Domestic Violence Defense
Oscar-winning actress Halle Berry will appear in court this week in a domestic violence case that has received international attention.
This past Thanksgiving, Berry’s fiancé got into a brutal fight with Berry’s ex-boyfriend that left both men with serious injuries. Each man filed a restraining order against the other.
The incident occurred in Berry’s driveway while her 4-year-old daughter was inside the house.
In Pennsylvania, a restraining order is known as a PFA, or Protection From Abuse order, which restricts contact between the parties and can be used to gain leverage in child custody matters.
In Berry’s case, the restraining orders could affect her child custody case. Last month, a judge denied Berry’s request to move with her fiancé to France because her ex-boyfriend shares custody of the child.
In Pennsylvania, a person cannot relocate with a child unless every person with custody rights to the child consents or the court approves the relocation.
Berry, like many of our clients throughout Southwestern Pennsylvania, will spend much of this holiday season in court battling over child custody, restraining orders, and criminal charges arising out of the domestic violence incident from Thanksgiving.
Spivak Law Firm handles all domestic violence matters, including PFA restraining orders, criminal charges, and child custody matters. To schedule an appointment, call us at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.
Dave, my client, can’t sit still. About a week ago, he was served with a PFA restraining order from his wife for stalking. Now he’s pacing the third-floor hallway of the family court building in downtown Pittsburgh nervously awaiting his PFA hearing.
I met Dave a few days earlier at my law offices to discuss his case. Dave and his wife were separated for several months. They have a young son together. They both also have children from prior relationships.
She claims he was stalking her by showing up unexpectedly at places like the grocery store, the gas station, Kennywood and Sandcastle. Dave denies following her, and says it was coincidental — after all, they live in the same neighborhood.
Dave was anxious about the PFA. He knew his wife was using it to gain custody rights over their child. The PFA system — though vitally important for helping victims of domestic abuse — is routinely abused by people aiming to get leverage in a child custody case or to evict an ex from a shared residence.
He also worried that she would one day lie about him violating the PFA to get him arrested. Violating any provision of a PFA can land you in jail for 6 months. In domestic violence cases, police routinely make arrests based solely on the complainant’s statement.
I asked Dave to stay in the waiting room with the other PFA defendants while I met with his wife’s attorney. Most PFA cases get resolved by the attorneys without ever having to appear before a judge. But the wife’s attorney insisted on a three-year PFA against my client – the maximum allowed under Pennsylvania law.
I told the attorney that no judge would grant a three-year PFA against my client. But the opposing counsel would not budge. So I said we needed to go before a judge.
At the PFA hearing, I argued that the wife did not allege any physical abuse or threatening behavior. I further explained that the wife does not fear my client, and provided the judge with recent hotel receipts, phone records, and witness statements proving their ongoing relationship.
The judge dismissed the PFA order. My client let out a big sigh of relief and threw his arm around me.
At Spivak Law Firm, aim to provide the strongest possible defense for people accused of stalking, harassment, verbal threats, and physical abuse. In most cases, we get the PFA dismissed. If you’ve been served with a PFA, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.