Being physical or emotional abuse victim is dangerous and traumatic and requires quick action. Delaware law provides for expedited proceedings for protection from abuse orders. A PFA provides specific relief.
This family court order is intended to prevent someone from abusing another person. It may also include other relief such as ordering the abuser to stay away from the abuse victim.
A victim may file a PFA petition if they are in any of the following relationships:
- Spouse or former spouses.
- Persons living together and holding themselves out as a couple.
- Persons living separate and apart and who have children in common.
- Persons in a current or former dating relationship.
- Family relationships including a parent or child including step-and in-law, brother or sister including in-law, son or daughter including in-law and where parental rights were terminated or grandparent or grandchild.
- Other family members related by blood adoption or marriage if they reside in one home under one head.
Abuse is any threatening or harmful conduct including serious emotional harm. Under Delaware law, it includes:
- Intentionally or recklessly causing or attempting to cause physical injury or a sexual offense.
- Intentionally or recklessly placing or attempting to place another person in reasonable fear of physical injury or a sexual offense.
- Intentionally or recklessly damaging, destroying, or taking the property of another person.
- Engaging in a course of alarming or distressing conduct in a way which is likely to cause fear or emotional distress or provoke response that is violent or disorderly.
- Trespassing on or in another person’s property or property where the trespasser was excluded by a court order.
- Child abuse.
- Unlawful imprisonment, kidnapping, interference with custody and coercion.
- Any other threatening or harmful conduct.
A PFA order may contain the following relief:
- No further abuse.
- No further contact with the victim.
- The victim may obtain exclusive use of their home or certain property.
- Temporary child custody.
- Conditions on visitation.
- Child or other support.
- Surrender of firearms. This may also be required under federal law.
- Any other terms intended to prevent further violence.
The initial length of a temporary order sought in a one-party proceeding is up to 15 days. It may be extended for up to 30 days if the PFA trial is rescheduled. It may also be lengthened up to 30 days if the PFA is rescheduled to complete service of process on the alleged abuser and at a party’s request if there is good cause.
Permanent orders can last up to 2 years and longer if these were entered by consent, default or after a full hearing. Permanent orders include:
- No further abuse.
- The abuser staying 100 yards away from the victim’s home and workplace.
- No communication or contact.
- No deadly weapons, firearms, or ammunition.
If the parties consent or there are aggravating circumstances, protective provisions may be ordered for more than two years. Aggravating circumstances include physical injury, firearm use, previous domestic violence convictions, repeated violations of earlier PFAs or where there is any immediate and ongoing danger to the victim or any member of their household.
Additional provisions are restricted to one year. These include custody and visitation with children, support payments and temporary possession of property and homes.
Attorneys can assist you with filing pleadings and undergoing court proceedings. They can help you seek legal protections under Delaware law.