Domestic violence is a very serious matter. In Pennsylvania, victims of domestic violence can file a Petition for Protection from Abuse, which requests that the court enter a Protection from Abuse Order (often referred to as a PFA) against the other party (referred to as the Defendant). Protection from Abuse Orders may include provisions requiring the Defendant to stay away from the victim, evicting the Defendant from the home, requiring the Defendant to turn over any guns he or she owns to the police, and may also include temporary child custody or support orders. Protection from Abuse Petitions can be filed 24 hours per day. If you are a victim of abuse and believe you are in danger and need a PFA outside of normal business hours in Pennsylvania, we recommend you contact the local police to determine where an emergency PFA can be filed near you.
It can often be very difficult to confront domestic violence. You may not feel ready to file a Petition for Protection from Abuse, or you may not feel it is safe or feasible to leave your abuser. Regardless of your circumstances, we can provide you with legal guidance and can also point you towards other resources to help you decide how to proceed. If / when you are ready to take action, you will need to have a team of strong supporters in your corner. As attorneys experienced in abuse / domestic violence matters, we believe we can be a valuable part of that team.
Information for Defendants
Unfortunately, some individuals may file Petitions for Protection from Abuse frivolously. When a Petition for Protection from Abuse is initially filed, it will typically be filed ex parte, which means that the Defendant will not be present to defend him or herself. The Court will hold a quick hearing (without the Defendant present) to determine whether a temporary PFA Order should be entered. If the Court enters a temporary order, that Order must be followed, regardless of whether it is based on accurate information. The Court will schedule a hearing, usually within a week, at which time the Court will hear from both parties and will determine whether a final PFA will be entered.
If a PFA has been entered against you, it is important to remain calm and follow the order. Violating a PFA is a criminal offense which may be result in incarceration. If the Order provides that you cannot contact the victim, then you must strictly follow that provision. You should not have any contact with him or her, even through third parties or over social media, text, or email. You should not call him or her or leave voice messages. These types of actions could be a violation of the Order. If the Order evicts you from your home, it may be possible for you to make arrangements with the local police to return from the home for a very brief period of time to gather some personal belongings accompanied by a police officer, but you should not do so unless the arrangements are specifically made through the police and they accompany you to the home.
If you are a Defendant in a PFA matter, it is important to contact an attorney as early as possible after learning of the PFA so that we can work with you to prepare for the hearing. If there is insufficient time to prepare, it may be possible to delay the hearing; however, the temporary PFA Order will remain in place until the hearing is held so it is often in your best interests to have the hearing held as soon as possible.