Forms of Relief Available in Pennsylvania PFA Cases

Posted by Joseph Lento | Nov 15, 2016 | 0 Comments

Victims of domestic violence seek Protection from Abuse orders for various reasons.  Obvious reasons include trying to prevent potential future domestic violence, harassment, and similar concerns, if not trying to prevent contact altogether.  Less obvious reasons may be to have the PFA court address child custody for example; a form of relief that is available to plaintiffs in Protection from Abuse actions.  Parties, both plaintiffs and defendants, therefore often ask, "What forms of relief are available in Pennsylvania PFA cases?"  The answer to this question remains the same whether the domestic violence case is taking place in Philadelphia, Montgomery County, Delaware County, Bucks County, or Chester County.  Ultimately, before a plaintiff files for a PFA, and before a defendant walks into the courtroom to defend against a PFA, it is important to understand what forms of relief are available when a Protection from Abuse is granted.

What Kinds of Relief Are Available in Pennsylvania PFA Cases?

Under Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes Title 23 § 6108, a plaintiff may be awarded the following forms of relief when a PFA is granted:

  • It may seem obvious, but the PFA defendant can be directed by Family Court to stop abusing the PFA plaintiff.  In cases where the plaintiff files on behalf of a minor child or minor children, Family Court can direct the defendant to stop abusing the child or children named in the PFA petition.  Family Court can also prohibit the defendant from stalking or harassing the plaintiff and other designated persons.  The defendant can also be ordered to have no contact of any kind with the plaintiff and/or minor child or children.  "No contact of any kind" is as its name implies, and would include no contact in person, via phone, text message, email, social media, and so forth.  This is often the most common form of relief awarded by Family Court.  In certain instances, the defendant can be ordered to have no contact with third parties connected to the plaintiff. 
  • The PFA defendant can be evicted from the residence or household he or she shares with the PFA plaintiff.  This form of relief is available to the plaintiff even if the defendant's name is on the lease or deed, and even if the defendant is responsible for the rent or mortgage payments.  The plaintiff can be granted possession of the shared residence or household, and the defendant can be ordered to continue to pay the rent or mortgage payments for example.  This is often one of the most extreme forms of relief that can be awarded to a PFA plaintiff, but is nonetheless a form of relief that is often granted by Family Court if circumstances are appropriate.  PFA defendants often are blindsided when such relief is granted because they do not realize that they can be evicted from the place they call home.  Because Pennsylvania protection from abuse orders can last for three (3) years, such an eviction can seriously upend a defendant's life for a significant period of time.
  • A PFA plaintiff can be awarded temporary custody of a minor child or minor children when a PFA and child custody are at issue.  Family Court can also establish temporary visitation rights to the plaintiff.  When temporary custody or visitation is awarded to the plaintiff by a PFA judge, it often is at the expense of the defendant's custodial rights.  In addition, whether a PFA is granted exclusively for the protection of a minor child or minor children, or if the child or children are named as plaintiffs along with a parent, the parent (or other party with possible custodial rights) who is the defendant can have a very difficult time trying to address child custody in custody court while the PFA remains in effect. 
  • The PFA defendant can be ordered to pay financial support to whomever the defendant has a duty to support.  For example, the defendant can be ordered to pay for the financial support of a wife or husband, a girlfriend or boyfriend if circumstances warrant such action, and/or a minor child or children.  If a wife seeks a PFA against her husband, and Family Court grants the PFA against the husband, the wife can make the argument that the husband should be ordered to pay her rent or mortgage while the PFA based on the husband's legal duty to do so.  Family Court can consider such an argument, and can either grant or deny the requested relief.  Because such considerations are often not the primary concern when responding to a PFA action, defendants should be mindful that they may be deemed responsible for such financial expenses so that they are not blindsided if such a request by the plaintiff is made.  Even non-married parties may be deemed by Family Court to have a legal duty to one another.  This is another reason why the proper precautions must be taken when either seeking or defending against a PFA, including obtaining the necessary legal counsel.
  • The PFA defendant can be prohibited from acquiring or possessing a firearm, firearm license, ammunition, other weapon, and so forth, as long as the PFA remains in effect.  If the defendant has a firearm, weapon, and the like, at the time the PFA is granted, the defendant can be ordered to relinquish the firearm, weapon, and anything related to the local sheriff's department.
  • The PFA defendant can be ordered to pay the PFA plaintiff for reasonable losses suffered as a result of the abuse.  Although Family Court often does not order that the plaintiff's attorney's fees be paid by the defendant, such requested relief can be requested.
  • To allow Family Court broad discretion in addressing the potential concerns of the PFA plaintiff, any other appropriate relief requested by the plaintiff can be granted.  Such requested relief would be considered and ruled upon on a case-by-case basis.

The Stakes Are High

The stakes are high in Protection from Abuse cases for both plaintiffs and defendants, and at times, for children when involved in such matters.  Plaintiffs seeking protection need to make sure that everything that can be done to obtain a final PFA is done so that they or their loved ones can be protected from potential future abuse.  Defendants responding to the allegations in a PFA must make sure that their interests are protected because when a PFA is issued against a defendant, the consequences can be severe and long-term, and can affect not only greatly impact a defendant's employment, professional, and academic goals, but their child custody rights, also their basic constitutional rights, including where they call home and their ability to own or carry a firearm.  In addition, if a PFA is granted against a defendant, violating a PFA can result in additional consequences yet, including criminal charges and the prospect of jail time. 

A Pennsylvania PFA attorney can help a plaintiff or defendant get the result they need.  Contact our Family Law Team  today to learn how they can help.

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!


There are no comments for this post. Be the first and Add your Comment below.

Leave a Comment

Contact a skilled Family Law Team Today!

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.

This website was created only for general information purposes. It is not intended to be construed as legal advice for any situation. Only a direct consultation with a licensed Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York attorney can provide you with formal legal counsel based on the unique details surrounding your situation. The pages on this website may contain links and contact information for third party organizations - the Lento Law Firm does not necessarily endorse these organizations nor the materials contained on their website. In Pennsylvania, Attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout Pennsylvania's 67 counties, including, but not limited to Philadelphia, Allegheny, Berks, Bucks, Carbon, Chester, Dauphin, Delaware, Lancaster, Lehigh, Monroe, Montgomery, Northampton, Schuylkill, and York County. In New Jersey, attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout New Jersey's 21 counties: Atlantic, Bergen, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Essex, Gloucester, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Passaic, Salem, Somerset, Sussex, Union, and Warren County, In New York, Attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout New York's 62 counties. Outside of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, unless attorney Joseph D. Lento is admitted pro hac vice if needed, his assistance may not constitute legal advice or the practice of law. The decision to hire an attorney in Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania counties, New Jersey, New York, or nationwide should not be made solely on the strength of an advertisement. We invite you to contact the Lento Law Firm directly to inquire about our specific qualifications and experience. Communicating with the Lento Law Firm by email, phone, or fax does not create an attorney-client relationship. The Lento Law Firm will serve as your official legal counsel upon a formal agreement from both parties. Any information sent to the Lento Law Firm before an attorney-client relationship is made is done on a non-confidential basis.