Can a PFA Be Dropped?

Yes, but be careful. The plaintiff who files the PFA complaint may seek to dismiss the complaint. But the court will ensure that the plaintiff's desire to drop and end the PFA proceeding is not the result of the defendant's threat or other coercion.

The Risk of a Contempt Violation. Resolving a PFA by agreement can be a good outcome as long as the defendant's interests are served, but doing so must be strictly voluntary and must not involve a violation of the PFA order. If the court has already issued an emergency, temporary, or final PFA order that includes a no-contact provision, then the court had better not learn that the defendant contacted and/or coerced the plaintiff to seek the PFA proceeding's dismissal, or the court may severely punish the defendant. The Pennsylvania Protection from Abuse Act authorizes the plaintiff to seek either criminal contempt sanctions under Section 6114 or civil contempt relief under Section 6114.1. In either case, the PFA defendant can go to jail for violating the PFA order. Attempted settlement negotiations are the classic violation of a PFA no-contact order. The defendant sees an opportunity in reaching out to the plaintiff to make the PFA proceeding go away, not realizing that violating a PFA order's no-contact provision won't make the proceeding go away but will instead complicate and extend it. The Act's Section 6114 authorizes the court to extend a violated PFA order.

Modifying or Amending PFA Orders. A far better approach than violating a PFA no-contact order to try and get the plaintiff to drop the PFA proceeding is to petition the court to modify, amend, or dismiss the order. The Pennsylvania Protection from Abuse Act's Section 6108(d) permits the court to amend its PFA order at the request of either party, which would include the plaintiff who started the proceeding: “The court may amend its order or agreement at any time upon subsequent petition filed by either party.” The Act's Section 6117(a) contains a similar but even clearer provision authorizing the court to modify its PFA order:

Unless otherwise indicated in this chapter, a proceeding under this chapter shall be in accordance with applicable general rules and shall be in addition to any other available civil or criminal remedies. The plaintiff and the defendant may seek modification of an order issued under section 6108 (relating to relief) at any time during the pendency of an order. Except as otherwise indicated in this chapter, modification may be ordered after the filing of a petition for modification, service of the petition and a hearing on the petition.”

Party Petition and Court Approval. Section 6117(a)'s above reference to other “applicable general rules” means that the parties and court may refer to Pennsylvania rules of civil procedure. 231 Pa. Code Rule 229 on discontinuances permits all parties to consent to drop an action or the court to discontinue the case before trial. Rule 229's reference to “before trial” suggests that once the court hears and grants a PFA request, especially in a final hearing, “trial” has occurred, and the parties can no longer consent on their own to dropping the PFA order and dismissing the PFA proceeding. Section 6117(a)'s requirement of a petition and order to modify a PFA order reinforces that interpretation. Some counties still permit the parties wide latitude in dropping PFA proceedings, including PFA orders. But other counties require judicial review and approval in a hearing. And surely, the chances of a court accepting the plaintiff's dismissal of a PFA proceeding can be greater before the PFA final hearing than after the judge hears the evidence, finds abuse or threats, and grants the PFA order.

Reasons to Drop a PFA Proceeding. Plaintiffs can find a good reason to drop a PFA proceeding. A plaintiff abandoning a PFA proceeding, or wishing to do so, is not always due to the defendant's coercion. PFA orders can destroy any remaining hope for reconciliation and cooperation when the plaintiff may discover during a PFA proceeding that reconciliation and cooperation is not only possible but preferred. The plaintiff may also learn that the plaintiff did not need a PFA order to end any perceived threat of abuse and to improve the plaintiff's circumstances. In the worst case, a PFA order can make a plaintiff's life worse rather than better, especially when the plaintiff misperceived the extent or nature of any threat. Lives and relationships can change and improve. A PFA proceeding can sometimes be the catalyst. If you are anticipating or already involved in a PFA proceeding that is going nowhere and is in no sense helpful, then retain and consult Pennsylvania PFA attorney Joseph D. Lento. Attorney Lento is masterful at negotiating positive, win-win workouts.

The Best Defense Approach. Indeed, sometimes the best approach for PFA defense counsel can be to help the plaintiff and plaintiff's attorney; if the plaintiff has an attorney, appreciate that cooperation can be better than the PFA order. PFA orders are clunky. They impose inflexible boundaries that the parties on both sides can find frustrating and even damaging. Pennsylvania PFA attorney Joseph D. Lento has the skill and experience to know the sorts of cooperative arrangements that can promote change, healing, trust, and new relationships, over the imposed solution of a harsh and unhelpful PFA order.

Get a Pennsylvania PFA Attorney's Assistance. Dropping or otherwise resolving an ongoing PFA proceeding can be difficult once the parties have drawn the battle lines. But both parties may soon perceive, or even perceive before beginning the PFA proceeding, that cooperation and resolution can produce a better outcome than a strict PFA order. PFA resolutions can benefit from skilled, sensitive, and diplomatic representation from an experienced Pennsylvania PFA attorney. Contact the Lento Law Firm by calling 888.535.3686 or online to consult with premier Pennsylvania PFA defense attorney Joseph D. Lento. Proactive representation can save a lengthy, embarrassing, and damaging PFA dispute. Attorney Lento is available now for your call.

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Attorney Joseph D. Lento has more than a decade of experience successfully resolving clients' criminal charges in Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania counties. If you are having any uncertainties about what the future may hold for you or a loved one, contact the Lento Law Firm today! Criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento will go above and beyond the needs of any client, and will fight until the final bell rings.

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