When a PFA Includes Minor Children

Posted by Joseph D. Lento | Nov 27, 2022 | 0 Comments

Protection from Abuse (PFA) orders are always emotional and difficult to deal with. You may feel angry and alone. But the situation can be even more painful if the PFA involves minor children. Tragically, a recent Lancaster case resulted in a PFA worst-case scenario.

According to news reports, a woman obtained a PFA against an unnamed man, on behalf of herself and the couple's two-year-old child, of whom she has custody. Although the man had the PFA and several outstanding arrest warrants against him, he approached the woman, argued with her, and then took the child and left in the woman's car. This began a four-hour-long massive police search for him and the child. On a tip, the police found the toddler and returned him to his mother. Then, when the police subsequently located the man, he tried to escape by running into traffic. He was struck and killed by an oncoming car.

PFAs Do Apply to Minor Children

Under Pennsylvania law, a minor child is entitled to ask the court for a PFA against an adult. Since they are a minor, they cannot petition their court directly, but they can have a parent, grandparent, or other legal guardian make the application on their behalf. Additionally, if a parent or other legal guardian obtains a PFA for themselves, they can ask the court to include their children in the restraining order.

In either situation, the PFA is just as enforceable when it comes to prohibiting contact with a child as it is for prohibiting contact with an adult. Violation of a PFA can lead to criminal charges, and, if convicted, you can end up with fines or even serve up to six months in jail.

Violating a PFA / Custody Order is Kidnapping Under Pennsylvania Law

Importantly, if the PFA is issued against a parent who has legal custody of the child, then the court will usually grant temporary full custody to the other parent at the same time that they issue the PFA.

So, you can't ignore a PFA on the grounds you have custody of the child. And if you take possession of the child while the PFA and temporary custody revocation are in place, you can be charged with “parental kidnapping.”

Under Pennsylvania law, parental kidnapping, also known as “interfering with parental custody,” is a third-degree felony with possible penalties of up to seven years in prison and fines of as much as $15,000.

In addition to the possibility of incarceration, even if you aren't convicted, having a criminal charge on your record could impact your ability to have custody restored to you, whether during a full PFA hearing or a subsequent custody proceeding.

Hire an Experienced Pennsylvania PFA Attorney

You may be tempted to violate a PFA to see your child. But you shouldn't do this. Because violating a PFA relating to a child could result in jail and a permanent loss of custody.

Instead, hire a qualified Pennsylvania defense attorney as soon as possible. Our Criminal Law Team can help you address your Protection from Abuse order and your custody concerns. We specialize in PFA matters, so we have represented hundreds of clients like you. Contact the LLF Law Firm at 888-535-3686 or by using the online form.

About the Author

Joseph D. Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Attorney Joseph D. Lento passionately fights for the futures of his clients in criminal courtrooms in Philadelphia and across Pennsylvania as well as in New Jersey and nationwide. He does not settle for the easiest outcome, and instead prioritizes his clients' needs and well-being. With unparalleled experience occupying several roles in the criminal justice system outside of being an attorney, Joseph D. Lento can give you valuable behind-the-scenes insight as to what is happening during all phases of the legal process. Joseph D. Lento is licensed in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, and is admitted pro hac vice as needed nationwide. In the courtroom and in life, attorney Joseph D. Lento stands up when the bell rings!


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