The idea of court-ordered Protection From Abuse (PFA) orders was conceived with good intention. These orders are enforced based on the belief that vulnerable parties are entitled to protection from domestic abuse. But unfortunately, good intentions haven't kept people from attempting to game the system. Although it's not always the case, spiteful people with the aim of getting back at a former partner or family member may be tempted to file a PFA without being subject to abuse. Because of the nature of the system, ill-intentioned people sometimes succeed in filing false claims because the courts tend to side with the petitioner. These circumstances make the PFA process a breeding ground for false claims to thrive.
What is a PFA?
A PFA is a civil court action that is designed to prevent abuse, or deter the fear of abuse, towards an individual and/or children within the confines of a familial or household member relationship. The court action was adopted due to Pennsylvania's Protection From Abuse Act, which serves as a state-wide system that allows victims of domestic violence to petition the court for protection. In ware County, the filing and enforcement of PFA orders are resolved in the Bucks County Court of Common Pleas' Family Court Intake division.
Requirements for Filing
To serve a PFA to a defendant, there are specific requirements: (1) the plaintiff must have been physically abused or be in real fear or serious physical abuse because of threats or menace, (2) the plaintiff must have been sexually abused, (3) or the plaintiff must have been knowingly restrained, or otherwise held against their will.
A PFA can only be granted if a judge concludes that the plaintiff is a victim of domestic abuse, or has a high likelihood of being a victim of domestic abuse. Domestic abuse is differentiated from other forms of abuse through the relationship between an abuser and the victim. According to Pennsylvania law (Penn.Cons.Stat.tit.23§ 6102), domestic abuse occurs between family or household members. A “member of the household” does not necessarily imply that the victim or abuser must live together to constitute a domestic relationship. Simply put, domestic relationships are generally characterized by the following:
- Spouses or former spouses
- Persons living as spouses or who lived as spouses
- Parents and children
- Current or former sexual or intimate partners
- Persons who share biological parenthood
A PFA generally prevents the defendant from being in the same vicinity as a victim. The way in which a PFA may be enforced by a Montgomery County judge depends on the circumstances. For example, defendants have been evicted from their residence, have been forced to forfeit their firearms, have been forced to comply with a child support order, and have lost the privilege to travel all due to the enforcement of a PFA. Not to mention that the existence of a PFA against a defendant will be public record regardless of if it's a temporary or permanent order.
For people who have been falsely accused or found innocent of domestic abuse accusations, the existence of a court record is still humiliating. There are only two circumstances in Pennsylvania under which you can obtain an expungement of a court record for a PFA.
- The petition for a PFA was dismissed; or
- A permanent PFA order was never issued because the request was withdrawn
It's important to note that it is only possible for a temporary PFA (or “ex parte”) to be expunged from an individual's record. An expunction is not allowed in cases of permanent PFA orders because there was a hearing on the evidence, and this hearing determined that the PFA was appropriate based on evidence.
Norristown PFA Attorney
If you have been falsely accused of abuse and have been served with a PFA in Norristown, it is crucial that you contact an experienced PFA defense attorney immediately. The sooner you reach out for help, the more likely you'll be able to get representation prior to a hearing, where your attorney will maximize your chances of a favorable outcome.
The courts tend to side with a petitioner given that they are willing to issue a temporary order without substantial proof of abuse. To level the playing field and prevent a permanent record tainted with allegations of domestic abuse, contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686.