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Protection from Abuse (PFA)

What Qualifies as "Abuse" in a PFA Case?

Maine law provides that, for purposes of a protection-from-abuse case, "abuse" means: 

  • Causing, or attempting to cause or causing physical injury or offensive contact, including sexual assault;
  • Placing, or attempting to place, another person in fear of bodily injury through threatening, harassing or tormenting behavior;
  • Compelling a person by force, threat of force or intimidation to do something or not do something that the person has a right or privilege to do or not do;  
  • Knowingly and substantially restricting the movements of another person, including removing the person from their home, school, business, or work, without that person's consent;
  • Communicating to a person a threat to commit, or to cause to be committed, a crime of violence dangerous to human life;
  • Repeatedly, and without reasonable cause, following a person or being at or in the vicinity of a person's home, school, business, or work;
  • Stalking;
  • Engaging in sexual assault;
  • Knowingly, and with the intent to harass, torment or threaten, disseminating (sharing) a private, sexually explicit image of the plaintiff or another person without consent;
  • Engaging in sex trafficking or aggravated sex trafficking;
  • Sexually exploiting a minor;
  • Disseminating (sharing) or possessing, with an intent to share, sexually explicit images of a minor younger than sixteen;
  • Harassing a minor by telephone or by electronic devices; or
  • Economic abuse, or the intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly depriving a person of essential needs, if the person is an incapacitated adult, dependent adult, or individual sixty years of age or older.

If the actions in your situation do not seem to qualify as "abuse" for a PFA order, then you may want to explore our website further to learn whether the actions qualify as harassment for a PFH order.

Who Can File a Complaint for PFA?

You can file a PFA against your family or household member--typically, your current or former dating partner--who has abused you, per the definition above.

You can also file a PFA against anyone who has:

  • Stalked you;
  • Sexually assaulted you;
  • Used or threatened to use intimate private images of you against you; or
  • Forced you or led you into sex trafficking.

In addition, if you are sixty years old or older or a dependent or incapacitated adult, you can file a PFA against any extended family member or unpaid care provider who has abused you.

Regarding minor children, a parent or guardian can file a PFA on behalf of the child(ren).

What Can a PFA Order Do?

An order for protection from abuse may include one or more of the following restraints:

  • The defendant shall not hurt, threaten or interfere with the plaintiff and any children in the plaintiff's home;
  • The defendant shall not have any direct or indirect contact with the plaintiff;
  • The defendant shall stay away from the plaintiff's home, school, business or work;
  • The defendant shall not stalk or follow the plaintiff;
  • The defendant shall not possess firearms or other dangerous weapons;
  • The defendant shall not take, sell, damage or destroy any property that belongs to the plaintiff in whole or in part;
  • The defendant shall not injure or threaten to injure any animal owned or kept by either party;
  • The defendant shall not disseminate (share) any private, sexually explicit images of the plaintiff; and
  • The defendant shall not destroy, transfer or tamper with the plaintiff's passport or other immigration document in the defendant's possession.

A PFA order may also address other matters and grant you additional relief. It may:

  • Grant temporary possession of the home to the plaintiff or the defendant;
  • Grant a division of personal property;
  • Direct the care, custody, or control of any animal owned or kept by either party or a minor child residing in the household;
  • Require the defendant to pay for the plaintiff's temporary support, loss of earnings, property damage, or moving expenses;
  • Require termination of any life insurance policy owned by the defendant insuring the plaintiff, with a copy of the order to be sent to the insurance company;
  • Require the defendant to get counseling, attend a certified domestic violence intervention program, or attend another guidance service that the court finds appropriate;
  • Require the defendant to remove, destroy, or return to the plaintiff any private, sexually explicit images, or pay the costs associated with the removal, destruction, or return of the images; and
  • Pay damages related to the return or restoration of the plaintiff's passport or other immigration document, and any debts of the plaintiff arising from a sex trafficking relationship.

If the plaintiff and the defendant have children together, an order may also include one or more of the following:

  • Grant temporary parental rights;
  • Order payment of child support, including an immediate payroll withholding to collect support; and
  • Order the filing of child support affidavits if not already done.

How Long Does a PFA Order Last?

A PFA order can last up to two years. A shorter period may be ordered or agreed to by the parties. If the judge extends a PFA order at the plaintiff's request, then the judge can extend the order for however long the court finds further protection of the plaintiff is necessary. If the plaintiff wants the order to be extended, the plaintiff must file a motion to extend the order.

What Happens If the Defendant Violates the PFA?

If the defendant has violated the order, the plaintiff should call a law enforcement agency and report the incident. Call 911 if anyone is in immediate danger.

The violation constitutes a crime and may result in the defendant's arrest and criminal prosecution.

Contact Us Today

There can be a lot at stake in a PFA case. It is important to have a great lawyer protecting your interests. Contact us online or call (207) 536-7147 to schedule a consultation.

Contact Us Today

We are committed to answering your questions about Criminal Defense & OUI, Family Law & Divorce, Wills & Planning, and Mediation issues in Maine. We will gladly discuss your case with you at your convenience. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.