PFA order will be issued immediately. The other party will be served by a sheriff as soon as possible.
The order restricts other party from abusing, threatening to abuse, or contacting you in any way, even via a third party. In addition, the order prevents the other party from visiting your place of business or any other place you frequent. This is a legal order, and violation of this order is a Class A misdemeanor which may be punished with a fine of up to $2,000 and up to a year in jail. The other party will be served with papers regarding a court hearing which will be held approximately two weeks later. Should your former partner contact you at any time or attempt to see you, contact local authorities immediately for assistance. Remember, once a Protection from Abuse Order is instated, it is a legal order, and you have a right to have it enforced.
At the court hearing, the judge will determine custody arrangements and support orders. The judge often awards temporary residence in the home and possession of an automobile to the woman and children. Child support and alimony may be awarded as well. The judge will also extend the PFA order, usually for a period of one year. Since the PFA order entitles the complainant to the home and custody of the children, it is sometimes filed in order to gain advantage in a divorce. As a result, the other parent will not have custody and will have only limited, supervised visitation.
If you have been served with PFA papers, it is critical that you contact an attorney immediately. Your rights to custody of your children may impinge upon the results of the court proceedings. In addition, it is important that you do not violate the Protection from Abuse Order, even if you believe there has been no abuse. Violating the order is a Class A misdemeanor and may result in a fine of up to $2,000 and as much as a year in jail. The court is serious about exercising this penalty.
If you believe that you or your children are at risk of violence, a PFA order may be helpful. It is critical to remember, however, that it may not prevent acts of abuse. To find a shelter in your area, contact this 24-hour hotline: 256-716-1000.