Case Studies: Protection From Abuse Orders

Husband and Father Gains Rescission of PFA Order to Continue Employment and Return Home

The father of one minor child retained the Lento Law Firm's Criminal Defense Team when served with a Pennsylvania Protection from Abuse (PFA) order. The order barred our client from his marital home and prohibited our client from having any contact with his wife or child, with whom our client lived in the marital home. The PFA order also prohibited our client from coming within 500 feet of his wife or having any communication, in person, telephonic, or electronic, with her. Our client retained us to modify the order so that he could continue with his employment as the manager of a bottling plant where his wife also worked. He also denied any abuse and sought to have the order rescinded so that he could return to the marital home and care for his wife and child. We helped our client identify family, neighbor, and workplace witnesses to testify at the hearing , and documentation to bring as evidence. Our client agreed on a conciliatory approach, which he believed would influence his wife to recognize and regret that she had fabricated and exaggerated her allegations. Our client acknowledged that he had given his wife reasonable cause for emotional distress but not for fear or apprehension of injury or property damage. When the wife appeared at the hearing with legal representation, and after hearing our client's evidence, the judge suggested that the parties caucus with their counsel present in a conciliation effort. The caucus resulted in a voluntary dismissal of the action and the judge's rescission of the order.

Accounting Professional Gains Modification of PFA No-Contact Order

A professional accountant employed at a prominent CPA firm retained the Lento Law Firm's Criminal Defense Team to seek a modification of a PFA order. The accountant had been living with a girlfriend when the girlfriend obtained the PFA order a year earlier. The accountant maintained that the girlfriend had no basis for obtaining the PFA order. But the accountant had not requested a hearing to contest the order, instead having decided that he would better break off the relationship, move out, and move on with his life. The accountant also wished to avoid professional embarrassment, as his professional colleagues were unaware of his living arrangements. But after a year, the accountant had received occasional inquiries from his former girlfriend, to which the accountant desired to respond. The accountant asked our Criminal Defense Team to get the court to modify the PFA order so that he could communicate with and see his former girlfriend without violating any order. We induced the girlfriend to retain her own counsel, with whom we negotiated a consent order rescinding the no-contact provisions while leaving in place only the restrictions against physical abuse or threats of abuse. The judge entered the consent order, relieving our client of the no-contact restrictions, including the restriction that our client does not enter the girlfriend's home. Our client subsequently resumed the live-in relationship with his girlfriend, whom he later married.

College Student Wins Rescission of PFA Order to Resume School Attendance

A student at a private Pennsylvania metropolitan-area college retained the Lento Law Firm's Criminal Defense Team to challenge and overturn a PFA order that another student at the same college had obtained. The PFA order prevented our client from contacting or coming near the other student, even though both students were in the same college pre-med program and shared courses, labs, clinics, and study areas. The order thus effectively prevented our client from continuing his pre-med studies. With no time to lose if he was to complete his current courses, our client agreed to the earliest court hearing we could obtain, which was in three days. Our Criminal Defense Team retained a private investigator to help our client identify, contact, and gain the court attendance of several student witnesses to the alleged events. Those events involved a party at which the witnesses confirmed that the complaining student had gotten drunk. The complaining student had then made advances on several students, including our client. Witnesses supported our client's account that he had left the party before the complaining student without any event. Witnesses also disclosed that the complaining student had voluntarily engaged in intimate contact with a different student whom she had not accused of sexual misconduct. Our lead defense attorney presented this testimony at the court hearing while cross-examining the complaining student to show the lack of credibility and factual foundation for her account. The judge rescinded the order at the hearing's conclusion, and our client returned to his pre-med studies.

Real Estate Agent Successfully Fights PFA Order to Retain Personal Property

A real estate agent retained the Lento Law Firm's Criminal Defense Team after a business owner with whom she had been living had her served with a PFA order barring her from his home and ordering her to return a vehicle, jewelry, electronic devices, artwork, and other valuable personal property. To obtain the PFA order, the business owner had alleged in court filings that our client had stolen his vehicle, removed his personal property from his home, and damaged other personal property while threatening to have the business owner harmed in retaliation over the business owner's disclosure of other romantic involvements. Our client acknowledged to our Criminal Defense Team that the business owner had indeed disclosed to her his other romantic involvements, causing her to remove herself and her personal property from the owner's home. Our client further did not intend to have any contact with the business owner or to enter his home other than to remove the remainder of her personal property. Our client further denied making any threats or damaging any property, although our client maintained that the business owner had threatened and even pushed her. We obtained a court hearing date giving our Team time to help our client assemble personal property photographs and receipts and prepare witness testimony. At the hearing, the judge heard preliminary testimony making clear that the primary issue involved a property division. The judge then recommended a mediation of that property dispute, while the judge modified the PFA order to reciprocally restrict the parties from physical violence, threats, property damage, or property removal or recovery. The mediation resulted in an equitable division of disputed property, and the judge subsequently rescinded the PFA order and dismissed the case with the parties consent.

