TYPES OF PFA's HANDLED
We have handled numerous PFA matters involving various types of abuse, harassment, threats, and violence perpetrated by both men and women against both men and women. We have handled cases involving married couples, engaged couples, unmarried parents, boyfriend/girlfriend, same-sex couples, parent and child. We have handled cases involving custody issues and property issues where exclusive possession is sought.
WHY HIRE A FAMILY LAWYER FOR DEFENSE OF A PFA?
We understand the interplay between a PFA and an existing or impending custody or divorce, and we will explain how a PFA can impact related matters of custody and divorce. We can also dispel common myths about PFA orders and explain situations where a PFA is not appropriate, or where further intervention through criminal court is warranted. We have represented both new and existing clients on both sides of cases through the final hearing process. For over ten years we have also been volunteers, providing pro bono representation to plaintiffs through a local agency.
DO I NEED A LAWYER FOR MY PFA?
Your accuser will be given the option of having a free lawyer, and will be represented by an attorney at court. You need to seriously consider whether you should also have informed legal counsel at the final PFA hearing to ensure your rights are also protected.
Once a PFA is entered against you, it is too late to call us and second guess your choice to go it alone.
PRIVATE COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT
Unlike ALL plaintiffs, who are provided with a free lawyer, the defendant is not provided with free representation or a public defender. This is a common misconception and men and women seeking representation for false allegations of abuse are often confused about this detail.
The reason is that a PFA is not a criminal matter. While a violation of the order is enforceable by the police resulting in indirect criminal contempt, the underlying matter is a civil matter. Therefore, any person accused of domestic abuse in Pennsylvania desiring a lawyer for defense of an unfounded PFA must hire a lawyer.
Domestic violence is a serious issue, however it is true that there are instances where allegations are unfounded or not truthful and misused in divorce or custody matters, or even simply to have a roommate removed from a shared living space.
WHAT IS A PFA NO-CONTACT ORDER?
In Pennsylvania, a no-contact restraining order, is called a PFA (Protection from Abuse). If you have been served with a PFA, this document governs your conduct towards the accusing party until a final hearing.
The final hearing is scheduled within ten business days of the filing of the temporary PFA. Prior to the final hearing you will be excluded from the residence of the other party. If you lived together at the time of filing, you will be evicted from your home.
If your children are involved or covered by the PFA, you will be limited regarding when or how you see them, if at all until the PFA is resolved at court.
THE FINAL HEARING
At the final hearing time, there are a number of options for resolving the matter. This includes the entry of a Final Protection from Abuse Order for as long as 36 months. During this time, the defendant may not have any contact with the victim in any way or through any third parties. The defendant will also be evicted from the residence where the plaintiff resides. The defendant will also be barred from going to the plaintiff’s place of employment. At the final hearing, the court may also address child custody and may make an interim ruling on child support and can award money for related economic losses or medical bills.
A defendant who agrees to final PFA will be assessed court costs for the action, and if the PFA was entered after a Final Hearing they will have an additional $100 fee imposed on them.
COURT FOR THE HEARING DATE
You are advised to appear at the final hearing at 9:00 am at family court. If you do not show up by 10:00 a.m., a final, three-year PFA can be entered against you. So unless, you want a default PFA, you should appear on time and be ready to either try to settle the case or go to a final hearing before the Judge.
Prior to heading to the Judge, lawyers for the parties may try to negotiate any of the issues in dispute. These may include who stays in the home, what property may be retrieved from the residence and how time with the kids will be spent.
WHO CAN OBTAIN A PFA?
Under the Protection from Abuse Act, a temporary Protection from Abuse Order may be obtained by a current or former intimate partner against the other if the person seeking the petition is in reasonable fear of bodily harm. In the event that a person is physically assaulted or threatened with bodily harm, they can proceed to file a petition for Protection from Abuse.
HOW & WHERE TO OBTAIN A PFA?
A temporary Order for Protection from Abuse or “PFA” can be obtained in Allegheny County by filing a petition that is available at the court. An emergency protection from abuse "EPFA" may be obtained at night court or from a local magistrate. An emergency or temporary PFA will preclude the defendant from having any contact with the plaintiff. The defendant will also be evicted from the residence and excluded from the business location of the plaintiff. The victim may also request that the defendant relinquish any firearms. Following the entry of a temporary PFA, a hearing for a Final PFA will be scheduled.
We offer experienced and professional counsel for women and men who have been falsely accused under the protection from abuse act in Allegheny County and surrounding areas. We also can mitigate damage in instances where a person may have made a poor choice via text, cell phone, social media, or in person, which could be viewed by the court as harassment, stalking, or threats of abuse. Do not wait until it's too late. Call our law offices as soon as you have been served with a temporary protection from abuse order so we can discuss the options available to you.
HOW IS A PFA GRANTED AGAINST ME?
The person claiming abuse goes to court and fills out a petition against you. Then the accuser goes before a judge to request that a temporary protection order be granted against you. This appearance before the judge is called ex parte, meaning only the accuser is there and you, the person being accused of abuse cannot defend against the claims at that time.
After the Judge grants the temporary Order, it is given to law enforcement for service.
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER SERVICE OF TEMP PFA?
Once the defendant is served with a temporary PFA, they will be evicted from the residence of the Plaintiff, which may be their home too. In addition, they are barred from having any contact with the accuser in person, by phone, via text, social media or through any third parties. If there is any violation of the no-contact provision, they can be arrested and charged with indirect criminal contempt.
OPTIONS AT COURT?
There are many options for trying to resolve the matter depending on the individual circumstances. However, both people need to be receptive to a potential settlement.
If the accuser refuses anything short of a full hearing, there is nothing the defendant can do. However, sometimes the plaintiff proceeds to a final hearing against the recommendation of counsel and ends up having the PFA dismissed.
Other times the plaintiff is willing to try to resolve the matter and the defendant is adamant about having their day in court, usually without representation. In hindsight, this is often a poor choice when the result is a three-year PFA awarded by the Judge.
SETTLEMENT OR FINAL HEARING?
Both parties may prefer trying to reach some agreement rather than having to face each other in a recorded hearing in front of a Judge.
Some possible outcomes shy of a Final PFA Order by a Judge after a hearing are: a three-year PFA entered by consent, where no record hearing is held and no admissions are made; a PFA for less than three years; a civil no-contact order; a continuance for several months with a rescheduled final hearing; a continuance for several months which will expire after no further violations, or the PFA may be vacated altogether.
At the same time, if you insist on attending the Final Hearing, it is your right to be heard. But the standard of proof for a PFA is "a preponderance of the evidence" because remember, this is a CIVIL matter and not a criminal matter where the burden of proof is much higher.
That's not to say you can't have the PFA dismissed by the Judge, especially if the alleged conduct does not rise to the standard required for a final order, or if the alleged abuse never occurred.
We take all cases involving domestic violence very seriously and believe that no one should be a victim of violence or threats of violence. At the same time, unfortunately, we also often encounter false claims of violence made in an effort to impact a divorce proceeding or custody matter. Regardless of the circumstances, we will fight hard for you; either to protect you or to avoid having false accusations appear on your record.
NEED MORE INFORMATION ABOUT PFA IN PENNSYLVANIA?
We can help if you have filed a PFA in and need an attorney to represent you at a hearing. We can also assist if you need representation at a hearing to defend against a PFA filed against you which is unwarranted. For more information about Protection from Abuse in Pennsylvania, call Scott L. Levine at 412.303.9566.
Contact us if you have received threats from a loved one or someone you know. We proudly serve clients in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Allegheny County throughout Western Pennsylvania.