When a person has a PFA order filed against them in Berks County, their situation can be incredibly confusing and complex. PFA orders are often filed in response to alleged behavior that resembles domestic violence. The actual process of obtaining a PFA has several steps. Throughout this process, the person who is the subject will be known as the "defendant" while the person who petitions the court for the PFA is known as the "plaintiff." PFA orders can carry far-reaching and long lasting effects for defendants. Berks County will assign a PFA in family court, however, any potential violations will have criminal consequences. It is important to try to negotiate terms to avoid an overly strict PFA if possible, or to attempt to avoid the filing altogether and work the situation out before it can become a criminal matter.
Defense to PFA Orders in Berks County
One of the first steps in the process for a PFA filing can occur without the defendant even being aware of any legal action being taken against them. A plaintiff can initiate the process by filing what is known as an "ex parte" PFA order. These are typically only granted in emergencies, however, ultimately, it is up to the judge to determine whether or not a plaintiff can qualify. If an ex parte PFA order is granted, the defendant will likely be notified through a court server or through mail.
If an ex parte order is not made, there will be a preliminary hearing for both plaintiff and defendant for a temporary PFA order. At this hearing, the plaintiff will present their reasoning for desiring the PFA order. Afterward, the defendant may present their information. The judge or master advising the hearing will make the final decision. If a PFA is granted, it will be temporary until a hearing for a "final PFA" can be held.
A final PFA hearing will be held in front of a judge and will determine whether or not a final PFA will be granted. While temporary or ex parte PFA orders can be granted without a defendant present, the defendant must attend a hearing for a final PFA. These hearings are much more serious in nature, and the filing of the PFA rests on the outcome. At this hearing, the plaintiff will have the opportunity to present their information first. Next, the defendant is given a chance for cross-examination. After this, the defendant can make their defensive case, followed by the plaintiff's cross-examination. Finally, any final rebuttals or remarks will be addressed, and the judge will close the hearing and make a decision.
A PFA can seriously impact a defendant's ability to function and their quality of life. In addition to this, it puts them at a much more substantial risk for criminal activity, as many acts can trigger a violation. If you or a loved one is facing a PFA hearing in Berks County, contact attorney Joseph D. Lento today.