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How to Withdraw a PFA in Pennsylvania

83496541In Pennsylvania, a victim of domestic violence can get a Protection From Abuse (PFA) restraining order against the perpetrator lasting as long as three years. The PFA restricts the abuser from having any contact whatsoever with the victim, including contact by phone, email, text, social media, or third persons.

But what if the victim no longer thinks the PFA is necessary? Can the PFA simply be vacated or withdrawn? In many cases, the answer is yes, though counties have their own unique processes for making the PFA go away.

For instance, in some Pennsylvania counties, the victim needs to formally file a motion to vacate the PFA and present it to the court. In other jurisdictions, the victim may simply ask the court’s PFA administrator to fill out a form. In all cases, the victim should be prepared to explain to a judge why the PFA is no longer necessary. If the judge disagrees, the PFA may remain in effect whether the victim likes it or not.

To speak with an experienced Pennsylvania PFA lawyer, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

A Brief History of Child Custody

Beautiful baby of three months old in his mothers hands.In child custody cases today, both parents increasingly enjoy significant amounts of parenting time. Recent studies show that child custody norms are changing significantly in the 21st century, with the proportion of parents sharing custody rising dramatically.

Historically, shared custody was never the norm.

In colonial times, American Courts followed the English common law rule that upon divorce the father retained custody of the children. Fathers had the right to the physical custody, labor and earnings of their children in exchange for supporting, educating, and training them to earn their livelihoods. At that time, mothers did not have legally enforceable parental rights.

This bias toward men flipped in the early 20th century with two cultural transformations: the industrial revolution’s remaking men into marketplace wage earners and the emergence of women as domestic caregivers. Under the “tender years” doctrine, custody of young children was almost exclusively awarded to mothers upon divorce.

Mounting divorce rates in the 1960s and ensuing decades provoked a lively debate about parental roles and custody issues. The movement for gender equality, along with the rise of fathers’ rights groups, called attention to the importance of both parents in the care of children.

In most states today, including Pennsylvania, the standard for deciding custody cases is based on the best interests of the child. This standard opens up the possibility of excessive judicial discretion as well as a threat of inconsistent rulings, resulting in hotly contested custody battles.

But it has also led to the rise of shared custody orders, as judges increasingly follow the recommendations of family psychologists who espouse the benefits to children who have equal time with both parents.

To schedule a free consultation with an experienced child custody attorney, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

When Filing a PFA Petition May Be Improper

78629806You may not file a Protection From Abuse (PFA) petition:

–Against someone who is merely your neighbor or an acquaintance;

–To stop mental abuse, emotional abuse, or property destruction;

–To obtain a custody order or to resolve a custody dispute.

A PFA Order is a powerful tool for restricting an abuser from contacting his or her victim, but it is not appropriate in every circumstance.

To schedule a free consultation with an experienced PFA lawyer, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

Fathers’ Rights In Child Custody Cases

78287715Is there a bias against men in custody court?

Is it the court’s knee-jerk reaction to give primary physical custody to the Mother?

Many people believe that yes, of course, women have an inherent advantage in child custody disputes. As a result, men may talk themselves out of seeking time with their kids. Do not make this mistake.

Spivak Law Firm fights hard for father’s rights. We believe firmly that, in most cases, parents should have equal access to their children.

We have successfully united many fathers with their kids, ensuring a shared custody schedule, shared holiday time, and shared vacation time.

To speak with an experienced child custody and fathers’ rights attorney, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

3 Types of PFA Orders in Pennsylvania

133338146There are three types of Protection From Abuse (PFA) Orders:

  • Emergency PFA Orders are issued by a District Justice when the Court is closed during non-business hours. An emergency PFA Order expires at the end of the next business day for the Court.
  • Temporary PFA Orders are issued by the Court of Common Pleas until a final hearing can be held, which is scheduled within ten business days.
  • Final PFA Orders are entered as a result of an appearance before the Court where both parties have the chance to be heard by the Judge.

Spivak Law Firm provides strong, aggressive representation for plaintiffs and defendants at PFA hearings in Allegheny County, Beaver County, Butler County, Fayette County, Indiana County, Washington County, and Westmoreland County.

To speak with an experienced PFA lawyer, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

 

Who Can File a PFA?

77005984Under Pennsylvania law, to file a Protection From Abuse (PFA) Order, there must be a current or former relationship between the victim and the abuser.

A relationship is defined as a spouse, ex-spouse, or persons who have lived like spouses; a current or former sexual or intimate partner; a parent or child; a brother or sister; or other persons related by blood or marriage.

If you are a minor under 18, a parent, guardian, or another adult household member may file on your behalf.

If you do not meet the relationship criteria above, a PFA Order cannot be entered.

