Pennsylvania Expungement of Protection from Abuse (PFA) Orders

Domestic violence and spousal abuse have gained attention with recent media coverage. But these incidents are not limited to the rich and famous. One national survey found that 25 percent of all women and 8 percent of all men report being the victims of domestic violence, spousal abuse, or intimate partner violence at some time.

But sometimes a person will file a false claim of domestic violence, spousal abuse, or intimate partner violence in bad faith to obtain a Protection from Abuse (PFA) order. They do this for a strategic gain in a Pennsylvania divorce, equitable distribution, or child custody or support case.

A PFA order in Pennsylvania has legal consequences. In PA, a temporary PFA order can be entered without notice or a chance to provide a defense. A temporary PFA order in PA can require that a defendant vacate a joint residence, award temporary custody of minor children to the plaintiff, and surrender any weapons. And while a final hearing on the allegations of domestic violence must occur within 10 days, the damage is already done to a defendant who has been falsely accused.

Pennsylvania State Police have built a Protection from Abuse Database (PFAD) as a statewide electronic registry. Law enforcement, court personnel, and others can search by name of plaintiff or defendant. 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 in the PFAD Database.

In addition to the PFAD database, all court orders are filed with the courts’ civil clerk’s office. This office is often called the Prothonotary’s Office or Department of Court Records. Depending on the county, the court records of PFA orders may be searchable via the internet or through the clerk’s office.

Registering a defendant’s name in the PFAD database and the filing of court orders tied to a temporary or final PFA order with the Department of Court Records can have an impact on a defendant. A defendant who has been falsely accused can suffer undue damage to their reputation.

Employers who conduct background checks for new hires will often search county court records. They may find temporary PFA orders, final PFA orders, and even orders entered by consent for no contact between the parties during these checks. Jobs that involve work with children or elderly or disabled people will likely be denied if a PFA order has been entered. Sometimes, those in healthcare or law enforcement may lose an existing job because of a PFA order.

Those in the public spotlight, such as pro athletes or TV and radio personalities, may be fired if they have a morality clause in their employment contract. These clauses often appear in contracts with pro athletes like NFL players.

So, what should a defendant do if they have been falsely accused of domestic violence, spousal abuse, or intimate partner violence in PA? First, contact a lawyer experienced with false allegations of domestic violence brought in bad faith. A final hearing will be scheduled within 10 days of a temporary PFA complaint and order of court. Act quickly to defend false allegations of abuse in PA.

Second, a falsely accused defendant in a PFA action should consider seeking an expungement of a temporary PFA order. The order is a candidate for expungement in the following situations:

  • The plaintiff fails to appear at the final hearing on a PFA in PA.
  • The plaintiff agrees to dismiss the PA temporary PFA order.
  • A judge denies the entry of a final order after a hearing.

Otherwise, the order will remain on the PFAD and Department of Court Records files.

The right to seek expungement of a PFA complaint filed in bad faith is based upon case law of the Pennsylvania Supreme and Superior Courts. It is not based on statutory law, as is the case in expungement of criminal records in PA.

If you want help defending meritless allegations of abuse or you wish to expunge the record of a PFA order entered in PA, contact the PFA expungement lawyers at Lisa Marie Vari & Associates.

  • 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?

For more info about PA family laws, read our sections on Domestic Violence and Domestic Violence Resources. You may also view our FAQ section.