What is Legally Considered Abuse?

Posted on November 21st, 2022

Being in an abusive relationship is terrifying and paralyzing. You can feel trapped and unable to help your situation. When there isn’t a guarantee that you’ll be believed in today’s world, it’s understandable to feel that you can’t report abuse. To encourage those who need help to seek it, we want to inform people what is legally considered abuse.

If you need help filing a protection from abuse (PFA) order and proving abuse in court, the lawyer at Kalinoski Law Offices can help you.

The Legal Definition of Abuse in Pennsylvania

In Pennsylvania, you can file for a PFA order to protect yourself and/or your children from abuse. These are considered two different types of abuse: domestic and child abuse. What would be considered abuse against a child would not always be considered abuse against a spouse. For example, neglect is not considered abuse in a relationship between two adults, but is between a parent/guardian and their child/ward.

What is Legally Considered Domestic Abuse in PA?

Domestic abuse is defined as “a pattern of behavior in any relationship that is used to gain or maintain power and control over an intimate partner.” Gender orientation does not matter, anyone in a relationship can be abusive to anyone else. Acts of domestic abuse can include:

  • Physical Abuse: Hitting, kicking, choking, shoving, kidnapping, and/or using weapons to cause injury are considered acts of domestic abuse.
  • Emotional Abuse: Put-downs, physical threats, and name-calling are considered acts of domestic abuse.
  • Sexual Abuse: Rape and other forced acts of sex are considered acts of domestic abuse.
  • Theft: Stealing money or personal belongings from one partner is considered domestic abuse.
  • Destruction of Property: Destroying personal belongings is considered domestic abuse.
  • Animal Abuse: Hurting someone else’s animals is considered domestic abuse.
  • Child Abuse: Abusing someone else’s children is considered domestic abuse.
  • Controlling: Not allowing someone to work or see their family and friends is a form of domestic abuse.

If any of these things are happening to you, you can get a PFA to protect yourself and your children.

What is Legally Considered Child Abuse in PA?

Child abuse is when someone acts or fails to prevent something that will or is likely to cause harm to a child under the age of 18. This is an important distinction between domestic abuse and child abuse. It is uncommon for an adult to be dependent on another adult, and there is no requirement that one adult care for another functioning adult. A child, on the other hand, cannot care for themselves, and the parent is expected to provide for their basic needs and protect them from harm.

Because of this, child abuse can include:

  • Causing a child bodily harm through a recent act or failure to stop the act from happening.
  • Falsely exaggerating, inducing, or faking a medical symptom or disease which leads to a harmful medical evaluation or treatment of your child.
  • Causing or substantially contributing to a child’s trauma or mental illness or failure to help.
  • Committing or allowing sexual abuse or exploitation of a child in any way.
  • Failure to provide food, clothing, or any other necessities for the child.
  • Leaving a child alone with someone who is a sexual offender or known sexual predator.
  • Causing the death of a child actively or by failing to act.
  • Putting a child through human trafficking of any kind.

In cases where one parent is abusing the children, the other parent can file for a protective order to get temporary custody of the children until a new custody order can be created.

What Should You Do If You Need Help?

If you are experiencing any of these examples of abuse, or believe your children are, you can file a protective order at your local courthouse to gain emergency protective custody of your children. If you need assistance filing a protective order due to your situation, contact Lifetime Lawyer Craig Kalinoski. For the fastest assistance, please call our office at 570-207-4000.

Category: Family Law

Share this Post
Craig Kalinoski
Craig Kalinoski

Craig P. Kalinoski is a respected attorney serving clients in Scranton, Pennsylvania. With a focus on Family Law, Criminal Defense, and Civil Rights, he has established himself as a top-rated legal professional. Recognized as a Rising Star and admired by peers, Craig's commitment to excellence sets him apart in the legal field.


We fight for the rights of our clients in a wide spectrum of practice areas, ranging from criminal defense to family law and personal injury.

Back to Top