Vague Threat “Or Else” May Be Enough for Protection From Abuse

During a custody exchange, a child’s father told that the mother that she’d better not refer to her boyfriend as the child’s dad “or else.”  While yelling at her, he pointed his finger in her face.  He also placed his hands around her boyfriend’s hands and squeezed. Upset and fearful, the mother applied for an extension of an existing PFA (protection from abuse) order. The trial court found that father had violated the PFA order and granted the extension for another 18 months. Father appealed to the Superior Court.

In his appeal, the father argued that the phrase “or else” was too vague to support a reasonable fear of imminent bodily harm. The Superior Court, in an unpublished decision, disagreed. Slavick v. Slavick, No. 1995 WDA 2011 (May 13, 2011)(non-precedential). The Court noted that the father had previously made threats less than a year before the most recent incident, in which he  had said “as soon as the PFA is done he’s getting his guns from the police department and he’ll … kill us all….”These statements demonstrated a history of behavior which, when paired with more recent harassment, made the mother’s fear of the father reasonable.


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