PA's Protection from Abuse Act 1990 allows victims of abuse to seek protection from their abusers through what's called a Protection from Abuse (PFA) order.
These orders can prevent an accused person from doing certain things like contacting the victim, seeking custody of their children, or possessing firearms. In some cases, PFAs can even stop a defendant from living in their own home or recovering their personal belongings from the property.
Since the consequences of granting a PFA can seriously affect an individual's quality of life, it's crucial you seek legal representation immediately if you're a defendant in this scenario. However, here's an overview of how the PFA process works in Monroe County so you have an idea what to expect meanwhile.
The Process for Filing a PFA in Monroe County
Individuals seeking a PFA in Monroe County must file a petition at:
Monroe County Prothonotary Office
610 Monroe Street
Stroudsburg, PA 18360
You can call the office on (570) 517-3370. The office is open Monday through Friday. Local law enforcement should be contacted if a victim needs to file for an emergency PFA out of hours.
The first step is for the applicant to complete a form and file it with the office, which can take a few hours. A judge will be allocated to the case to hear the applicant's initial petition setting out why they need protection from the alleged abuser.
Who Can Receive a PFA Order in Monroe County
A person can't file a PFA against just anyone. The applicant can only petition for a PFA against someone they have a familial or romantic relationship with (otherwise known as a “qualifying” relationship).
Qualifying relationships include:
- Current partners and spouses
- Ex-partners and ex-spouses
- Blood relatives e.g. children, siblings, parents
- Relatives by marriage e.g. mother-in-law, brother-in-law
- Same-sex couples
- Intimate partners
Adults must file a PFA on behalf of any child under 18 who wishes to seek a protective order.
PFA Process in Monroe County
PFAs are straightforward to file across PA since the idea is to get the applicant the protections they need as soon as possible. The process for obtaining PFAs in Monroe County is as follows.
The applicant files a PFA with the prothonotary office in Monroe, PA.
The applicant appears before the judge alone, setting out why the order is necessary.
The judge may grant a temporary order and schedule a final hearing within 10 days' time.
If a temporary or emergency PFA is granted, local law enforcement generally serves papers on the defendant setting out details of the final hearing.
At the final hearing, the judge decides if a permanent PFA order is necessary to protect the applicant in the longer term.
Temporary PFA Orders
Since the first hearing is between the applicant and judge only, the court can't issue a permanent order. This would be unfair on the defendant and unduly prejudicial. Instead, if the judge deems it necessary to protect the applicant from harm, they may issue what's known as a temporary or emergency PFA.
Temporary PFAs normally last until the final hearing date, which is typically scheduled within 10 days after the ex parte hearing. Temporary orders can restrict the defendant from activities such as:
- Contacting the applicant or their family
- Possessing a gun or permit
- Seeing any children you have with the applicant
To get a temporary PFA, the applicant must set out in some detail what they want the judge to do and potentially brief reasons why (e.g. evict you from the shared house or apartment, order you to have no contact with your child or children, restrict your use of firearms, and why these restrictions are necessary).
Even temporary PFAs can seriously impact a defendant's life. If you are served with PFA papers, contact an experienced defense attorney for advice and representation.
Protection from Abuse Order Hearing
The PFA hearing is the defendant's opportunity to present their case before the judge. However, the burden of proof rests firmly with the applicant, meaning it's on them to prove that, based on the evidence available, it's more than likely that:
- The abuse took place
- The accused is responsible
This standard of proof is lower than “beyond reasonable doubt," however the judge will still require some compelling evidence to support the applicant's allegations.
If you don't attend the hearing, the judge may still pass the order against you.
Although a defendant may represent themselves at a PFA hearing, a defense attorney can ensure the accused receives the fair hearing they're entitled to and the best possible outcome. Always contact a criminal defense attorney for representation if you're served papers to attend a PFA hearing.
Final PFA Orders in Monroe County
A final PFA is issued by the judge if they agree that the order is necessary to protect the applicant from harm. Final PFAs are valid for up to three years, at which point the applicant can file to renew the order for another set period if there is good cause.
The terms of the final order depend on the facts of the case, but the defendant may be prevented from doing a number of different things, including:
- Owning a firearm or holding a license
- Living in your own home, if you share it with the accuser
- Recovering personal or work-related items from the property
- Visiting any children you share with the accuser
- Contacting the accuser in any way
If someone breaches the terms of the PFA in any way, they may face contempt of court charges which can attract up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Hire an Experienced PFA Defense Attorney in Monroe County
A PFA Order can seriously impact your life, including your future career prospects. If you're dealing with a PFA hearing and don't have legal representation, don't face this struggle alone – contact an experienced attorney now to start building your defense.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm help clients with PFA cases week in and week out in Monroe County and throughout Pennsylvania. He has unparalleled experience with helping clients fight allegations, false or otherwise, and he can help you through this difficult time. Complete the Lento Law Firm's online contact form or call us at 888-535-3686 to discuss your case.