Security Official Protects Firearms and License Under PFA Order

The chief security official for a multinational corporation retained the Lento Law Firm's Criminal Defense Team when his ex-wife had him served with a PFA order. The order required the security official to relinquish all firearms to the local sheriff for safekeeping until the rescission, modification, or expiration of the PFA order. The chief security official occasionally carried a concealed weapon under a lawful permit for his corporate work and had a valuable collection of firearms that bore a relationship to his security work. The chief security official informed our Criminal Defense Team that he did not need or wish to dispute the other terms of the PFA order because he desired no contact or relationship with his ex-wife, with whom he had no children and had no other relationship since their divorce years earlier. She had obtained the PFA order when they met unexpectedly at a social gathering, and she claimed that he followed her out of the gathering and threatened her. Our Criminal Defense Team knew that the firearms provision in the PFA order was a standard provision under the law and for the judge who issued the order. But our lead defense attorney also believed that the judge would modify the weapons provision on a convincing showing that it was unnecessary to protect the complainant ex-wife. The judge heard and accepted our evidence of our client's corporate employment, general safe character, and intent to have no contact with his ex-wife. The judge modified the order as requested, achieving our client's single goal.

Dentist Avoids Professional License Issues After Rescission of PFA Order

A dentist who led his own thriving dental practice retained the Lento Law Firm's Criminal Defense Team to challenge a PFA order. The dentist was duly concerned that the PFA order could interfere with his professional license, based on the allegations that the mother of his child had made to obtain the PFA order. Those allegations included that the dentist was a threat to both the mother and their child. The mother had not alleged that the dentist had struck, abused, neglected, or otherwise harmed the child or harmed her. The mother had only alleged that the dentist's anger and actions had caused her reasonable fear for her safety and the safety of their child. Our client explained to our Criminal Defense Team that the vague and exaggerated allegations arose out of the dentist's attempt to pick up their child for a regular visitation period, just as a custody order provided. The mother had disputed the visit, as it had become her practice, leaving the dentist frustrated and disappointed. The dentist admitted expressing that frustration in words and actions that were not threatening but might have alarmed the mother. Our lead defense attorney pursued a strategy of working with the mother's family law attorney, who had drafted and consented to the custody order, to inform the mother that her false, vague, and exaggerated allegations could affect our client's license and income, thereby affecting the mother's child support. The mother subsequently agreed to dismiss her PFA complaint, on which the court rescinded the offending order.

Graduate Student Avoids Professionalism Charges Over PFA Order

A graduate student in a public health program at a large Pennsylvania public university retained the Lento Law Firm's Criminal Defense Team to fight a PFA order. The graduate student's spouse had obtained the order after an argument in which the graduate student admitted to breaking a lamp in anger and frustration. Our client maintained that the spouse had no reasonable cause for fear of injury but would obviously have been alarmed by the incident. Our client intended to seek counseling for the marriage and his anger, and expected his spouse to participate and soon agree that the PFA order was entirely unnecessary. Our client's greater concern for the moment was the PFA order's impact on our client's graduate program. The program's student conduct code indicated that domestic violence charges could result in suspension or dismissal for unprofessional character and unfitness. Our Criminal Defense Team implemented a strategic approach of documenting that our client had not been a threat, would not present a safety risk in the program or profession, and was getting appropriate counseling and intervention services. Our lead defense attorney was also able to communicate with the spouse's legal representative about the parties' mutual interest in protecting our client's graduate education. Those communications resulted in a consent order to dismiss the PFA proceeding, resulting in the order's rescission. We ensured that the consent agreement included statements clarifying that our client had the good character and fitness for graduate education and professional employment. Our client did not face school disciplinary charges.

Contractor Preserves Business With Modification of PFA Order

A general contractor with multiple residential construction projects retained the Lento Law Firm's Criminal Defense Team when the contractor's domestic partner obtained a PFA order against him. The PFA order restricted the contractor from entering the contractor's home, where the domestic partner resided. The order also prevented the contractor from coming near the domestic partner. The contractor's office, tools, trucks, and materials were in and outside of that home, which the contractor owned. The domestic partner had moved in with the contractor and begun an intimate relationship with him only recently after having worked for the contractor at another office location for years. The contractor maintained that he had given the partner no cause for the PFA order, only that they had argued and he had stormed out of the house. Our Team requested a hearing to modify or rescind the order for our client to regain access to his business in and around the home. At the hearing, the judge heard testimony that gave the judge pause about rescinding the order but appeared to convince the judge of our client's need for access to the home and business. Having signaled to the parties the judge's discernment, the judge encouraged the parties to negotiate through counsel in adjacent rooms. The partner surprisingly agreed to move out of the home as long as the other protective no-contact terms of the order remained in place. Our client gladly accepted the resolution, having determined that the partner was unfit for managing the business or a relationship.

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