Breakups often bring heartache, and disentangling one’s life from that of a partner can be difficult. Finding a new place to live, sorting out personal possessions, and developing new routines all contribute to the strains of ending a relationship. However, sometimes, the situation becomes more complicated as one former partner threatens the safety of the other. In these cases, a protection from abuse order (PFA) may be appropriate.
What is a PFA?
In Alabama, a PFA is a court order designed to provide additional legal protections to survivors of domestic violence. Survivors may file for a PFA on their own, and the protections offered by a PFA do not replace any other civil or criminal protections that may exist.
Who Can File for a PFA?
A person is eligible to file for a PFA if the person is a victim of abuse, as defined by Alabama law, or if the person has reasonable cause to believe the person is in imminent danger of becoming the victim of abuse.
Under the PFA laws, abuse includes a broad range of criminal conduct. Numerous criminal actions committed by the perpetrator against a survivor, including arson, assault, harassment, stalking, and theft, are specifically listed as actions of abuse, but any criminal conduct directed toward a survivor covered by the PFA laws can be defined as abuse. However, the definition of abuse is largely limited to criminal acts. Other actions, such as coercive financial control or emotional manipulation, are not defined as abuse by the PFA laws.
To fit the PFA laws’ definition of a victim, a survivor’s relationship to the perpetrator must fit in one of several categories. These categories include the following: 1) having a current or former marriage to one another, 2) having a child together, 3) being in a dating relationship, 4) sharing a current or former household while maintaining a romantic or intimate relationship, or 5) being a parent, stepparent, child, or stepchild. A victim may also be the relative of a person who shared a household and romantic or intimate relationship with the perpetrator if the relative also lived in the household. In order for a dating relationship to qualify, the relationship must have ended 12 months or less before the victim files for a PFA.
How to File for a PFA
A survivor whose situation fits the requirements for a PFA may file for a PFA in the court system of any of following locations: 1) where the survivor lives, 2) where the perpetrator lives, 3) where the survivor is temporarily located if the survivor has fled from home to avoid abuse, 4) where the abuse occurred, or 5) where another court matter between the survivor and the perpetrator is pending.
The Alabama Administrative Office of Courts provides a form that a survivor may use to file for a PFA, and there is no fee required.
What Can a PFA Do?
When a survivor files for a PFA, a court can issue an order offering temporary protection before there is a court hearing. Depending on the situation, a court may order the perpetrator to leave a shared residence, to stop contacting the survivor, and to stay a certain distance away from the survivor’s home, workplace, or school. The court may also award temporary custody of children between the survivor and perpetrator or grant other protections.
After there has been a final court hearing about the PFA, a court may issue a final order with various protections. These protections may be the same as any temporary order that was issued, or they may be different, depending on the judge’s evaluation of the situation after the court hearing. This final order is permanent unless the judge specifies that it will expire on a certain date.
If you are seeking a PFA or would like more information, contact Anderson Cullen at (469) 559-8657 or email@example.com to set up a consultation. Every case is different, and no strategy works for every case. Together, we can figure out if mediation is a good fit for your situation.