Question: Who can file for a PFA Order?
Answer: Your spouse; your boyfriend, girlfriend, or significant other; any person
with whom you have had sexual or intimate relations; the parent of your
child(ren); your parent(s); or any person(s) related to you by blood or
Solution: If a PFA has been filed against you and the person seeking the PFA does
not fall within one of the categories indicated above, ask the judge to
dismiss the PFA action because the plaintiff has failed to file against
an appropriate party under the Protection from Abuse Act.
Question: If I am a defendant to a PFA action, what are the possible consequences
that could result if a final order is granted by the judge?
Answer: If you are an avid hunter or a proud gun owner, you may be required to
relinquish any existing firearms or weapons that you currently possess,
and could be prohibited from owning, possessing, or using any firearms
or weapons in the future. Additionally, if you and the other party live
together and both parties jointly own the residence or both names are
on the lease, the court has the authority to order exclusive possession
of the residence to the plaintiff, regardless of whether the defendant
has been or is responsible for making the payments. Even if the defendant
is the sole owner of the residence or the only individual named the lease,
the court can order the defendant to vacate the residence and permit the
plaintiff to reside in the defendant’s residence. Alternatively,
the judge could allow the defendant to stay in the residence but require
the defendant to pay for other suitable housing for the plaintiff. Furthermore,
the court has the authority to grant the plaintiff temporary custody of
the parties’ child(ren) and/or require the defendant to undergo
supervised visitation. The judge could even prohibit the defendant from
speaking to or seeing his/her own children. Additionally, the judge could
require a defendant to pay monetary support to the plaintiff and award
the plaintiff restitution for any injuries or damages that were sustained
during the PFA incident(s).
Question: What could happen if law enforcement finds out that my significant
other and I have been talking and/or spending time together in violation
of the PFA court order?
Answer: The police can charge you, as the defendant, with contempt, regardless
of whether or not your significant other consented to the contact and
communication. Even if the plaintiff tells the officer that he/she initiated
the contact with you and wants the PFA Order dismissed, the police can
still file contempt charges against you and a judge could find you in
contempt. If you are found in contempt, you could face jail time in addition
to monetary fines.
Legally, the PFA Order issued by the judge is a legal document, meaning
that only a judge can alter or change any of the conditions or restrictions
contained within the order. The parties themselves cannot change or alter
the PFA Order unless they file a petition to modify the PFA Order and
ask the Judge to change the conditions or restrictions in the existing
Solution. Either party, plaintiff or defendant, should file a Modification Order
requesting that the PFA be modified to allow contact and communication
or request that the PFA be dismissed entirely.
Question: Are there any consequences if the plaintiff lied to the police
or victim witness in order to obtain a PFA?
Answer: Yes. The primary goal of a PFA is safety and the main purpose of a PFA is to
protect a plaintiff who has been or is currently being abused, threatened,
or harassed by a defendant. The plaintiff typically is in danger and/or
in fear of his/her life. Sometimes, a plaintiff will use the PFA process
in a manner in which it was not intended; such as, by attempting to gain
leverage in a divorce proceeding by filing for a PFA in an effort to get
the other party evicted from the parties’ marital residence. Other
times, a plaintiff might file for a PFA to gain custody of the parties’
children instead of going through the legal process of filing for custody
by initiating a custody complaint. If a Plaintiff lies to officers and
reports an incident or facts that never occurred, the plaintiff could
be charged with False Reports. Under 18 Pa.C.S. § 4906, a person
who knowingly gives false information to any law enforcement officer with
the intent to implicate another under this chapter commits an offense
relating to false reports to law enforcement authorities.
If a defendant alleges that a plaintiff made false allegations against
him/her in order to obtain a PFA Order for a purpose other than what the
PFA Act was intended, the defendant should contact an attorney immediately
to discuss contesting the PFA and taking the matter to a hearing. The
defendant should also discuss with his/her attorney how he/she can prove
to law enforcement authorities that the statements given to the officers
at the initial incident were false and intentionally made to falsely implicate