To speak with an experienced PFA attorney, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

PFA Law Gives 5 Definitions Of “Abuse”

702075.TIFPennsylvania’s Protection From Abuse (PFA) Law lists five definitions of “abuse”:

The first definition of “abuse” involves physical or sexual violence. The law states: “Attempting to cause or intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causing bodily injury, serious bodily injury, rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, sexual assault, statutory sexual assault, aggravated indecent assault, indecent assault or incest with or without a deadly weapon.” These are the types of conduct people most commonly associate with domestic violence.

Many people are surprised to learn that the second definition of “abuse” involves mere threats. The law states: “Placing another in reasonable fear of imminent serious bodily injury.” Thus, an angry email or text threatening harm or death may be sufficient to grant a PFA order.

The third definition of “abuse” refers to false imprisonment. The law states: “A person commits an offense if he knowingly restrains another unlawfully so as to interfere substantially with his liberty.” Thus, for example, blocking someone from leaving a residence could result in a PFA against you.

The fourth definition of “abuse” specifically involves children. The law states: “Physically or sexually abusing minor children.” The PFA law then refers to statutes involving Child Protective Services.

The fifth definition of “abuse” refers to stalking. The law states: “Knowingly engaging in a course of conduct or repeatedly committing acts toward another person, including following the person, without proper authority, under circumstances which place the person in reasonable fear of bodily injury.”

As you can see, Pennsylvania’s PFA law is very broad. Judges have wide discretion in determining whether a PFA is warranted.

To speak with an experienced PFA attorney, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

Tips for Discussing Your Child’s Weekend Away

102719637Whether or not you like your former spouse and whether or not you agree with his or her parenting style, there is not much you can do about what occurs at the other home. Children are generally entitled to spend time with both parents.

Your task is to send them off in the same way you would if you were sending them anywhere else where you wanted them to have a good time while they’re away from you, such as camp or school. Family counselors recommend the following transition tips on discussing your children’s weekend spent away at the other parent’s home:

  • Ask your children how their weekend was. To not ask about what goes on when they are apart from you would send the wrong message. Your child might think that you are not interested, or that you can’t stand to hear about them enjoying time with the other parent.
  • The motivation for asking about the weekend should be to serve the child’s needs, not to have your curiosity satisfied.
  • When children sense that they are being used as spies to report on what is going on in the other home, or when you react to the news with frowns, raised eyebrows, or sarcastic comments, the kids sense that you are not genuinely interested in sharing their lives with them as much as you are about getting some gossip about the other family.

To speak with an experienced Pittsburgh child custody lawyer, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

PFA Orders Trump Right to Own Guns

145193216In Pennsylvania, Protection From Abuse (PFA) Orders obliterate a person’s constitutional right to possess firearms. A person served with a PFA is immediately ordered to:

–Relinquish to the sheriff any of the defendant’s firearms;

–Relinquish to the sheriff any other weapons or ammunition of the defendant that were used or threatened to have been used in an incident of abuse against the victim or the victim’s children;

–Relinquish any firearm license that the defendant may have;

–Not acquire or possess any other firearm for the duration of the PFA;

When relinquishment is ordered, the defendant must surrender any firearm, weapon, ammunition, or license ordered within 24 hours after service of the temporary PFA order or 24 hours after entry of the final PFA order.

The defendant has the option to relinquish for safekeeping to a third party, who has signed an Affidavit of accountability with the sheriff’s office.

Served with a PFA? We strongly defend your rights and reputation. Call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

9 Sweeping Powers of a PFA Order

BU010665A Protection From Abuse (PFA) Order is a very powerful tool. Under Pennsylvania law, a Court may grant any appropriate relief needed to bring about a cessation of abuse. The most typical provisions of a PFA are as follows:

(1)  direct the abuser not to abuse the victim or the victim’s minor children;

(2)  exclude the abuser from the victim’s residence where the abuser and the victim own or rent the residence together or where the victim owns or rents alone;

(3)  exclude the abuser from the victim’s residence where the abuser owns or rents alone, so long as the abuser and victim are married or have a child together;

(4)  award temporary custody of the minor children to the victim;

(5)  direct the abuser to pay spousal and/or child support to the victim;

(6)  direct the abuser to have no contact with the victim or the victim’s minor children, nor to go to where the victim or the children work or go to school, and not to harass the victim or the victim’s minor children or relatives;

(7)  direct the abuser to relinquish to the sheriff any of the defendant’s firearms;

(8)  direct the abuser to pay for reasonable losses suffered by the victim because of the abuse;

(9)  direct the abuser not to stalk the victim.

Spivak Law Firm provides strong, aggressive representation for plaintiffs and defendants in PFA matters. To speak with an experienced PFA lawyer, call us at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.