A Protection from Abuse Order (PFA) is a type of restraining order for domestic situations. Governed by Alabama’s Protection from Abuse Act (Alabama Code § 30-5-1 et seq.), they are meant for victims of domestic abuse, or those in serious danger of abuse. Therefore, PFAs are designed to protect a victim from one of the following persons (not an exhaustive list):
A current or former sexual or intimate partner
A spouse of former spouse
A family member
Someone who lives in the alleged victim’s home
Someone who shares a child with the victim
Domestic abuse is often thought of to be instances and/or patterns of abuse between spouses or intimate partners. More broadly, however, domestic abuse can also be against any family member, child, or household member. It doesn’t just have to be between intimate partners. 1 in every 4 women will experience domestic violence at some point in her life. If you are the victim of abuse and it is an emergency, call 911. If you are not in an emergency situation, consider discussing your situation with a domestic relations or divorce attorney in Birmingham. They can help you navigate the best legal course of action. They may suggest filing for a PFA.
You’ll need to fill out a PFA form to file with the clerk in the family court division of your local county courthouse. You can fill out the form on your own or you can have an attorney help you. Be as specific as possible about what the alleged offender did to you. Offer dates if known. You can also list a history of abuse or previous actions the court has taken against the alleged abuser if applicable. Once you have filled out the forms, return them to the court clerk. You will want to make sure you sign them in front of the court clerk and you will need to show a photo ID.
Protection from Abuse Lawyers
In most types of hearings, for a judge to grant a motion the judge wants to hear from both parties. A PFA is an exception, as the judge only needs to hear from the petitioner (the person seeking protection) in order to decide if there is cause to issue the PFA. The alleged abuser will not be notified of the PFA until after the PFA is issued. What kind of instructions the judge orders in the PFA will depend on the allegations made in the petition. Protection orders are unique to each person’s circumstances and can address a number of issues. Among other things, the judge can order the alleged abuser to:
Stop contacting you
Leave your shared residence
Stay 300 or more feet away from your home, work, or school
Award temporary sole custody of any shared children to you
Surrender all firearms
Prohibit the sale or disposal of any jointly-owned property
Before the PFA can be effective, the alleged abuser must be given a copy of the order. It will include details about the hearing date. They will also receive a copy of the petition you filed. If the judge grants your petition, the court clerk will tell you how the papers will be delivered. Do not attempt to give your abuser the papers yourself. The court will usually send a Deputy Sheriff or other law enforcement official to deliver the papers. There is no fee for this.
PFA orders generally require a hearing in less than 10 days. The alleged abuser has a right to be present to tell their side of the story. Though it may be difficult, you must attend the hearing. If you do not attend the hearing, your PFA will expire and you will have to start the process over again. It could also make it harder to attain one in the future. You will be asked to testify about and present any evidence to support the abuse you have experienced. After the judge has heard from both parties, he or she will make a decision whether to leave the PFA in effect.
You have the right to a family law or divorce lawyer at every stage of this process. Working with a local domestic relations attorney can make a very difficult situation a little easier on you, so that you don’t have to worry about how to present your case to the court and whether or not you filed something correctly.