Pennsylvania Child Exchanges: When Conflicts Arise

Posted by Joseph Lento | Feb 03, 2023 | 0 Comments

Child custody exchanges are an important part of co-parenting when the parents don't live together. They help maintain and build relationships between the child and each parent, and distribute responsibility for caring for the child or children. But what happens when things go wrong during an exchange?

Imagine a mother picking up her kids from her ex. He's late, or he accuses her of being late. Or one of them brings up a previously unresolved disagreement. Voices rise, tempers flare. The situation quickly escalates. The ex threatens the mother, pushes her, or tries to damage her car. Someone calls the police. Now what?

What Happens After a High-Conflict Child Exchange?

High-conflict child exchanges can turn into acts of domestic violence. Pennsylvania law defines domestic violence as violence directed at family or household members, sexual partners, or people who have a child in common.

Police must abide by certain guidelines during domestic violence calls in Pennsylvania. These include:

  • Responding promptly
  • Thoroughly investigating accusations of violence
  • Ensuring the safety of the victims
  • Informing victims of their rights
  • Providing victims with social services information

Police officers may choose to make either a mandatory or discretionary arrest during a domestic violence situation.

Police only make mandatory arrests in one of the following circumstances:

  • Police have probable cause to believe an act of domestic violence occurred
  • The victim shows signs of injury caused by an act of domestic violence
  • One of the spouses has violated a restraining order
  • There is a warrant for the alleged abuser's arrest

Discretionary arrests involve a more subjective analysis of the situation. In general, police officers may make a discretionary arrest if they believe that an act of domestic violence occurred, even if none of the criteria for mandatory arrest are present.

Protection From Abuse Orders

Victims of domestic violence can file a Protection From Abuse order (PFA), also known as a Restraining Order. PFAs are civic orders, not criminal ones, intended to protect domestic violence victims from abuse. PFAs make it illegal for the abuser to contact the victim or their children for up to three years. If an abuser violates the PFA, they could face criminal charges that appear on their criminal record.

Someone seeking a PFA against their ex has to prove that their ex has either committed violence or threatened violence against them. A criminal conviction of domestic violence is the strongest proof a plaintiff can offer when seeking a PFA. Proof may be provided in other ways if there is no domestic abuse conviction, such as:

  • Medical records and photographs showing bruises or injuries
  • Eyewitness testimony of neutral parties and other witnesses describing violent acts or threats of violence
  • The testimony of family and relatives

Served with a PFA Order?

PFAs or domestic violence charges can create long-term consequences that can impact the ability of the person served or charged to secure housing, pursue career opportunities, or obtain professional licensing, to name a few. Anyone served with a PFA or charged with domestic violence in Pennsylvania should hire a qualified lawyer as soon as possible.

Pennsylvania Family Lawyer

If you are on either side of a high-conflict child custody exchange situation in Pennsylvania, LLF Law Firm and our Family Law Team can help. We has assisted many families in dealing with child custody issues, including PFAs, and know how to fight for the best results possible. Contact the LLF Law Firm today by calling 888-535-3686 or sending us a message online.

About the Author

Joseph Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Attorney Joseph D. Lento is a veteran of one of the nation's busiest family courts with nearly 20 years' experience passionately helping families. By day, he worked in the trenches of family court, and at night, he studied the law. He helped countless families while working at family court, and he went on to become an attorney, dedicating his law practice to continuing the work he started years earlier. Mr. Lento's experience both behind the scenes and on the front lines allows him to understand a client's family law matter from all angles, and allows him to find and employ the most effective strategies to get favorable outcomes for any client. Joseph D. Lento is licensed in Pennsylvania New Jersey, and New York, and is admitted pro hac vice as needed nationwide. In the courtroom and in life, attorney Joseph D. Lento stands up when the bell rings!


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The LLF Law Firm has unparalleled experience practicing Family Law in Pennsylvania. If you are having any uncertainties about what the future may hold for you and your family, contact our offices today. Our Family Law Team will go above and beyond the needs for any client and fight for what is fair.

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