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T.K. v. A.Z.

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

March 14, 2017

T.K.
v.
A.Z. Appellant

         Appeal from the Order Entered August 3, 2016 In the Court of Common Pleas of Cambria County Civil Division at No(s): 2016-2624

          BEFORE: OLSON, J., RANSOM, J., and STEVENS, P.J.E. [*]

          OPINION

          STEVENS, P.J.E.

         A.Z. ("Appellant") appeals the order of the Court of Common Pleas of Cambria County granting the petition for Protection from Abuse ("PFA") filed by his former wife, T.K. ("Appellee"). After careful review, we affirm.

         Appellant and Appellee were married for eleven years before they separated in March 2009. The couple share custody of their minor children. As the parties had a strained relationship following their separation, they exchanged custody of the children at a local police station and were required by a court order to communicate through a court-monitored application. On July 20, 2016, Appellee filed for the PFA against Appellant. On August 3, 2016, the lower court held a PFA hearing at which both parties testified.

         Appellee alleged that Appellant had harassed and stalked her throughout the seven years following their separation; Appellee identified exact dates of recent incidents as recorded in her diary. Appellee accused Appellant of putting a nail in the tire of her car on July 9, 2016, while she took their children to their therapy appointment. Although Appellant was not allowed to contact Appellee by a previous court order, Appellant would have the children and other individuals "scream stuff into the phone" to Appellee on repeated occasions. N.T. Hearing, 8/3/16, at 5-6.

         In addition, Appellee testified to numerous instances in which she felt that Appellant was stalking her. Appellee contended that Appellant would follow her in her vehicle almost every day, drive past her, and honk his car horn. Appellee noticed numerous times that Appellant was following her around the local grocery store. Appellee claimed that, at the local football game, Appellant would follow her when she would go to the bathroom as well as sit near her in the stands and make comments about her within earshot. On another occasion, Appellee and the children detected Appellant watching them and hiding while they were sled riding. Appellee asserted that Appellant would constantly call their children, tell them he was near Appellee's home, and honk his car horn as he passed by. As a result of Appellant's behavior, Appellee expressed fear and concern for her safety.

         Appellant testified and denied all of Appellee's allegations, but offered no explanation or any specific response to Appellee's assertions. At the conclusion of the hearing, the lower court entered an order granting Appellee the PFA against Appellant. In doing so, the lower court found Appellee did not present sufficient evidence to show that Appellant was responsible for the nail found in her car tire. Nevertheless, the lower court found Appellee testified credibly to Appellant's behavior, which it characterized as stalking and harassment. The lower court indicated that its order would be in effect for the statutory period of three years. Appellant filed this timely appeal and complied with the lower court's direction to file a concise statement of errors complained of on appeal pursuant to Pa.R.A.P. 1925(b).

Appellant raises two issues for our review on appeal:
(1) Whether the entry of a Protection from Abuse Order and finding of abuse following hearing [sic] is contrary to the evidence presented and as such an error of law?
(2) Whether the entry of a Protection from Abuse Order following hearing for a period of three (3) years is contrary to the evidence presented and as such an abuse of discretion?

Appellant's Brief, at 4.

         Our standard of review is well-established: "[i]n the context of a PFA order, we review the trial court's legal conclusions for an error of law or abuse of discretion." Boykai v. Young, 83 A.3d 1043, 1045 (Pa.Super. 2014). This Court has emphasized that "[t]he purpose of the PFA Act is to protect victims of domestic violence from those who perpetrate such abuse, with the primary goal of advance prevention of physical and sexual abuse." Buchhalter v. Buchhalter, 959 A.2d 1260, 1262 (Pa.Super. 2008). The PFA Act, 23 Pa.C.S. §§ 6101-6122, defines "abuse, " in relevant part, as follows:

"Abuse." The occurrence of one or more of the following acts between family or household members, sexual or intimate partners or persons who ...

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