PFA COURTS HAVE WIDE DISCRETION

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.

About the author

About Gerry Gebhart

Gerry graduated from Drexel University magna cum laude with a degree in Information Systems and a minor in Business Administration. After working as a consultant in the intermodal transportation industry, Gerry enrolled in and graduated from Temple University’s Beasley School of Law, where he specialized in trial advocacy. Prior to joining LaMonaca Law, Gerry practiced Family Law privately while working at the Public Defender’s office. Gerry quickly gained a reputation as a savvy trial attorney, securing numerous successful trial verdicts, eventually resulting in his being elected as president of the Delaware County Criminal Defense Lawyers’ Association. Gerry lives in Middletown Township where he is active in his local firehouse as both a firefighter and member of the board of directors.