Pennsylvania Expungement of Protection From Abuse PFA Orders
Domestic violence and spousal abuse are topics that have gained national attention of late with media coverage involving professional athletes and celebrities. But, domestic violence and spousal abuse incidents are not limited to the rich and famous. The unfortunate reality is that, according to one national survey, 25% of women and 8% of men of all economic classes report being the victims of domestic violence, spousal abuse or intimate partner violence at some time in their lifetime. But, the other unfortunate reality is that there are situations when a person will file a meritless, false claim of domestic violence, spousal abuse or intimite partner violence in bad faith to obtain a Protection from Abuse (PFA) order for a strategical benefit in a Pennsylvania divorce, equitable distribution, child custody or support case.
A Protection from Abuse order in Pennsylvania has significant legal consequences to the defendant. In Pennsylvania, a Temporary PFA order can be requested to be entered without notice or an opportunity for the defendant to be represented or provide a defense to the allegations. A Temporary PFA order in PA can require that a defendant immediately vacate a jointly occupied residence, award temporary custody of minor children to the plaintiff and require the surrender of any weapons owned by the defendant even if there is not any allegations that the weapons were used or threatened to be used in the allegations of abuse. And, while a final hearing in Pennsylvania on the allegations of domestic violence must be conducted within 10 days and the defendant then has a right to notice and an opportunity to be heard regarding the allegations, oftentimes the damage is already done to a defendant who has been falsely accused of spousal abuse.
In Pennsylvania, a Protection from Abuse Database (PFAD) has been established by the Pennsylvania State Police as a statewide electronic registry whereby law enforcement officers, court personnel and other individuals can search by name of plaintiff or defendant and view records related to PFA orders in PA. Temporary PFA orders, Final PFA orders entered after a hearing or by default when a defendant does not appear and even PFA orders entered without admission of wrongdoing are all registered with the PFAD Database. In addition to the PFAD database, all court orders including PFA orders in PA are filed with the courts’ civil clerk’s office often called the Prothonotary’s Office or Department of Court Records. Depending upon the county in Pennsylvania, the court records of PFA orders in Pennsylvania may be searchable via online access or by contacting the clerk’s office.
Registering a defendant’s name in the PFAD database and the filing of court orders relating to a Temporary or Final PFA order with the Department of Court Records can have a substantial impact to a falsely accused defendant beyond the Family Court issues involving custody and support. A defendant who has been falsely accused of domestic violence, spousal abuse or intimate partner violence can have their reputation in the community and opportunity for employment limited in certain circumstances.
Employers who conduct background checks for potential new hires will oftentimes search for county court records of potential new hires. Temporary PFA orders, Final PFA orders and even orders entered by consent for no contact between the parties may be found during employment background checks. Employment opportunities in professions involving work with children, elderly or disabled individuals such as in the medical profession and law enforcement positions will likely be denied if a Protection from Abuse order has been entered. Sometimes, those in the medical professions or law enforcement may lose an already existing job if a PFA order has been entered by the courts. And, if an employee has a position in the public spotlight, such as professional athletes or television and radio personalities, their employment may be terminated if they have a morality clause in their employment contract and are accused of domestic violence, spousal abuse or intimate partner violence. Morality clauses are often included in contracts with professional athletes including National Football League (NFL) football players.
So, what should a defendant do if he or she has been falsely accused of committing domestic violence, spousal abuse or intimate partner violence in Pennsylvania? First, the defendant should immediately contact an attorney experienced with defending meritless false allegations of domestic violence brought in bad faith by the plaintiff. As stated, a final hearing on abuse allegations in Pennsylvania will be scheduled within 10 days of the filing of a Temporary Protection from Abuse complaint and order of court so acting quickly is of critical importance in defending false allegations of abuse in PA.
Second, a falsely accused defendant in a PFA action should consider requesting an expungement of a Temporary PFA order that was entered by the court. If the Plaintiff fails to appear at the Final Hearing on a PFA in Pennsylvania, if the Plaintiff agrees to voluntarily dismiss the PA Temporary Protection from Abuse order or if a judge denies the entry of a Final Order on Protection from Abuse after a hearing, the defendant should seek to expunge the Temporary PFA Order in Pennsylvania as the Temporary Order will remain on the Protection from Abuse Database and Department of Court Records files otherwise.
The right of a defendant in a PFA action to seek expungement of a PFA Complaint filed in bad faith is based upon case law of the Pennsylvania Supreme as well as Superior Courts and not on statutory law as is the case in expungement of criminal records in Pennsylvania.
If you want aggressvie representation in defending meritless allegations of abue or you wish to expunge the record of a PFA order entered in Pennsylvania, contact the PFA expungement lawyers at Lisa Marie Vari & Associates for skilled and experienced assistance.
Pittsburgh – Allegheny County 412-281-9906
Cranberry Township – Butler County 724-776-9906
Canonsburg – Washington County 724-436-5500
Clearfield – Clearfield County 814-290-0587
Toll Free – 1-844-827-4529 (1-844-VARI-LAW)
Want more information?
If you would like more information about Pennsylvania family laws, read our sections on Domestic Violence, Domestic Violence Resources or our articles in our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) section.