Protection from Abuse cases in Pennsylvania are largely decided on the "weight" and "sufficiency" of the evidence. Because domestic violence cases live and die on which party has the stronger evidence, parties and their attorneys must understand how Family Court will view potential evidence in a PFA case.
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Parents may find themselves accused of inappropriately or excessively disciplining their child, and as a result they may be named as a defendant in a Protection from Abuse (PFA) case. There is no excuse for "going too far" with a child, but what kind of alleged discipline or punishment will be problematic for a parent facing a PFA action? The Pennsylvania Protection from Abuse Act and Pennsylvania Superior Court decisions address this issue.
With so much riding on a PFA court's decision, plaintiffs and defendants often have a related, but competing concern in domestic violence cases involving children. Plaintiffs often ask, "Can my child testify to abuse allegations at a PFA hearing?" Defendant's often ask, "Is my child allowed to testify against me at a PFA hearing?" The short answer is, "It depends." Ultimately, Pennsylvania court decisions have addressed this issue, and must be considered whether seeking protection on behalf of a child or defending against allegations of abuse against a child.
Protection from Abuse (PFA) cases that have been appealed have been addressed by Pennsylvania appellate courts; the Pennsylvania Superior Court in particular. Through its review of trial court PFA decisions, the Pennsylvania Superior has defined what is considered "reasonable fear" in PFA cases. In many PFA cases, "reasonable fear" and related considerations will determine when a plaintiff's request for a PFA order should be granted, and when it should be denied.
Whether seeking a Protection from Abuse (PFA) order in Montgomery County, or defending against allegations of domestic violence, spousal abuse, or child abuse, the stakes can be high. For both plaintiffs and defendants in PFA cases taking place in Norristown, it is important to take the proper steps to achieve success in the courtroom, and it is also important to understand what potentially lies ahead when facing a Protection from Abuse case.
When facing a Protection from Abuse case in Pennsylvania, everything can be at stake for defendants. Taking the proper steps when defending against a PFA is critical, and understanding the law and how it can affect your PFA defense is equally critical.
When support cases in Montgomery County, whether involving child support, spousal support, or alimony pendente lite, also known as APL, are not resolved at the support conference, the case will be scheduled for a support master's hearing before one of the Montgomery County support masters. Knowing what will take place at a support master hearing in Norristown is critical to success.
The Montgomery County Child and Spousal Support is a three-tier system. The first level is a Domestic Relations Support Conference before a Domestic Relations Support Conference Officer in Norristown, Pennsylvania. Understanding what will take place at the Support Conference, also known as the Conciliation Conference, will help parties prepare as best as possible when facing issues of child support, spousal support, or alimony pendente lite.
In Bucks County, whether the party seeking child support, spousal support, alimony pendente lite, or the party who the complaint is against, you must protect your interests. A major part of protecting your interests is understanding what takes place at a support conference in Bucks County Family Court.
Filing for Child Support, Spousal Support, or Alimony Pendente Lite (APL) in Delaware County requires that specific steps be followed in order to have your day in Court. Understanding the support filing requirements in Delaware County in addition to understanding how the support case will proceed is critical to achieving success whether at a Support Conference or a Support Master's Hearing.
Whether a party in financial need of child support to provide for his or her children, a spouse in financial need of spousal support to maintain his or her standard of living while a divorce is pending, or spouse in financial need of alimony pendente lite after the divorce has been filed, all must understand the process that Montgomery County Family Court uses to decide not only whether support should be granted, but whether a support filing will be accepted.
Most parents involved in a child custody dispute believe they know what is in their child’s or children's “best interests.” What may not be realized, however, is that the “best interests of the child” is a legal standard that only a Family Court judge will decide. The Court Conciliation and Evaluation Service, also known as the CCES program, is a program utilized by Bucks County Family Court to help parties in a child custody dispute resolve their case without the need for contentious litigation. A CCES counselor will meet with the parties and the child or children, assess the child custody issues in dispute, and ultimately, will provide the Court with either an "Agreed-Upon Parenting Plan" or a "Recommended Parenting Plan," in addition to a full clinical report.
