Sometimes, within the course of intimate relationships - whether it be between husbands and wives, boyfriends and girlfriends, same sex partners etc. - things may go awry. However, despite the issues parties in a relationship may encounter, any instances when there is physical abuse should not be tolerated or condoned. The Pennsylvania legislature strongly shares this sentiment, and as a result, has adopted the concept of a court order known as a Protection from Abuse (PFA), also commonly referred to as a restraining order.
Although the idea of PFA orders were undoubtedly conceived with good intentions, there have been reported instances of individuals abusing this procedure out of malice. It is common for some people to want to get back at a former or current partner, or family member by filing an order when abuse, or the fear of abuse was not ever present in their interactions. And the relatively easy process to successfully serve a PFA, due to the courts' tendency to separate parties for preventative measures, makes this court order a breeding ground for false claims to thrive.
For the purpose of this article we will explore (1) what exactly a PFA entails in Pennsylvania, (2) and the qualifications for expunging a PFA in the state.
What is a PFA in Pennsylvania?
A PFA is a civil court action that is designed to deter abuse, or the fear of abuse, towards an individual and/or children within the confines of a personal relationship. Pennsylvania's Protection From Abuse Act serves as a statewide system that allows for victims of domestic violence to petition the court for protection. In order to get a PFA served, alleged victims must establish only two pieces of information: that he or she or their children endured some form of physical abuse, and that the perpetrator of said behavior is a member of the household.
In accordance with state law, a member of the household does not necessarily need to reside in the same residence as a victim ,per say, to successfully file. A "member of a household" can be a person with whom a victim is related to, or has been intimate with in a sexual or romantic partnership.
Also, the way in which this order intends to cease the abuse will vary based on the circumstances. For example, innocent people have been evicted from their residence, have lost their right to carry a firearm, have been forced to comply with a child support order, and/or have lost the privilege to travel freely due to the blind and unwarranted entry of a PFA.
Qualifications for Expunging a PFA
State law explicitly addresses expungement processes in regard to criminal matters, but vaguely references the process of eradicating a PFA order. However, it's apparent the rules are much less lenient for those who have been served a PFA. As of now, it is only possible for a temporary (or “ex parte”) PFA orders to be expunged from an individual's permanent and public record, rather than a permanent PFA. Temporary orders only last until a hearing is conducted to make a PFA order permanent. Therefore, if you go to a hearing and lose such that the court order becomes permanent, then the PFA cannot be expunged.
This is all the more reason for individuals who have been served a temporary PFA to contact an attorney to help represent them in court in an effort to prevent a permanent order.
Philadelphia PFA Expungement Attorney
Individuals who go to a hearing a lose, will have to live with details of their alleged abuse being accessible to employers, the military, and anyone who has access to public records on the internet. It is strongly recommended that you seek experience 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.