How to win a PFA hearing

To win a PFA hearing is far from impossible. Here is a simple step-by-step how to win a PFA hearing and how to pick the right attorney for you.

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The Terrifying Truth of Protection of Abuse (PFA) orders

Getting hit with a PFA can be a frightening experience. There are two different flavors of PFAs. There is a temporary PFA and then a “permanent” or final PFA order. The courts issue a temporary PFA as an emergency. Ordinarily, you will not even know that the person applied for an emergency PFA. You will not get an opportunity to tell your side. They place the alleged victim under oath. They tell a one-sided story. The judge issues the PFA order. Sounds fair, right? No way. That’s why you want to clear your name as soon as possible.

It is far from impossible to win a PFA hearing

The final PFA order is a contested hearing where both sides have a chance to be heard. Each side is subject to the other side’s attorney’s questioning called cross-examination.

If the court grants either the temporary order or the final order, it could lead to you:

  • being evicted from your house,
  • losing your firearm rights, or
  • even being unable to see your children.

The ultimate fate of such an order is dependent entirely on the outcome of the PFA hearing. Therefore, it is very important to know how to win a PFA hearing and how to get a PFA hearing dropped.

Steps to win your PFA hearing

  • First, you do not want your divorce attorney to handle your PFA case. A divorce attorney is very in tune with your family law needs such as custody and dividing up property or debt. A PFA and a violation of a PFA can and will end you up in prison. That’s why you need an attorney whose whole purpose is one thing only: keeping your ass out of prison.
  • Second, gather up all emails, texts and witnesses that give the proper context to what was said or what happened. Give it all to your lawyer to get it straight and decide what to use or not at the final PFA hearing.
  • Third, avoid all contact with the alleged victim. Lots of times PFA hearings are totally abused by folks in custody or property disputes. If someone files or attempts to file a PFA against you, they should not be around you no matter what.
  • Fourth, don’t represent yourself. That’s exactly what the other side is counting on. The other side will cry and try to manipulate the court to make you look like the bad guy. If you represent yourself, the odds are against you.
  • Finally, dress for success. If you show up in court looking like a bum. The court will treat you like one. Cover tattoos. Wear your Sunday best. Behave like a gentleman or a gentle-lady.

The other side keeps postponing the PFA hearing. What can I do?

Sometimes there are tactical reasons behind a continuance. Maybe a witness is unavailable. Other times, there’s no legitimate reason. It’s just part of the head games that folks play. This is why having a criminal attorney, not your divorce attorney, handle your PFA is the best idea. This way the divorce attorney, who has to negotiate and engage in give and take, won’t have to be ruthless. Your criminal defense attorney can be totally brutal in protecting your rights.

The rules say that no more than ten business can go by between a temporary PFA and a hearing for a final PFA. Either party can ask for a continuance before the hearing, which will have the effect of extending the period before the hearing beyond the ten days. It keeps the temporary order in full effect. A continuance is completely legal and is the only way for more than 10 days to lapse before the hearing.

Can a final PFA order be dropped?

Finally, the person who files for a PFA can request for the order to be dropped. To do this, there is a detailed procedure involving paperwork. This is not something you should suggest or have someone else on your behalf suggest. Using attorneys to drop a PFA is the only safe way to do it. Otherwise, you can end up in jail for violating the PFA no contact order. 

For more information on PFA hearings and what can happen if an order is granted, consult § 6107 and § 6108.

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PA DUI attorney Justin J. McShane is the President/CEO of The McShane Firm, LLC - Pennsylvania's top criminal law and DUI law firm. He is the highest rated DUI attorney in PA as rated by Justin McShane is a double Board certified attorney. He is the first and so far the only Pennsylvania attorney to achieve American Bar Association recognized board certification in DUI defense from the National College for DUI Defense, Inc. He is also a Board Certified Criminal Trial Advocate by the National Board of Trial Advocacy, a Pennsylvania Supreme Court Approved Agency.