PFA COURTS HAVE WIDE DISCRETION
Can a party be evicted from his or her home as a result of a Protection From Abuse hearing, despite the other party not requesting eviction in the PFA petition? What if the evicted party already had possession of the home through a marriage settlement agreement?
On July 8, 2019, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania answered these questions in the affirmative in the case of C.H.L v. W.D.L., 2019 Pa. Super. 210. In this case, Wife proved abuse by a preponderance of evidence, and the court granted a two-year PFA. In the PFA order, the court also awarded Wife exclusive possession of the marital residence. On appeal, Husband complained that the court should not have granted Wife exclusive possession of the marital residence for two reasons. First, Wife did not ask for possession of the marital residence in her PFA petition, and, second, Wife had already executed a marriage settlement agreement which granted possession of the home to Husband.
In deciding this case, the Superior Court held that while Wife did not check off the box on the PFA petition requesting that Husband be evicted from the marital home, she did ask that Husband be required to provide her and the child with suitable housing. The court decided that this request allowed the PFA court to award possession of the marital home to Wife.
As to Husband’s second claim, the court held that whether or not wife had any legal title to the residence was immaterial. The Protection From Abuse Act specifically allows the court to grant a plaintiff exclusive possession of a residence even if the defendant is the sole owner, so long as the defendant has a duty to support the plaintiff or minor children living in the residence.
The court affirmed that judges in PFA courts have wide discretion. Therefore, if you are served with a PFA petition, it is vital that you contact an experience PFA attorney.
At LaMonaca Law, we have vast experience in PFA matters. If you have been served with a PFA complaint, Click or call (610) 892-3877 to schedule an appointment with one of our attorneys.