In Pennsylvania, a protection from abuse order (PFA) helps keep victims of domestic violence safe from their abusers. Being served with a PFA can affect your reputation and livelihood, and prevent you from seeing your children. If you are the subject of a PFA, it is critical to seek the counsel of the best child custody lawyer in your area. They can evaluate your case and assist you with any legal processes that may be necessary to preserve or regain custody rights.
How Does a PFA Work?
A PFA prohibits an alleged abuser from contacting or seeing the plaintiff. When filing for a protection from abuse order, a plaintiff can ask for specific restrictions on contacting or visiting his or her children. This means that if the court restricts contact with your children, attempting to see them or contact them would be a violation of the PFA.
PFAs and Existing Custody Orders
In some circumstances, a PFA can supersede an existing custody order. For example, if a judge finds that a defendant is likely to abuse the children or remove them from the jurisdiction before a final PFA hearing, custody may be revoked. However, if your children are not named in the restraining order and the judge finds that they are not at risk of being abused by you, your custody rights will not be taken away. If there is no custody order in place, a judge can set forth custody arrangements in a PFA, including prohibiting custody or requiring supervised visitation.
What Happens if I Violate a PFA to See My Children?
Although it’s painful to be unable to see your kids, violating a PFA will not work in your favor. Violation of a PFA may result in criminal contempt of court charges, which can carry penalties of up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. A violation could also have an impact on custody and visitation arrangements in the future, and be used against you in other pending court cases. A domestic violence lawyer can help you understand your legal options and advise you on a course of action that may be effective for retaining or regaining your custody rights.
Challenging a PFA
Although you can challenge protection from abuse order, you will not be able to defend yourself until the final PFA hearing. A temporary PFA lasts for 10 days, so if the order bars you from seeing your kids, it is best to follow that order until your hearing. Having a family law attorney by your side greatly increases your chances of a favorable outcome in your final PFA hearing. If a final PFA bars you from custody, your lawyer can help you fight it.
PFAs and Child Support
It is important to keep in mind that even if there is a protective order against you, you are still required to provide financial support to your children if it has been ordered by the court. Each circumstance is unique. A Pennsylvania child support lawyer can evaluate your case and provide advice about which types of support you are obligated to pay.
Protection from abuse orders can have a serious impact on child custody rights. Seeking the counsel of our custody lawyers in Chester County, PA can give you the best chance of preserving your rights so you can be there for your children.