The previous post on protection from abuse orders explained what a PFA Order does, who can a PFA Order be issued against, the definition of abuse, and the two different types of PFA Orders. In this blog, I will describe how the PFA process works so that you can prepare if you find yourself in
What is a Protection From Abuse (PFA) Order?
Domestic violence is a very serious and sensitive problem. Receiving threatening text messages or calls, physical abuse to the body, or showing up to your house unannounced and uninvited and making threats are all circumstances that may make someone consider filing for a PFA Order. If you find yourself in need of protection against domestic violence, the Protection from Abuse process provides a way to obtain protection from your abuser.
I have represented plaintiffs and defendants in PFA matters, and I understand the stress that comes along with obtaining or defending a PFA Order and how serious PFA matters should be handled. Whether you are filing a PFA against someone else or have had one filed against you, it is important to understand what a PFA is and how the PFA system works so that you can be prepared.
What is a PFA?
Many times we hear a protection from abuse (“PFA”) order incorrectly referred to as a “restraining order.” In Pennsylvania, it is a Protection from Abuse (PFA) order, not a restraining order that is issued by the court to protect victims of domestic violence, and, in some cases, their children, from their abuser.
A PFA Order is a civil order that protects a person and/or their minor children from domestic abuse by their abuser. A PFA Order will do several things to protect the victim:
- require an abuser to abide by certain requirements, such as refraining from being in the presence of the victim(s);
- prevent an abuser from stalking, harassing, threatening, abusing, or attempting to use physical force;
- and prevent an abuser from contacting the victim(s) or third parties to relay or get in contact with the victim(s) protected under the PFA Order.
A PFA Order also may evict the abuser from a shared residence, may prohibit the abuser from possessing any firearms, and may award temporary physical custody of the parties’ children to the victim.
Who can a PFA Order be issued against?
The Pennsylvania PFA Act sets forth specific rules on who a victim of domestic violence can file a PFA against.…
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Child Custody Initial Consultations: How to Make the Most of Your First Meeting with Your Lawyer
For many parents, taking the first step to meet with an attorney to discuss custody of your children can be a scary and lonely process, especially if you have never worked with an attorney before. This article will provide information about what to expect during a custody initial consultation and how to make the most of that time.
At Russell, Krafft & Gruber, we view the initial consultation as the first substantive opportunity to meet with a client to gather as much information as possible and prepare a game plan for what will happen next. In custody cases, that involves discussing details about you, your children, the opposing party, and your goals concerning the custody of your children.
Information to Bring
The following is a list of information you should have prepared before you meet with your attorney for an initial consultation:…
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Retirement Account Considerations in Divorce During COVID-19
One of the casualties of this pandemic and economic shutdown has been the stock market and, with it, the values of retirement accounts. Defined contribution accounts, both private and employment-based, have taken significant investment hits. You may be wondering how this downturn will affect the consideration of plans such as 401Ks and IRAs in your…
The Economic Impact of COVID-19 on Divorce
As uncertainty becomes the new normal, those of you going through the already tumultuous process of divorce may have questions about how this pandemic and the economic shutdown will affect your case. Staying in touch with your lawyer during this difficult time will help you talk through and anticipate the economic impact of divorce during …
Custody During COVID-19: What’s Best for the Kids?
As if the fears and uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus aren’t enough, many parents may find themselves having to balance concern for their children’s health with their current custody agreement. How do you keep what is best for your children at heart when navigating decisions about custody during COVID-19?
Open conversation between both parents is the …
What Happens to That Stimulus Payment During a Divorce?
If you’ve been watching the news or checking social media at all over the past few weeks, you already know that Americans will be receiving a stimulus payment (economic relief payment) to help ease the financial burden caused by COVID-19. How you filed your last tax return will determine both the payment amount and the …
My Marital Residence is Worth What?
In the age of HGTV and the ever-fluctuating real estate market, it can be difficult to reconcile how real estate is valued for purposes of divorce litigation versus what a homeowner believes their real estate is worth. Let’s face it, we all believe that our personal residences are probably worth more than they actually are because our homes are personal to us. We live there, we raise our children there, we take care to ensure that our homes are well maintained, decorated nicely, safe, located in a good school district, and so on. The care that we take to make our real estate a home, combined with the personal memories that are made there, often skew one’s perception of what real estate is worth.
For purposes of divorce litigation, the value of real estate is defined as its “fair market value” (FMV). What does fair market value mean? It is the amount a buyer is willing to pay on the open market without any requirement to buy. So how do you figure out FMV for your marital residence? For some, a value for marital real estate can be agreed upon because the parties are familiar with the real estate market in their area, there are comparable homes in and around the area in which their home is located and the parties are sophisticated enough to be reasonable about what their home would sell for. Others look to Zillow and other similar internet resources for value. I often caution my clients to ensure that any value they are agreeing upon, or that they are relying upon based on internet research, should have a second look either informally by a licensed real estate agent who can perform a Comparative Market Analysis, or through a real estate appraisal performed by a licensed real estate appraiser.
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Make the Most of Your Initial Divorce Consultation
Whether you are making the choice to consider separation or divorce, or your spouse has made that decision and you are scrambling to make sense of it all, making the most of your initial divorce consultation with a divorce attorney is vital. Initial consultations are called initial consultations for a reason: you only get one. Some firms will offer free initial consultations, and others will charge a lower flat fee than an attorney’s typical hourly rate. As such, you are getting either free or discounted legal advice one time and should take advantage of that.
First and foremost, choose local counsel who is experienced in family law. Don’t call your father’s business attorney, your best friend’s bankruptcy lawyer, or your hairdresser’s personal injury guy. Family law cases are often decided on specific nuances that exist only in your case, and often cases are presented with local judges’ preferences, unwritten local rules, and consideration of the temperament of opposing counsel in mind. So, local counsel is a must. Experienced family law lawyers are easy to investigate, and ones who come with personal recommendations from prior clients are always the best option. There are many marketing tools that attorneys can use to hold themselves out to the community as experts in certain fields of practice, and some who assert they are rated “super-lawyers,” “best in their field,” etc. While those lawyers may, in fact, be “super-lawyers” and “best in their field,” those rating systems are not necessarily indicative of an attorney’s experience level, expertise or reputations, but may be purchased marketing items. Going with a locally known, respected, and personally recommended attorney is always best.
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What Is A Postnuptial Agreement and Do I Need One?
When spouses separate and wish to divorce, there are many issues they must address before receiving a divorce decree. If spouses have acquired property during their marriage, that property must be divided between them before a divorce decree can be entered. If not, the property becomes the sole possession of the titled spouse post-divorce and any jointly titled property must be divided pursuant to a separate legal action called “Partition.”
So how do spouses divide their property (equitable distribution)? Quite simply, they either agree how it will be divided, or they don’t. If they don’t, the Court will hold a hearing to determine what property or portions of property each spouse will retain. If they do agree, a written contract between the parties is required to memorialize their agreement and ensure the enforcement of that agreement in the future if one of the parties does not comply with the terms of their agreement. That contract is often referred to as a Postnuptial Agreement and can also be called such things as a Marital Settlement Agreement, a Property Agreement, a Divorce Agreement, etc. Regardless of the name of the document, it is a legally binding contract enforceable under contract laws in the state of Pennsylvania.
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