Challenging Temporary PFA Orders

Posted by Joseph D. Lento | May 26, 2022 | 0 Comments

Multiple national and local press reports reveal the story of a prominent primary candidate for Pennsylvania's lieutenant governorship successfully challenging a temporary PFA order, resulting in the case's dismissal. As would generally be the case per Pennsylvania PFA court procedure, the candidate's wife had obtained the temporary PFA, issued before the candidate had notice of the filing and an opportunity to challenge it at an open hearing. The court promptly scheduled a hearing on whether to turn the temporary order into a final (permanent) order. PFA procedures require a prompt "final" hearing. At the "final" hearing, the court then dismissed the temporary order and case when cross-examination of the wife proved the order unnecessary and inappropriate. The candidate did not testify and presented no other witnesses on his behalf, confirming that even the wife's testimony alone did not prove the abuse necessary for the court to issue a permanent PFA order.

Temporary PFA Orders

Section 6107(b) of Pennsylvania's Protection from Abuse Act authorizes the court to issue a temporary PFA order when the plaintiff files a complaint. The Act requires no notice to the defendant that the plaintiff has sought a PFA order because notice could trigger the very violence that the PFA order would attempt to prevent. Instead, the court conducts an ex parte hearing with only the plaintiff present. Ex parte hearing may give the court enough information to issue the temporary PFA order. But ex parte hearings are notorious invitations for the plaintiff to give false or exaggerated, and surely one-sided, testimony. The defendant isn't there to challenge the allegations. Under Section 6017(b), the court must still find evidence of abuse. But with only the plaintiff present to give only one side of the story, courts pretty readily issue temporary PFA orders. Better to temporarily protect a plaintiff claiming abuse until a full hearing than to risk leaving an abused plaintiff unprotected.

Hearings on Final PFA Orders

Section 6107(a) of the Pennsylvania Protection from Abuse Act requires the court to conduct a full hearing within ten days of the complaint, about which the defendant will have notice and at which the defendant may be present. And that's what happened in the above candidate's case. The court, in that case, held the full hearing eight days after issuing the temporary order. The wife's complaint had not alleged direct physical abuse. It instead alleged various threats that, if true and carried out, would have constituted abuse. Cross-examination of the wife at the full hearing revealed sufficient inconsistency or incredibility in the wife's accounts of those threats. The court could not find the required evidence of abuse or threats of abuse. The candidate's representative declared the outcome a complete vindication, although the temporary PFA order and public reports certainly did not help the candidate's campaign. He lost in the May primaries.

Premier Pennsylvania PFA Defense Attorney

Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm provide aggressive, effective, and winning defense of unjust PFA order requests. Don't let a temporary PFA order become an unnecessary, unjust, and harmful final (permanent) PFA order. Call 888-535-3686 for attorney defense now, or use the online service.

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Joseph D. Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Attorney Joseph D. Lento passionately fights for the futures of his clients in criminal courtrooms in Philadelphia and across Pennsylvania as well as in New Jersey and nationwide. He does not settle for the easiest outcome, and instead prioritizes his clients' needs and well-being. With unparalleled experience occupying several roles in the criminal justice system outside of being an attorney, Joseph D. Lento can give you valuable behind-the-scenes insight as to what is happening during all phases of the legal process. Joseph D. Lento is licensed in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, and is admitted pro hac vice as needed nationwide. In the courtroom and in life, attorney Joseph D. Lento stands up when the bell rings!


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