When a person is accused of domestic violence in Lehigh County, they may be named in a Protection From Abuse order. A protection from abuse order, or a PFA, is filed in the Lehigh County Court of Common Pleas family court division. While a PFA is technically a matter of family law, these court orders can quickly develop into criminal matters, especially if the PFA becomes permanent. In addition, several complications across the realm of family law can arise if a PFA is made final.
Defending Against PFA Orders in Lehigh County
When a person is named as an aggressor in a PFA order, the court will refer to them as the "defendant." The person who files for the PFA order will be known in court proceedings as the plaintiff. PFA filings normally follow a brief hearing process, however, in certain situations, a plaintiff may request an emergency PFA. This is sometimes referred to as an "ex parte" PFA. Ex parte PFA order are typically granted in situations that a judge believes is an emergency, and a defendant does not need to be present for this. Instead, they will simply be notified through summons or mailing that they have been named as a defendant in a PFA order.
PFA Hearings in Lehigh County
Under normal circumstances, the filing of a PFA requires a two-step hearing process. The first hearing will be an initial hearing for the filing of a temporary PFA order. These hearings are typically held and decided upon by either a judge or a court master. At these brief hearings, a defendant will be able to defend themselves against the plaintiff's claims, however, these hearings are meant to be informal. If the plaintiff is successful at this stage, they will have a temporary PFA order against the defendant, and a hearing for a final PFA order will be scheduled.
At a hearing for a final PFA, there is much more at stake. A final PFA order can last years, and have conditions that strongly interfere with a defendant's quality of life. At a final PFA hearing, first, the plaintiff will present their argument. Following this, the defendant will have an opportunity to conduct a cross-examination. After this, the defendant will have a chance to present their supporting case and arguments, however, the plaintiff will also be able to conduct a cross-examination. Following this, both parties will be given a chance for final remarks and rebuttals. The judge will then close the hearing and make a decision on the PFA.
A final PFA will stand for a designated amount of time determined in court. It is important to form a defense against a PFA early on. Even if a final PFA is awarded to the plaintiff, the terms will be much more favorable if a defendant put up a good defense in court.