When someone files a PFA against you in Pennsylvania, it can touch every aspect of your life, including your job. The impact will depend upon several factors, including whether the order is civil or criminal, the restrictions the order imposes upon you, and the nature of your employment.
Protection From Abuse Order
A Protection from Abuse (PFA) order is a court-ordered restraining order exclusively intended to protect people from domestic violence or abuse. Anyone can file a PFA petition in a local Family Court against a person whom they claim is abusing them, as long as they share a household or have an intimate relationship with the alleged abuser.
In the petition, the alleged victim (the plaintiff) will describe the act of abuse and request certain protections. If the judge believes that the plaintiff and any children are likely to be in immediate danger, they will issue a temporary PFA, which will establish the terms and scope of protection.
At the judge's discretion, the temporary PFA can order the alleged abuser (the defendant) to immediately comply with a number of directives, including:
- Avoid all contact, whether in-person or electronic, with the plaintiff and the children
- Refrain from returning to the family home
- Refrain from entering the plaintiff's home or workplace
- Give up any firearm, other weapons, or ammunition owned to the appropriate authorities
- Pay for medical or dental care relating to injuries caused by the alleged abuse
If a defendant violates this order, even inadvertently, they may be arrested, fined up to $1,000, and spend up to six months in jail. Although a PFA is a civil matter, you can be charged with criminal contempt if you violate the PFA. If found guilty of a PFA violation, the conviction will appear on your criminal record.
The temporary PFA will remain in effect until the final PFA hearing, usually within ten days after the defendant is served with the order. At the final PFA hearing, the judge will listen to the positions of both parties and review their evidence. To succeed, the plaintiff has the burden of proving their claims by a “preponderance of the evidence.” A preponderance of the evidence means they must show that their allegations are more likely to be true than false–a fairly low standard of proof. The defendant must be well-prepared for the hearing and provide ample evidence that counters the allegations or places them in the proper context.
Following the hearing, the judge will determine whether to issue a final PFA and, if so, its terms. The final PFA will remain in effect for three years. If you violate any of the order's restrictions during the three-year period, you will face criminal charges. Because the stakes are so high, we strongly recommend that you obtain an experienced PFA criminal defense attorney to represent you before the final hearing.
How a PFA May Affect Your Job
Although a PFA is a civil matter and will only appear on your civil record (unless you violate the order), the information is still available to employers and may affect your job or employment prospects. Careers that require state certification to hold a professional license can be put in jeopardy by a PFA. Doctors, nurses, lawyers, teachers, law enforcement officers, and social workers who have a PFA outstanding against them might have their status placed under review and may be found to have committed professional misconduct.
Having a PFA against you can harm your personal reputation and make your employer less willing to trust you. Some employers will feel greatly concerned about having someone associated with domestic violence on their staff, particularly if your duties involve handling a firearm, working with children, or having authority or control over others. The order might not cause you to lose your job but could dampen your promotion prospects or ability to receive additional responsibilities. An employer might even reduce some existing responsibilities, depending on the circumstances.
The specific restriction of the PFA can also impact your job. You will run into serious problems if the order prohibits you from having contact with the plaintiff or entering their workplace, yet you have the same employer or work in the same space. If the order bans you from the family home, taking the time to find a new home can disrupt your work schedule.
If you are arrested for violating the PFA, the effect on your job is likely to be even more grave. Some employers contractually obligate their employees to notify them if they have been arrested for or convicted of a crime. The arrest may violate the terms of your contract, but failing to inform them of the arrest may also breach the agreement. The PFA violation will appear on a criminal background check, which can affect both future employment prospects as well as your current job if your employer periodically runs background checks on employees.
Other Types of Pennsylvania Restraining Orders
The PFA is only one type of restraining order in Pennsylvania. A plaintiff may also pursue a Sexual Violence Protection Order, which is designed to protect them from sexual violence from a person within or outside of their household. A minor may also file a Protection From Intimidation Order, which is meant to protect from harassment and stalking where the alleged perpetrator does not and has never had an intimate relationship of any kind. Unsurprisingly, both of these restraining orders can seriously damage your reputation and may jeopardize your position at work.
Hire a Pennsylvania PFA Attorney
A PFA can cause dramatic upheaval in your life. It can affect everything, from whether you are able to live in your home, see your children, or earn your livelihood. You need to hire a Pennsylvania attorney skilled in handling PFA order cases without delay.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento is an experienced PFA lawyer who will fight hard to protect your rights and minimize any impact of the PFA on your job. Give the Lento Law Firm a call today at 888-536-3686 or contact them online for a prompt consultation.