With the change from spring to summer comes the end of yet another celebrity relationship. Late last week, news hit the headlines that Amber Heard had filed for divorce against Johnny Depp alleging irreconcilable differences. Heard’s filing came just days after she filed for a temporary restraining order against Depp alleging that he was physically and emotionally abusive to her. These court filings will bring an end to the couple’s fifteen-month marriage.
Under California law, a temporary order was entered that requires Depp to stay at least 100 feet away from Heard, and a new hearing is scheduled for next month. Although this process off temporary and then permanent restraining orders is common between both California and Pennsylvania, the procedures are significantly different.
Under Pennsylvania law, a persona filing a Protection from Abuse Complaint will first seek the order ex parte. This means that they do not have to give notice to the person they are filing against. Instead, the court will have the opportunity to hear the Plaintiff’s side of the story without the Defendant being present. After hearing the story, the court will determine if the facts alleged amount to the level of abuse required to enter a temporary PFA order.
A temporary PFA order will include provisions restricting a defendant from stalking, harassing, or communicating with the plaintiff in anyway and often requiring them to relinquish weapons. If the parties have children, custody provisions will often be included, especially if the children are listed as a protected party under the PFA. This usually occurs when abuse happens to or around the children. Also, the plaintiff will be temporarily awarded exclusive possession of any shared residence belonging to the parties.
Once and Order is entered, the court will schedule a second hearing within ten to fourteen days of the initial hearing. At this second hearing, both the accuser and the accused may put on evidence regarding alleged domestic violence. Like any other hearing, the parties may have an attorney, bring witnesses and put on evidence. After hearing the evidence, the court will determine if the plaintiff has met their burden to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that they were in reasonable fear of imminent bodily harm. If the court determines that they have met the burden, they will enter an order extending the temporary order for up to three years.
Sometimes, the matter will not go to a full-scale hearing if the parties can agree to a consent civil no contact order. This civil order can allow the parties to add additional terms specific to the case. In both the case of a civil no contact order and a final PFA order, if the defendant violates the order’s terms, they will be subject to all the penalties associated with an indirect criminal contempt including arrest and jail time.
If you would like more information about PFAs in Allegheny County and the rest of Western Pennsylvania, contact our office today!