When a person seeks a protection from abuse order (PFA) in Pennsylvania, a judge will review the facts alleged by the person to determine if the statutory basis is met. If so, the judge will award a temporary order, which is delivered to the alleged abuser by law enforcement. The defendant has a right to a hearing within ten days, at which time a judge will hear testimony and take other evidence from both sides to determine if a final PFA should be entered.
While both a temporary and a final PFA provide the plaintiff with protection, there are significant distinctions between the two types of orders. The greatest distinction lies in the impact on the defendant. Persons who are subjects of a PFA order lose rights such as the right to possess a firearm, may lose opportunities for employment or security clearances, and may suffer consequences in future legal actions such as child custody. A final PFA is a burden on the defendant for potentially the rest of the defendant’s life; a temporary PFA may be expunged, as though it never happened, after a certain amount of time passes. In fact, a defendant has a right to expungement of records of a PFA matter that never evolved beyond the temporary stage, pursuant to the 2002 Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision Carlacci v. Mazaleski.
While there are situations in which it is appropriate and necessary to pursue a final PFA, it is often beneficial to both parties to have their counsel discuss a reasonable middle ground solution of extending a temporary PFA. A temporary PFA may be extended for as long of a duration as a final PFA may be ordered – up to three years. This type of agreement provides the necessary protection to the plaintiff – who otherwise risks losing a hearing before a judge and being left without protection entirely – and offers the defendant a “light at the end of the tunnel” sufficient to make him or her agree to extend the temporary PFA without a hearing, saving both parties time, money, and stress.
Whether you are seeking protection or have had a PFA action filed against you, it is wise to seek counsel at Scaringi Law so that you can benefit from the years of experience our family law attorneys have in negotiating these types of mutually beneficial outcomes.