When a person is accused of domestic violence, one of the resources available to the alleged victim is the filing of a protection from abuse order, or more commonly known as a PFA order. These are court orders that have a number of terms to them, and violations of these terms can lead to criminal actions. In Montgomery County, these orders are filed in the family division of the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas.
PFA Defense in Montgomery County
Before a PFA can be ordered by a court, there is typically a brief hearing process. Throughout the process, the person who files the PFA will be known as "plaintiff" while the person facing the potential PFA will be known as "defendant." At times, a PFA can be filed without the defendant's knowledge. This is known as an ex parte PFA order. These are requested by the plaintiff, and the judge may grant it in an emergency or other dire situation, however, the defendant will not be there to defend themselves. Instead, they will be notified through summons or mail that a PFA has been filed against them, and a hearing will be held for a final PFA order.
PFA Hearings in Montgomery County
Under normal circumstances, requests for a PFA will have a two-step hearing process. The first hearing will be much less formal and decided by either a judge or court master. Both parties may be present to support their case. At the end of the hearing, the master or judge will decide whether a temporary PFA will be put in place, and a hearing for a final PFA will be scheduled.
Hearings for final PFAs have much at stake. A final PFA can last a lengthy amount of time and will have severe impacts on how a defendant is able to live their life. When a final PFA is up for a hearing, both defendant and plaintiff must be present. The plaintiff will have the opportunity to present their case first, which will be subject to a cross-examination from the defendant. Following this, the defendant will then have a chance to present their case, which the plaintiff can then cross-examine. Next, a period of time will be permitted for both parties to make their final arguments and rebuttals. After this, the judge presiding will close the hearing and decide whether or not the final PFA will be administered, and what the necessary terms are.
PFA matters should be defended with an experienced attorney. Even if a final PFA is ordered, the judge will consider a person's defenses when deciding upon the terms. PFA orders can be incredibly intrusive on a defendant's life and may interfere with some of their rights, in addition to affecting any on-going family law matters that are on-going.