Pennsylvania Protection from Abuse (PFA) Lawyer
Did you get served with a PFA? You might not think that it’s a big deal and that you don’t need a lawyer—but in truth, there’s a lot on the line. Having a skilled and experienced PFA lawyer to focus on your specific needs helps to strengthen your defense and keep your reputation intact. In contrast, if you need help protecting yourself or your loved ones, a PFA lawyer could be essential in making sure things run smoothly from a legal standpoint.
My name is Kelvin L. Morris, and I can help you obtain or defend against a PFA. If you’re in Pittsburgh or Western Pennsylvania and have been served with this type of protective order, time is of the essence. That is why I will make myself available days, nights, and weekends to connect with you, answer your questions, and develop strategies that will help you prevail. If you need a PFA lawyer, contact my office, and I’ll give you the individualized attention you deserve.
What Does PFA Mean in Court?
The commonwealth enacted Pennsylvania’s Protection from Abuse Act to prevent or halt domestic abuse. The law is a comprehensive statutory scheme that establishes protections for allegedly abused individuals. You should’nt go to court without understanding what a PFA is and how having a restraining order against you could negatively impact your life.
The Act defines abuse as an act occurring between family or household members, sexual or intimate partners, or people who have a child together. These cases involve the following:
- Attempts to cause or knowingly or recklessly causing bodily injury or serious bodily injury, including rape, sexual assault, incest, and indecent assault, irrespective of whether a deadly weapon was used;
- Placing another in reasonable fear of imminent serious bodily harm;
- False imprisonment;
- Physical or sexual abuse of a child; or
- Engaging conduct that places the person in reasonable fear of bodily harm.
The definition of abuse includes a broad range of activities; however, only a limited number of people are eligible to receive a PFA. In other words, the allegedly abused person cannot receive a PFA if the required relationship does not exist. The law permits a parent to file a petition for a PFA on behalf of a minor child. However, the court will not grant a PFA for emotional abuse only.
How Can a PFA Lawyer Defend You?
You have many rights as an alleged abuser in a PFA case, including the right to have a lawyer represent you. There are several reasons why you should have a knowledgeable and seasoned attorney defend your rights.
What Your Lawyer Can Do for Your Case
First, you could eventually face criminal charges over the alleged abuse. So if you have no lawyer and say anything during your PFA case, the prosecutor can and will use anything you say against you in the related criminal case. Secondly, you need to strategize a good defense. You risk a very bad result if you just “wing it” on your own. You have to bring evidence to court if you have any, but you must also know how to present that evidence to the judge. Having a trial lawyer who spends his career fighting in court is vital to your successful defense. A seasoned attorney knows how to negotiate without providing too much information. They know how to gather evidence, get witnesses to testify, conduct depositions, cross-examine witnesses, admit crucial evidence, and persuasively argue your case to a judge or jury.
During my years in court, I have seen people lie about abuse during family law cases such as divorce and child custody. Sometimes a party in a family case tries to gain the upper hand by seeking a PFA. They know that if they claim you are abusive and the judge believes them, they will have the upper hand in your divorce or child custody case. They might also make these fabricated claims for a motive as simple as retribution or revenge.
As a skilled trial lawyer, I can flush out the plaintiff’s motivations for filing a false or exaggerated claim. With careful planning, I can give you the best chance to defeat these allegations and keep your children in your life.
Protection from Abuse Hearing in Pennsylvania
Obtaining a PFA usually occurs in two steps. The first step is a temporary or emergency order. Under PA law, the judge can issue a temporary PFA if the plaintiff alleges immediate and present danger of abuse to themselves or to minor children. If the court finds a present danger of abuse exists, the judge can enter any order they believe is necessary to protect the plaintiff.
You could be the subject of a temporary PFA and not even be aware of it. However, once you receive the required notice of a PFA, you must obey the order or face jail time and other repercussions.
What the Court Can Do
If you are the alleged aggressor in a PFA case, the court can grant temporary orders that command you to do the following:
- Refrain from abusing the petitioner and children;
- Refrain from stalking, harassing, or threatening the petitioner and children;
- Have no contact with the petitioner and no contact or visitation with the children;
- Stay away from the petitioner’s and children’s homes, schools, or places of employment;
- Pay child support;
- Vacate the home if the petitioner and aggressor reside together; and
- Restrain from obtaining firearms, and surrender all firearms and ammunition currently in your possession.
Furthermore, the judge could award the plaintiff temporary custody of the children and issue any other order they deem necessary to protect the plaintiff and children until the final hearing is litigated.
Having a lawyer defend you during this stage of the process is essential. A skilled lawyer can persuasively present your story to the court, thereby helping to ensure the judge hears all of the reasons why the petitioner should not get a PFA.
Final PFA Hearing
Defending a permanent PFA is a complex legal process. Having an attorney by your side could significantly increase your chances of success. The final hearing must occur within 10 business days after the plaintiff files the petition. That’s not a lot of time, so you must act fast to get the legal help you need.
Once in court, the plaintiff has the burden to prove the allegations of abuse by a preponderance of the evidence. That means the plaintiff has to testify about the abuse and can present documentation of abuse such as text messages, DMs, voicemail messages, emails, and photographs.
But you also have the right to present evidence that refutes the plaintiff’s claims. Your lawyer knows how to present this evidence, object to the admissibility of certain evidence, and present a persuasive argument that the plaintiff did not meet their burden of proof and should not be granted a PFA.
Let the Law Office of Kelvin L. Morris Fight for You
I am attorney Kelvin L. Morris, and I want to help you, no matter what side of this issue you’re on. As your PFA lawyer, I will fight to ensure you achieve the best possible result. My tenacity in the courtroom resulted in several distinctions, one of which was my inclusion on the SuperLawyers list and the “Top 40 Under 40” list. Call me today to schedule your free consultation at 412-385-3553.