In domestic violence cases, it is common for a person to have a protection from abuse order filed against them by the alleged victim. A protection from abuse order, or as it is commonly abbreviated, a PFA, is a court order that prevents the alleged domestic violence offender from interacting with the alleged victim. These orders typically have a number of specific terms that must be adhered to. In Philadelphia County, these orders are filed in the family division of the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas. While these are technically matters of family law, the implications of an order can place a person in danger of committing a criminal act by violating the terms.
PFA Defense in Philadelphia County
When a PFA is filed against an alleged domestic violence offender, the offender in question will be known as the defendant throughout the proceedings. The person who initiates the filing will be known as the plaintiff. The plaintiff, however, may be able to file a temporary PFA, known as an "ex parte" PFA, without the defendant present under circumstances deemed as an emergency by a judge. The defendant will then be notified through summons or mailing, and a date for a final hearing will be arranged.
PFA Hearings in Philadelphia County
Under most circumstances, both defendant and plaintiff will be present to defend their cases at an initial, preliminary PFA hearing. These hearings are informal, and may even be held by a court master instead of a judge. Both parties can bring forward information they believe is relevant, and then the authority will make a decision on whether or not to impose a temporary PFA and will set a date for a hearing on a final PFA.
A final PFA is a longer term order that sets the standard for how the defendant and plaintiff may interact. These may last a number of years and can have several complex terms. Hearings for these orders are much more formal. The plaintiff will present their case first, subject to a cross-examination from a defendant. Next, the defendant will present their case and will be cross-examined by the plaintiff. Finally, both parties will make closing rebuttals to one another, and the judge will render a decision on the final PFA and the terms.
Defending against a PFA in the courtroom is extremely important, as the judge will consider defenses raised by the defendant. Even if a PFA is instated, a defendant's words in court will be considered when considering the terms of the PFA. A well argued PFA will have much more favorable terms than one that was met with a poor defense. For this reason, an experienced attorney should help construct a defense in these situations.
If you or a loved one is facing a PFA order in Philadelphia County, contact attorney Joseph D. Lento today.