Parents in a Montgomery County child custody case are required to go through certain steps before the case can go to trial. Montgomery County Family Court, however, will often make efforts to have the custody case resolve itself in an agreeable manner, rather than having a judge decide the case. "Child Interviews" are one such effort that can help in achieving a constructive resolution to a custody dispute. "Custody Evaluations" can also provide additional information to help both parents and the Court understand what is in fact in the child's "best interest," whether the custody case is resolved prior to, or at trial.
Parents in a custody dispute often want their case to be heard as soon as possible. There are some occasions, however, that more time is needed before the matter is addressed by the Court. Custody Master's hearings in Montgomery County, also known as Custody Conciliation Conferences, can only be continued in certain instances however. Understanding what reasons will be considered appropriate by Montgomery County Family Court is the first step in navigating the steps required to have a custody master's hearing continued if necessary.
Defendants in Protection from Abuse cases in Pennsylvania are often very concerned about the potential consequences of the record of the PFA appearing on their "record" or in background checks. In very limited instances, aspects of a PFA proceeding can be expunged, or cleared, from a person's "record." Because very specific conditions have to be met for a PFA record to be eligible for expungement in Pennsylvania, ultimately, defendants in PFA cases must understand the potential consequences of how the case is addressed and resolved.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court recently invalidated the right of Pennsylvania grandparent's to file for custody of a grandchild when the grandchild's parents have been separated for more than six months. The Court, in its decision, balanced the rights of separated parents versus state interests. The Court held that the rights of separated parents supersede those of the state, and consequently, those of grandparents who want to be or remain a part of their grandchildren's lives when the child's parents are separated.
Criminal charges and criminal convictions can affect child custody in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania law specifies "enumerated" criminal offenses that must be considered by Pennsylvania Family Court in deciding custody. Understanding how a criminal record can affect the custody of a child is critical to success in the courtroom.
Bucks Count Family Court has various divisions that handle the various Family Law issues that come before the Court. As basic as it may be, when a person has to appear in Doylestown to have their Family Law matter heard by the Court, knowing when and where to go can be half the battle.
Filing for Emergency Custody in Montgomery County requires specific steps to be followed so that the Emergency Custody Petition is accepted by Montgomery County Family Court, and in turn, a party's custody concerns can be addressed as soon as possible by the Court. Understanding these steps is critical to success.
Montgomery County Family Court has specific procedures as to how a child custody case will be addressed and resolved. If a custody case does not settle at the custody master's hearing in Montgomery County, the case will be scheduled for a "Short List" hearing. If the case does not resolve itself at the Short List hearing, a "Protracted Hearing" may be scheduled so that the custody issues still in dispute can be addressed further yet.
Although the Pennsylvania Protection from Abuse Act is the overarching law regarding PFA practice and procedure in Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania counties can institute "Local Rules" which provide for how PFA cases are addressed and resolved in their respective county. Chester County has instituted such Local Rules, and whether a petitioner seeking a PFA order, or a respondent defending against abuse allegations, understanding the Chester County Local Rules is critical to success on the PFA battlefield.
After filing for child custody in Bucks County, a custody conference, also referred to as a custody "master's hearing," will be scheduled. The child custody case will be addressed at the conference, and in some instances, the case can be resolved by agreement between the parties and the parties' attorneys. If the custody issues are unable to be resolved at the conference, the custody "master" will present the parties several options moving forward, including the prospect of scheduling a custody trial before a Bucks County Family Court judge. Parties should recognize that understanding and properly navigating the steps involved in a child custody case in Bucks County is critical to achieving one's goals regarding the custody of a child or children.
After a child custody order is issued in Delaware County, and regardless if the custody order was by agreement between the parties or if it was decided by Delaware County Family Court, specific steps need to be taken to appeal the Court's order.
After filing for child custody in Delaware County, an "Initial Conference" will be scheduled where a child custody hearing officer, also known as a "custody master," will address the custody case. If more information is required to decide custody, an "Extended Hearing" will be scheduled. At both the Initial Conference and the Extended Hearing, parties can come to an agreement regarding custody. If this does not take place at the Initial Conference, however, the hearing officer will schedule an Extended Hearing in most instances. If an agreement is not reached at the Extended Hearing, a child custody order can be issued by Delaware County Family Court.
Mediation in Pennsylvania child custody cases can be an effective way to address and successfully resolve issues between parties, but certain precautions must be taken both by a party to a mediation, and also the party's attorney.