People who choose the civil route to prevent an incidence of domestic violence get what's known as a Protection from Abuse (PFA) order in Montgomery County. A PFA is designed to deter abuse or the impending possibility of abuse towards an individual and/or children. The process of getting a PFA is relatively easy because of the courts' tendency to approve them for preventative purposes. This makes PFA court orders a breeding ground for false and over-exaggerated claims to thrive.
The PFA process varies from county to county and can be difficult to understand. In this article, we'll lay out the details you should know as either a petitioner or defendant in Montgomery County.
The Judge: Rhonda Lee Daniele
Rhonda Lee Daniele is a judge on the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas. She earned her undergraduate degree from Temple University and received her J.D. from Villanova University. She presides over the majority of the PFA cases that are processed through the courthouse.
The PFA Process
The normal process consists of a complainant who seeks to get a temporary or “ex parte” PFA order. These are the steps they must take.
A complainant who seeks protection from domestic violence, spousal abuse, or child abuse must appear at the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas in Norristown on any weekday. The court has its own designated PFA unit, which is located on the first floor of the courthouse. People are allowed to file a petition for a PFA in Montgomery County between the hours of 8:30 A.M. and 1:30 P.M. Complainants are encouraged to attend the court as early as possible to allow for sufficient time to address the Family Court judge when a case is called.
When the case is called, the petitioner will have a brief meeting with the judge, without the abuser present. The judge will then make the decision to either:
- Grant the victim of the alleged abuse a “temporary” PFA order and set a “final” PFA hearing date within 10 days; or
- Deny the request for a “temporary” PFA and set a “final” PFA hearing date within 10 days.
Notice of PFA
The Pennsylvania Protection from Abuse Act requires that defendants in domestic violence cases, whether it is a Montgomery County case, or is taking place in any other Pennsylvania county, have the right to defend themselves against allegations of abuse. Because of this basic right, the named defendant in a Montgomery County case has to be served a “notice” of a PFA proceeding by the plaintiff.
“Final” PFA Hearing
Both the complainant and the defendant are expected to appear in person to the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas in Norristown. Although the term "final" is used loosely because continuances of the "final" hearing are at times sought for various reasons, the hearing will proceed in the following order:
- The complainant presents his or her case
- Cross-examination by the defendant
- The defendant presents his or her case
- Cross-examination by the complainant
- Redirect by the complainant takes place
- The judge makes a ruling
After all testimony and evidence are presented, Judge Rhonda Daniele will deliberate based on the preponderance of evidence. If the judge finds that the complainant did not meet his or her burden of proof in the PFA case, the case will be dismissed. If the judge concludes that the complainant, as claimed, was a victim of domestic violence and abuse, the judge will enter a “final” PFA order against the defendant, which lasts up to 3 years in Pennsylvania and can be extended.
Montgomery County PFA Defense Attorney
Individuals who go to a hearing and lose will have to live with details of their alleged abuse being accessible to employers, professional licensing bodies, law enforcement, the military, and anyone who has access to public records on the internet. It is strongly recommended that you seek experienced and skilled legal counsel to help you effectively defend PFA actions. Knowledgeable attorney Joseph D. Lento has years of experience helping individuals who have been in your shoes. Contact him today for help at 888-535-3686.