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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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 …
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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Risk of Harm Procedures in Lancaster County
- 5329. Consideration of criminal conviction.
(a) Offenses.–Where a party seeks any form of custody, the court shall consider whether that party or member of that party’s household has been convicted of or has pleaded guilty or no contest to any of the offenses in this section or an offense in another jurisdiction substantially equivalent to any of the offenses in this section. The court shall consider such conduct and determine that the party does not pose a threat of harm to the child before making any order of custody to that party when considering the following offenses:
23 Pa. C.S.A. § 5329 and § 5330 address a number of criminal offenses that may give rise to additional custody proceedings under certain circumstances in addition to participation in a custody conference. Those enumerated offenses, in addition to an involvement with a County Children and Youth Agency or the Protection From Abuse (PFA) system, are required to be addressed under PA law prior to a Court entering a Custody Order. Many County Courts have struggled with the best way to address this requirement when considering the timeliness of custody decisions, the cost of prolonged litigation, the additional strain on the calendars and resources of the Court system and, most importantly, the effect on children and families.
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Shared Custody: Presumed to be in the Child’s Best Interest, Perhaps for Some?
Gone are the days of the Tender Years Doctrine where it was presumed that a child under a certain age (3) should be in the primary care of his or her mother as a mother is best able to meet the needs of a child from birth to 3 years. The so-called Tender Years Doctrine fell by the wayside in the law several years ago, but many believe the theory behind it holds true. That is, by anatomical default, a mother has a more significant bond with a child born to her and from her body thereby placing her in a better position to continue that bond and meet a young child’s needs. However, that thinking to many people is antiquated and the role and importance of a father’s bond with their children at the moment of birth going forward has gained popular consideration and is now being recognized by courts.
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Ringing in the New Year with Alimony Tax Changes, Pet Custody, Moving to Vermont, and More!
Every year, the stroke of midnight on December 31 brings with it a host of resolutions and the promise of changes for the new year. In light of this, NBC News ended 2018 with an article highlighting some interesting new laws taking effect across the country in 2019. One city will see a change in what to expect from take-out orders, and one state will have a much more difficult choice of what beer to buy in grocery and convenience stores. Sorry, the last one is not Pennsylvania!
One state is even taking an interesting approach in trying to increase its dwindling population. Vermont is offering $10,000 to those employed by out of state employers who are willing to make the move. If Ben and Jerry’s and maple syrup are your thing, and your job allows you the opportunity to work remotely, then pack your bags!
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Custody and The Holidays
Christmas is typically filled with tradition. Maybe you head to the Christmas Eve service followed by dinner at grandmas. Or maybe it’s Christmas Eve with the In-laws and Christmas day with your parents. But if you share custody of your kids, traditions may be difficult to maintain and could possibly even have to change.
A typical custody schedule issued by the Court includes a holiday schedule laying out with which parent the kids will spend each holiday. Most often, the holidays included are Easter, Memorial Day, July 4th, Labor day, Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve and Christmas day. Some parents may rotate holidays on an every other year basis. Others split each holiday into two separate periods of custody. When it comes to Christmas, the norm is that one parent has the child Christmas Eve through Christmas morning with the other parent having the remainder of Christmas day to celebrate the holiday with their kids. This can be quite the adjustment for both the parents and kids alike. For some tips on how to make the change a little easier on all involved, check out my post from last year.
Ideally, you can create a new tradition that is flexible to your changing schedule. I was fortunate in that my family was more than happy to help create new traditions. While my aunt always cooked Christmas Eve, and my mother Christmas day, we changed it up to help make the day more enjoyable and special for the kids. Our new tradition is that whichever day the kids are at our house, we host Christmas dinner and whoever can make it is welcome. And my mom and aunt take turns cooking dinner when the kids aren’t with us.
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