What To Do If You’ve Been Served With A PFA

When served with a Protection from Abuse (PFA) order, you should seek immediate legal representation. The PFA order most likely requires you to vacate your home, and immediately cease all contact with the person who filed the allegations against you. Violating this order could result in you serving up to six (6) months in jail and up to a $1,000.00 fine, per violation.

If you are served with a PFA, a hearing must be scheduled within ten (10) business days at the Court of Common Pleas. It is crucial that you have competent and aggressive representation from an experienced trial attorney at this hearing as the Court’s decision may include significant restrictions on you, including:

  • directing that you refrain from abusing the plaintiff or children;
  • granting possession to the plaintiff of the residence or household where you currently reside;
  • awarding temporary custody of or establishing temporary visitation rights with regard to children;
  • directing that you pay financial support to the plaintiff and children;
  • prohibiting you from having any contact with the plaintiff or children; and
  • prohibiting you from acquiring or possessing any firearm for the duration of the order.

Additionally, a finding of abuse at your hearing may negatively impact you in any child custody action as you must disclose it to the Court when participating in a custody action.

When filing a PFA, the plaintiff must allege one of the five (5) following definitions of abuse:

(1) Attempting to cause or intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causing bodily injury, serious bodily injury, rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, sexual assault, statutory sexual assault, aggravated indecent assault, indecent assault or incest with or without a deadly weapon.

(2) Placing another in reasonable fear of imminent serious bodily injury.

(3) The infliction of false imprisonment pursuant to 18 Pa.C.S. § 2903 (relating to false imprisonment).

(4) Physically or sexually abusing minor children, including such terms as defined in Chapter 63 (relating to child protective services).

(5) Knowingly engaging in a course of conduct or repeatedly committing acts toward another person, including following the person, without proper authority, under circumstances which place the person in reasonable fear of bodily injury. The definition of this paragraph applies only to proceedings commenced under this title and is inapplicable to any criminal prosecutions commenced under Title 18 (relating to crimes and offenses).

After filing the petition, the plaintiff will participate in an ex parte hearing before a judge where he/she must provide reasons for a need for a temporary order of protection until your scheduled hearing within ten (10) days. Based upon the plaintiff’s statements at the ex parte hearing, the judge will determine whether there is an immediate and present danger of abuse. Your case will then be scheduled for a PFA hearing.

On the date of your PFA hearing, you have the right to be represented by counsel, to present evidence, and to compel attendance of witnesses to testify on your behalf. At the conclusion of your hearing, the judge must determine whether the plaintiff has proven his/her case by a preponderance of the evidence. If so, a final Protection from Abuse Order may be granted for up to three (3) years.

As in every court proceeding, it is vitally important that you are represented by competent counsel. If you have been served with a Protection from Abuse action, reach out to one of our attorneys at Lancaster Law Group today for a free consultation. We’ll review your case, provide you with legal advice, and prepare to defend you. 

DISCLAIMER – The information contained in this article is for general guidance on the subject matter only. The application and impact of laws can vary widely based on the specific facts involved. Given the changing nature of laws, rules and regulations, and the inherent hazards of electronic communication, there may be delays, omissions or inaccuracies in information in this article. Case summaries are primarily excerpted directly from the decisions authored by the courts. The decisions are cited and linked and the reader is encouraged to read the entire decision. Accordingly, the information in this article is provided with the understanding that the authors and publishers are not herein engaged in rendering legal or other professional advice and services. As such, it should NOT be used as a substitute for consultation with a Lancaster Law Group attorney about this or any other legal issue. Before making any decision or taking any action, you should always consult with a Lancaster Law Group attorney.