Domestic violence is a serious issue in Pennsylvania and across the country. According to the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence, one in four Pennsylvanians will experience domestic violence. The police will serve more than 2,500 people with domestic violence-related court orders daily. Realizing what a serious issue this can be for families, Pennsylvania lawmakers created a process for victims of domestic violence to seek an order of protection from Pennsylvania courts. A Protection from Abuse order, or PFA, can prevent a potential abuser from approaching or contacting a victim. But what happens when a current or former partner asks a court for a PFA against you? What do you need to tell your friends and family, and how do you tell them?
What Does a PFA Do?
There are two types of Protection from Abuse orders in Pennsylvania, including temporary and final PFAs. A court will often issue a temporary PFA without any input from you. However, after issuing a temporary order, the court will set a date for a final PFA hearing, usually within ten business days. You will have the right to appear with an attorney, present evidence and witnesses, and cross-examine witnesses, including your accuser.
Whether temporary or final, your PFA will often prevent you from contacting a former intimate partner or from approaching or contacting any children you share. The order will also probably prevent you from living in a home you share with your partner, even if you pay the mortgage or rent. In some cases, a PFA may temporarily change your custody or visitation arrangements or require that you have supervised visitation. In all cases, a PFA will prevent you from owning or possessing a firearm, and the police may remove them from your home. A final PFA can remain in place for up to three years.
Who Should You Tell?
Figuring out who you should tell about a PFA against you can be a tricky matter. On the one hand, domestic violence allegations can hurt your personal and professional reputation. But you also don't want people you care about or your work colleagues to find out from someone else.
If the PFA against you will affect how you perform your job, you may need to tell your employer right away. A PFA can have immediate career consequences if you carry a firearm as part of your job, such as police officers, military service members, or security guards. You must discuss your PFA with your employer as soon as possible. However, it's a good idea to discuss the matter with an experienced PFA attorney to explore your options before you notify your employer.
Similarly, if you work with someone who obtained a PFA against you, you may be barred by a court order from approaching your office or place of employment. If this is a potential issue for you, it's even more important to hire an attorney before you go to court for a final PFA hearing.
Family or Close Friends
If you need to use an intermediary to pick up or drop off your children, you may need to tell close family or friends about the PFA immediately. It's also a good idea to let anyone know who may be called as a witness in a final PFA hearing. Your lawyer will also want to interview people who can testify on your behalf.
Telling people you know about domestic violence allegations can be complicated. But it's best to tell people who need to know as soon as possible. Give them the basics of the court order and reassure them that you do not have a criminal conviction for domestic violence. A PFA is a civil court order and not an indication of guilt in a criminal case.
Hire an Experienced Pennsylvania Domestic Violence Attorney
Whether you're facing a protection from abuse order in Pennsylvania or need one to protect your family, it can be a serious matter. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the skilled legal team at the Lento Law Firm have helped many Pennsylvanians protect their rights, reputations, and families from domestic violence and domestic violence allegations. Call the Lento Law Firm at 888.535.3686 to schedule your consultation, or contact them online today.