Protection From Abuse (PFA) Hearing
Protection from Abuse (PFA) orders are invaluable tools in ensuring the safety of victims of domestic violence. Unfortunately, there are occasionally instances in which a spouse or intimate partner either manufactures or exaggerates claims of abuse when seeking one of these orders, often to create an advantage for him or herself in a divorce settlement or child custody dispute.
It is extremely important for any person who has been served a PFA order to take the matter very seriously. Failing to appear at a final PFA hearing can result in a maximum three-year PFA order being issued, and the potential consequences are not only next to impossible to undo but the order also becomes a matter of permanent record that will come up on most routine background checks.
West Chester PFA Hearing Lawyer
If you were recently served a PFA order in Southeastern Pennsylvania, it is critical that you make sure that you have experienced legal counsel before you appear at your final hearing. Ciccarelli Law Offices assists clients from Chester County, Philadelphia County, Montgomery County, Lancaster County, and Delaware County in these matters.
If someone has filed a petition for a PFA order against you in bad faith, our PFA hearing attorneys can investigate the circumstances of your case and develop the strongest possible defense so you face as few consequences as possible when a judge issues a ruling. Call (610) 692-8700 right now to have our firm review your case during a free, confidential consultation.
Pennsylvania PFA Hearing Information Center
- How do these cases arrive at hearings?
- What does an alleged stand to lose if a judge rules against him or her?
- What happens at the actual hearing?
Any person who has been allegedly abused by a current or former spouse, parent, child, sexual or intimate partner, or another individual related by blood or marriage can file a petition for a PFA order with the Court of Common Pleas in the county where he or she lives or works, the county where the alleged offender lives or works, or the county where the abuse took place. The alleged victim may receive one of two types of orders:
- Emergency PFA Order — If the alleged victim is seeking immediate protection during a time that court is not in session, law enforcement may supply him or her with a way to contact an on-call magisterial district judge who can grant an emergency order that only lasts until the following business day when the court reopens.
- Ex Parte Temporary PFA Order — This order may be granted if an alleged victim presents information to a judge that demonstrates he or she and/or his or her children have been abused and are in danger of further abuse. The alleged offender is not present in court when this evidence is presented. An ex parte PFA order is also temporary, but it will stay in effect until the final hearing date that is typically scheduled within the next 10 business days.
A final PFA order can be issued following the final hearing. This hearing is the alleged offender’s opportunity to present his or her own evidence and call his or her own witnesses. If both sides are able to reach an agreement, a judge may issue a final order without a hearing.
The possible limitations imposed by a PFA order can have a profound impact on the life of an alleged offender. Some of the rights that you could stand to lose or other ways you could be adversely affected by an unfavorable PFA ruling include:
- Employment problems because of background checks
- Eviction from your home
- Having to provide suitable alternate housing to the alleged victim and/or minor children
- Loss of child custody or visitation rights
- Loss of your Second Amendment rights
- Paying financial support to parties you are considered to have a duty to support
- Paying the alleged victim for losses resulting from the alleged abuse
While every court handles certain aspects differently, the final PFA hearing process is largely the same. All alleged offenders need to keep in mind that the no-contact orders that are part of ex parte PFAs are still in effect when entering the courthouse, so they must avoid confronting their alleged victims before the hearings.
Generally, a hearing usually follows this course of events:
- Alleged victim testimony — The first side of the story that the court hears is from the alleged victim, who also presents evidence and calls witnesses. The alleged offender reserves the right to cross-examine the alleged victim and his or her witnesses following their testimony. The judge may also ask questions.
- Alleged offender testimony — The court then hears the alleged offender’s side of the story. He or she then has the opportunity to call his or her own witnesses and present evidence. The alleged victim then gets the chance to cross-examine the alleged offender and his or her witnesses, and the judge again also might ask questions.
- Redirect — If necessary, an alleged victim may provide rebuttal testimony based upon what was presented by the alleged offender.
- Judge’s decision — The judge will then deliver his or her ruling, but the amount of time it takes can very. He or she may do so immediately upon the conclusion of all testimony, there may be a short recess while he or she reviews the facts, or it could take several weeks. If the judge does not provide a final decision that day, then he or she may extend the temporary PFA order until he or she rules on the case.
Find a PFA Hearing Lawyer in West Chester
Have you been served a PFA order in Southeastern Pennsylvania? You should not delay in making sure that you have legal representation who will fight to protect your best interests.
Ciccarelli Law Offices has offices in West Chester, Lancaster, Kennett Square, Radnor, Plymouth Square, Malvern, Philadelphia, and King of Prussia. Our PFA hearing attorneys will provide a thorough evaluation of your case as soon as you call (610) 692-8700 to take advantage of a free, no obligation consultation.