Filings of PFA (Protection from Abuse)
May 30, 2019
When someone is harassing you, stalking you, threatening you with assault or worse — it’s generally a rather frightening ordeal. Considering that homicide is one of the leading causes of death for women, what’s even more distressing is the fact that nearly half of female victims (aged 44 and under) are killed by a current or former male intimate partner.
True victims of domestic violence have legal rights to protection for themselves, and any dependent children involved, from such danger. A PFA filing can be a great resource for establishing the protection needed.
What Is a PFA?
A Protection From Abuse (PFA) filing is a special type of court order that is meant to establish protection from harm. Specifically, domestic violence. Abusers you can file a PFA against include family or other household members, intimate partners, or someone you have a child with who has threatened, harassed, physically assaulted, or stalked you.
The PFA provides civil legal protection to a victim of domestic abuse who files for it and can lead to criminal charges for those who violate it. The terms for each PFA are unique to the individuals involved, but could include:
Prohibiting the defendant from any further forms of abuse, harassment, or stalking
Evicting the defendant from a shared residence or requiring them to provide suitable, alternative housing for the protected party
Determining custody and visitation regulations
Ordering the abuser to have absolutely no contact with you, your children, your workplace, etc.
Compelling the defendant to pay financial support or provide payment for losses incurred as a result of abuse
Ensuring the abuser turns over any firearms or other weapons to law enforcement
For every case, the time period that the Protection From Abuse order is in effect will be specifically outlined after decided on by the presiding judge.
How Long Can a PFA Last?
Depending on the details and risk of harm that can be proven by the alleged victim, a judge may rule in favor of a temporary or final PFA order. If the situation is urgent, a judge has the ability to authorize a temporary PFA immediately. A temporary PFA can last up to 10 business days until a more formal hearing is scheduled.
The court proceeding for a PFA decides whether or not a final PFA is necessary. A final PFA can be misleading, as it only establishes up to a 3-year period of protection if awarded. Both temporary and final PFAs can be extended if there is any more behavior that indicates potential further risk of harm to you or your children still exists.
Fighting a False PFA
The purpose of a PFA is to prevent domestic violence. In Pennsylvania, this is taken very seriously, which is why it can be a fairly simple process to obtain one. Unfortunately, because PFAs can be quick and easy to get in favor of a potential victim, we have seen them misused for malicious reasons. Sometimes, it can be used by a (likely former) significant other to try to gain an upper hand in a divorce or custody dispute.
Being served a false PFA may trigger strong feelings of hurt, sadness, and potentially anger. It’s important to avoid acting on those feelings or attempting to contact the protected party. Instead, contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible to help prove your innocence and ensure you do not violate any PFA terms.
In order to fight a false PFA, you will have the chance to share your side of the story in court. It’s essential that you comply with the temporary PFA and show up for the final hearing to truly be heard.
Why Hire an Attorney?
Provided that a final PFA is ordered, the alleged abuser is subject to extreme scrutiny. The person who fabricated abuse stories against you can call on law enforcement at any time during the final PFA order to enforce the terms. Even something as minor as a phone call to the protected party can lead to jail time for the accused. Unfortunately, you cannot expunge a PFA in Pennsylvania, and any violations of a PFA also become a matter of public record. This can lead to further legal consequences and lasting stress.
If you have been served with PFA paperwork, there is usually a hearing within just a couple of days to determine the validity of the PFA request. Having an attorney in your corner can exponentially help the outcome of your hearing.
Reliable Legal Counsel in Pittsburgh
The Pittsburgh-based law firm Allegheny Attorneys at Law has practiced in the areas of family law and criminal defense for nearly 15 years. Their years of experience allow for more comprehensive representation for their clients involved in domestic violence cases. Whether you come to us as the abused or the accused, we care about resolving your legal situation with compassion and commitment to fighting for your best outcome.