In short, yes, you can obtain a Protection From Abuse Order (“PFA”) based on verbal abuse in Pennsylvania. Verbal abuse can be a form of domestic violence and can seriously impact an individual’s mental and emotional well-being. The experienced Philadelphia family law lawyers at Schwartz, Fox & Saltzman have been successfully representing domestic violence victims who have been verbally abused by their spouses and partners for over 40 years.
This article goes over what it takes for verbal abuse to serve as grounds for obtaining a PFA order.
Can Verbal Abuse Serve as Ground for a PFA Order?
Yes, verbal abuse can serve as grounds for a PFA order. Making statements that places a victim in reasonable fear of imminent serious bodily injury, according to section §6102(a)(2) of the Protection from Abuse Act, is abuse. To obtain a PFA order, you must prove you suffered “abuse” by a preponderance of the evidence, i.e., 51%.
Getting a PFA for Verbal Abuse
The process of obtaining a PFA order for verbal abuse is nearly identical to obtaining a PFA order for physical abuse. If you are seeking a PFA order for verbal abuse, it is important to document each incident along with the surrounding circumstances. You should also consider seeking help from a Philadelphia family law attorney who can advise you on your options and help you navigate the process of obtaining a PFA order.
Difficulties with Verbal Abuse Grounds Alone
To obtain a PFA order, it is not sufficient for your partner or spouse to have used foul language or insulted you using obscenities. Similarly, it is not sufficient if your spouse or partner raised their voice or yelled. Instead, you must prove the language used reasonably placed you in fear of suffering immediate bodily harm.
Determining “Reasonable Fear”
You must demonstrate a “reasonable fear” of suffering future physical harm or physical abuse to obtain a PFA order. Pennsylvania courts evaluate a victim’s “reasonable fear” using several factors, including:
- Whether your spouse or partner has a history of violence
- The circumstances surrounding the verbal abuse
- How the abuse was communicated
- Which person acted as the aggressor
Accordingly, documenting each instance of verbal abuse and the surrounding circumstances can help you build a strong case for a court hearing. You will need to state specifically what was said that placed you in fear of imminent serious bodily injury as well as the date, location and manner of the statement(s). If there were witnesses it would certainly be helpful to proving your case. Further, if the threat was in writing, such as email or text, would be helpful to you too.
Summary of PFAs for Verbal Abuse
While not explicitly mentioned in the Protection from Abuse Act, verbal abuse is a valid ground for a PFA. However, you must prove the fear you experienced was reasonable. If you are seeking a PFA due to verbal abuse, contact the Philadelphia family law attorneys at Schwartz, Fox & Saltzman today!