What is Considered Domestic Violence in PA?

pa domestic violence

An abusive relationship can hurt you physically, emotionally, and financially. Getting out of a relationship or marriage involving domestic violence often means turning to the Pennsylvania courts for help. But not every abuser physically assaults his or her partner. What is considered PA domestic violence, and how will it affect your Pennsylvania divorce?

PA Domestic Violence Charges

There is no one crime of domestic violence in the Pennsylvania criminal code. Instead, any misdemeanor involving actual or attempted physical force, or the threatened use of a deadly weapon can be considered a crime of PA domestic violence if the abuser has a relationship with the victim as a:

  • Current or former spouse
  • Parent or guardian
  • Co-parent of a child in common
  • Current or former cohabiting romantic partner (or parent’s partner)

At Berman & Associates, we understand the criminal processes around PA domestic violence charges. We also know the effect domestic violence can have on survivors of abuse. We can act as victims’ advocates as the case makes its way through court.

However, not all abusive relationships end with criminal charges. Often a victim of domestic violence may avoid calling the police out of fear of what will happen. In other cases there is not enough evidence to prove the specific misdemeanor of domestic violence beyond a reasonable doubt -- the highest standard in the law.However, a criminal conviction is not the only way a domestic violence survivor can get protection.

Domestic Abuse Definition for Protection from Abuse Petitions

Even if criminal charges are never filed, an abuse survivor can file for a Pennsylvania Protection from Abuse Order (PFA). This process -- which is addressed in family court -- uses a slightly different definition of domestic abuse, in a member of the petitioner’s family or household causes or attempts:

  • Bodily injury (with or without a deadly weapon)
  • Rape or involuntary deviate sexual intercourse
  • Sexual assault
  • Statutory sexual assault
  • Indecent assault (aggravated or non-aggravated)
  • Incest
  • Reasonable fear of immediate serious bodily injury
  • False imprisonment
  • Physical or sexual abuse of a child
  • Repeatedly putting the person in reasonable fear of bodily injury

Survivors seeking to escape an abusive relationship can often use PFA orders to shield themselves and their children from retaliation while they move out of their abuser’s home and start the divorce process. PFAs can also prevent abusers from entering the family home, and include temporary child custody, support, and insurance orders, so you won’t have to go to a PA domestic violence shelter or depend on friends or family for support.

At Berman Law, we know how powerful a PFA can be when put to work to protect domestic violence survivors. We can help you tell your story in a way that fits the definition of domestic abuse. Then we will advocate on your behalf to get an order that protects you, your family, and your future interests in court.

What is Considered PA Domestic Violence in a Divorce?

The PA Department of Human Services recognizes that not all forms of domestic violence fit within the mold of criminal charges or domestic assault. Many family court judges will consider a broader definition of domestic violence for divorce purposes, including:

  • Physical abuse (described above)
  • Emotional abuse like threats, name-calling, and put-downs
  • Sexual abuse (described above)
  • Taking the victim’s money or property
  • Destroying personal belongings
  • Injuring or killing family pets
  • Threatening children
  • Preventing the victim from working
  • Isolating the victim from friends and family

While most Pennsylvania divorces are “no-fault,” PA law still does allow for fault-based divorce. Some of the behaviors that fit within the definition of PA domestic violence may be considered “cruel and barbarous treatment” for a fault-based divorce. Filing for a fault-based divorce removes the separation requirement and waiting period for no-fault divorce and allows you to move on from the relationship faster.

Your Pennsylvania divorce judge may also consider the abuser’s behavior in dividing up the marital estate, and awarding alimony or spousal support. This is especially true if your abuser controlled the family finances, used family money for his or her own purposes, or prevented you from pursuing a career, forcing you to remain financially dependent.

Our Berman Law family lawyers know how to advocate for domestic violence survivors in divorce. We will help you get the alimony and equitable property division you need to feel whole after your abusive relationship is over.

How Domestic Violence Will Affect Your Custody Case

Domestic violence claims can also have a substantial impact on a child custody case. Pennsylvania family court judges must do what is in the best interests of the children in awarding custody and visitation. If there is proof of domestic violence, against the kids or the abuser’s spouse, the judge will be less likely to award the abuser custody. In some more severe cases, the judge may also include protective measures in your parenting plan, such as:

  • Parenting time exchanges in a public place
  • No overnight visits
  • Supervised visitation
  • Suspend visitation entirely (in severe cases)

Get Help as a PA Domestic Violence Survivor

Whether there are criminal charges, you are seeking a PFA, or are proceeding with a divorce from an abusive partner, success depends on proving the abuse occurred. At Berman & Associates, our experienced family law attorneys understand the various definitions of domestic violence and domestic abuse, and how they work in the Pennsylvania court systems. We stand beside domestic abuse survivors every step of the way. We welcome you to contact us to speak with us about how we can help getting out of an abusive relationship.

Categories: Family Law