Pennsylvania’s Protection from Abuse Act is the mechanism under which individuals can seek restraining orders against abusive parties. In filling out a petition for protection from abuse, the filing party must define the relationship between the plaintiff and defendant. Among the choices, are spouse, ex-spouse, parents of the same children, brother/sister, persons who live or have lived like spouses, current or former sexual/intimate partner, parent/child, other relationship by blood or by marriage.
These categories certainly constitute a broad spectrum of interpersonal relationships, but the question can arise as to whether the interaction between two people constitutes a relationship under one of the above categories.
Under a recent Pennsylvania Superior Court case (Evans v. Braun), the Court found that two dates was a sufficient amount of time to establish the Petitioner’s standing to bring an action under the Protection from Abuse Act. The Court held that although the parties only went on two dates, by voluntarily entering into a relationship in which they attempted a romantic bond, the petitioner established standing to bring an action as a romantic partner. The length of the relationship is irrelevant compared to the mutual decision to enter into a relationship between the parties.
Though it may seem obvious that a party that is being abused by another should have any standing necessary in order to protect themselves, the Protection from Abuse Act is designed, at least in some part, to address the abusive conduct from an individual with whom you share some type of relationship. That the Court has demonstrated a broad interpretation of what constitutes a “partner”, means that petitioners can have the security of the Protection from Abuse Act even in the most superficial or short relationships. The abuse of one person by another is not acceptable at any time, but by offering a broad interpretation of what constitutes a partner, the Court allows petitioners a way of protecting themselves beyond of that private criminal complaints or prosecutions.
Finally, it is worth keeping in mind that the actions sufficient to hold a person in contempt of a PFA are often not “illegal” from the sense that they, independent of the PFA, break any law. Keep in mind, however, that any contact between parties subject to a PFA violates the Order. Therefore, any text, phone call, or note passed from a third party can all constitute a violation of the PFA and land the violator in jail after a contempt hearing.