When a Protection From Abuse Order Is Filed Against a Parent With Sole Custody

Posted by Joseph D. Lento | Jan 08, 2023 | 0 Comments

When two people who have a child or children together decide to divorce or break up, one of the most difficult aspects concerns custody. Adding allegations of abuse into the mix complicates matters even further. What happens when one parent has sole custody, but another adult files a Protection from Abuse order against them? Today we're taking a closer look at this custody conundrum.

A Quick Look at PFAs and What They Are Used For

A Protection from Abuse (PFA) order is a legal document that restricts the individual against whom it's filed from contacting, in any fashion, the person(s) who filed it.

This includes in-person contact, telephone, letters or other mail, texts, emails, instant messages or direct messages, social media posts, and even using a mutual friend or acquaintance to convey a message.

If a PFA is violated, the accused party may face criminal charges.

Children and Protection From Abuse Orders

Not just anyone can take out a PFA against anyone else; there must be a certain type of relationship established: married partners, unmarried ones, relatives who live together, and former spouses or dating partners.

Children under the age of 18 cannot take out a PFA against a parent directly, but an adult—for example, the other parent or a different relative—can file on their behalf.

The Power of a PFA

Once a PFA is filed against someone accused of physical or sexual abuse, that person will be notified. They then have to relinquish any firearms they own. Additionally, they may be compelled to move out of the property where the filer lives. The defendant could be made to pay restitution, legal fees, any medical costs incurred as a result of the abuse, and additional costs. If they are already paying child support, they must continue to do so.

In some cases, the accused is still required to pay rent or mortgage payments for the residence where the plaintiff(s) live—even if they themselves are no longer allowed to reside there.

PFAs and Custody Agreements

The judge in a PFA proceeding has a great deal of authority in matters of child custody. If they learn of abuse being perpetrated by the sole custodial parent, they can immediately revoke their right to custody and name another person as the temporary custodian. In these situations, the PFA will override an existing custody order when the non-custodial parent (or other relative) believes that the child is in immediate danger.

However, the judge cannot permanently alter or revoke custody arrangements until after holding a final PFA hearing. For the judge to rescind custody, either the child(ren) must be named in the PFA petition, or the judge must believe that the defendant is likely to commit abuse against them.

A Messy Situation Requires Legal Assistance

As you can see, custody matters within the context of Protection from Abuse orders are apt to get messy, fast. The protections stipulated by PA law are necessary for victims of abuse, whether adult or child. In some cases, however, overzealous people can make the wrong call in their attempt to do the right thing.

If you are facing allegations of abuse, have been named in a PFA order, or feel you have been wrongfully denied custody, you do have recourse. Attorney Joseph D. Lento can help you straighten out misunderstandings and restore your rights. Contact the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-8636.

About the Author

Joseph D. Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Attorney Joseph D. Lento passionately fights for the futures of his clients in criminal courtrooms in Philadelphia and across Pennsylvania as well as in New Jersey and nationwide. He does not settle for the easiest outcome, and instead prioritizes his clients' needs and well-being. With unparalleled experience occupying several roles in the criminal justice system outside of being an attorney, Joseph D. Lento can give you valuable behind-the-scenes insight as to what is happening during all phases of the legal process. Joseph D. Lento is licensed in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, and is admitted pro hac vice as needed nationwide. In the courtroom and in life, attorney Joseph D. Lento stands up when the bell rings!


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Attorney Joseph D. Lento has more than a decade of experience successfully resolving clients' criminal charges in Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania counties. If you are having any uncertainties about what the future may hold for you or a loved one, contact the Lento Law Firm today! Criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento will go above and beyond the needs of any client, and will fight until the final bell rings.

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