In situations where there are allegations of abuse or sexual violence, the accuser can get court-ordered protection through a protection from abuse order. The Protection from Abuse Act made such orders possible when it was passed by the Pennsylvania state legislature in 1990. The Act provides that protections from abuse can be authorized when abuse or violence occurs in a family or domestic relationship. Some common protections that a protection from abuse can provide include orders against contact and regarding child custody for any children in common.
If you have children in common with your accuser, then it is important to understand the power that a protection from abuse wields. A protection from abuse can affect your child custody and your living arrangements. It is also critical to act quickly in your defense as protection from abuse cases process faster than criminal cases. If you are facing a protection from abuse order, then make sure that you speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney right away.
What Is a Protection From Abuse Order?
A protection from abuse (PFA) order is an order authorized by a judge that offers protection for an abuse victim from his or her abuser. Protections from abuse are only available to individuals who are in a family or domestic relationship with their alleged abuser. If a protection from abuse is authorized by a judge, then the named defendant can be restrained in several ways, including having no contact with anyone listed on the order, and can be prevented from seeing children in common.
A protection from abuse can be obtained only after a written petition is filed with the appropriate Pennsylvania county court. If a protection from abuse is granted, then the information will be uploaded to police databases for police and court use. Any violations of a protection from abuse order can result in arrest and criminal prosecution.
What Are the Different Types of Protection from Abuse Orders?
There are two types of protection from abuse orders, temporary protections from abuse and permanent protections from abuse. Both these orders have similar authority but differ in how long they are valid and enforceable.
Temporary Protection from Abuse
A temporary protection from abuse order is the first type of order that is available to a petitioner. The person who is requesting protection is known as the petitioner, and the person against who the allegations are made is known as the defendant. For a petitioner to obtain a protection from abuse, he or she must answer several questions about the incident, the relationship with the defendant, and any other questions the court deems necessary to understand the relationship between the parties.
The court will hold a hearing with the petitioner to hear his or her side of events and subject the individual to questioning from the court. If the judge is satisfied that the petitioner has made enough of a showing that abuse took place at the hands of a family member or domestic partner, then the judge can authorize a temporary protection from abuse. The accused does not take part in this hearing and is only notified if the temporary order is granted. If a protection from abuse is granted, then the defendant will be served with the order, and a hearing will be set within the next ten days for the court to decide if more permanent protections are necessary.
Final Protection from Abuse
Final protection from abuse orders are only granted after a full hearing takes place in court where both the petitioner and defendant take part. Witnesses can be called, evidence can be presented, and attorneys can represent either side during final protection from abuse hearings. Once the hearing is completed, the judge will determine if the petitioner has met their burden of proof that abuse took place at the hands of the defendant and if continued court protective orders are necessary to keep the petitioner or others safe.
It is the petitioner's burden to demonstrate to the court that abuse, or sexual violence took place and that the defendant committed the alleged acts. This means that the petitioner must prove these things by a preponderance of the evidence, or else the judge will deny the petition. If the court finds in favor of the petitioner, then a final protection from abuse order can be put in place for up to three years.
How Can a Protection From Abuse Affect Child Custody?
A protection from abuse order can have a lot of effects on child custody. It can say how much time you get to spend with your children and whether or not you are allowed to see them at all. If you don't agree with the provisions about child custody in a protection from abuse order, then you can challenge them in a family court later on. But until that happens, you have to obey all the custody provisions in the order.
Can a Protection From Abuse Supersede Current Child Custody Orders?
Yes, protection from abuse orders can supersede existing child custody orders if it is requested in the accuser's petition. If the court believes that the defendant is a threat to abuse the children or kidnap them before a final hearing, then the court can revoke the defendant's custody altogether. If the petitioner fails to include children in common in his or her petition for a protection from abuse, then the judge cannot revoke custody unless there is reason to believe that the defendant will likely abuse the children.
Do I Get Child Custody Rights Back Once a Protection From Abuse Order Expires?
The provisions in a protection from abuse order are only valid while the order is valid. Once it expires, then the defendant does not have to abide by the restrictions unless the petitioner renews the order with the court. Whatever child custody orders that existed before the protection from abuse order will go back into effect unless other provisions have been established.
Can Child Support Be Ordered as Part of a Protection From Abuse Order?
Yes, you can be ordered to provide several forms of financial support as part of a protection from abuse order. This can include support for both the accuser and any children in common. The court can order the defendant to cover medical and other health services that were caused by the alleged abuse. Other financial obligations can include continued payment of rent or any existing mortgage.
How Protections From Abuse Are Filed in Carbon County
If someone lives in Carbon County and wants a protection from abuse order, then the request can be filed at the Carbon County Court of Common Pleas in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania. The Court's physical address is:
Jim Thorpe, PA 18229
Direct information from the Carbon County Court regarding court requirements and procedures for protection from abuse cases can be found here.
What Happens if Someone Violates a Protection From Abuse Order?
If the defendant in a protection from abuse order violates any of the provisions of the order, then they are subject to arrest and criminal prosecution. The individual accused of violating the order has a right to a hearing to determine if any violations took place. If the court determines that the defendant did violate the order, then he or she can be sent to jail for up to six months and can face a fine of up to $1,000. Protection from abuse orders do not become criminal matters until a violation is alleged. These orders and any subsequent violations can kickstart other investigations from state licensing agencies if you hold any professional licenses. Professional licenses include dentists, pharmacists, real estate agents, and others.
What to Do If Facing a Protection From Abuse Petition
If you are facing a protection from abuse petition, then it is important that you act quickly. Once a temporary order is granted, then most final protection from abuse hearings occur and are decided within ten days. It is imperative that you hire experienced counsel who can help you devise an appropriate defense to help you potentially avoid a final order. These final orders can result in the loss of child custody. If you have questions, then call us at the Lento Law Firm so we can help!
Contact the Lento Law Firm Today
If you have questions about protection from abuse orders in Carbon County, then make sure that you speak to an experienced attorney so you understand how a protection from abuse order can affect your child custody. The attorneys at the Lento Law Firm have the experience that you need to help put you in the best position in your case. To learn why attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm are the right choice, call us at 888-535-3686 or contact us online.