PFA Case Law Briefs

Boykin v. Brown (PA Sup 2005)   Abuse does not need to rise to the level of criminal acts (i.e., charges by police) to merit the awarding of a PFA order.

BTW v. PTL (PA Sup 2008)

Buchalter v. Buchalter (PA Sup 2008)

Burke v. Bauman (PA Sup 202)  (1) “within 10 days of filing a hearing SHALL be held” means this is mandatory. (2) Phone threats can be sufficient to place a person in reasonable fear of imminent bodily injury.

Chronister v. Brenneman (PA Sup 1999)  (1) The law permits parents to administer corporal punishment if it is temporarily painful and does not result in bodily injury. (2) In corporal punishment case, intent was an important component in deciding that this was not abuse.

Coda v. Coda (PA Sup 1995)  A continuance may be granted to subpoena a material witness if the witness’s testimony may affect the outcome of the hearing.

Custer v. Cochran (PA Sup 2007)  As long as there’s consanguinity, PFA is appropriate, even if not residing in same home. (Domestic relationship not required – residency requirement removed from PFA in 1990.)

D.H. v. B.O. (PA Sup 1999)  No actual threats of bodily injury means no PFA order.

DeHaas v. DeHass (PA SUP 1984)  Guardian ad litem not required by PFA Act (this is a procedural requirement of CPSL)

Drew v. Drew (PA Sup 2005)  Evidentiary hearing mandated by PFA Act.

Dye for McCoy v. McCoy (PA Sup 1993)  PFA should not substitute for custody proceedings in long term, but in the short term its custody protections take precedence.

Egelman v. Egelman (PA Sup 1999)  No financial restrictions or costs are to be placed on the Plaintiff, either upon filing or afterward (with the exception of costs assessed for petitioning in bad faith). Even if defendant prevails, attorney’s fees will not be assessed to the Plaintiff.

Ferko-Fox v. Fox (PA Sup 2013)   [pdf of opinion]  The ex parte hearing ought to be conducted in person; in camera review of petition is not sufficient. (But see Ott, dissent)

Ferri v. Ferri (PA Sup 2004)  A disciplinary action (like a slap) does not rise to the level of “abuse” if it does not cause bodily injury or the fear thereof.

Fonner v. Fonner (PA Sup 1999)  Physical contact is not a prerequisite for a finding of abuse.  A victim need not wait for abuse to occur if there is reasonable fear that it will.

Gerace v. Gerace (PA Sup 1993)  PFA Act provides for broad relief, including recovery of property and costs.

Heard v. Heard (PA Sup 1992)  lower court has no jurisdiction to issue sua sponte orders without the parties’ filing of petitions.  (At this time this was not specifically written into the Act:  now @ 6108(c).)

Holderman v. Hagner (PA Sup 2000)  Expiration date should be measured from date of Final Order, not date of temporary order.

Hood-O’Hara v. Wills (PA Sup 2005)  Police reports and medical records are not necessary for establishing the need for a PFA.

In re. Penny R. (PA Sup 1986)  Court could not sua sponte vacate an earlier order allowing visitation without evidentiary hearing.  (but see Dissent.)

K.D. v. J.D. (PA Sup 1997)  Hearsay testimony (e.g., from CYS/therapist) of child witness cannot be admitted in a PFA hearing (different standards than child abuse hearing).

Karch v. Karch (PA Sup 2005)  (1) Medical/police report is not needed to establish credibility. (2) Evidence of threat is more than sufficient for PFA.

Krassnoski v. Rosey (PA Sup 1996)

Kuhlmeier v. Kuhlmeier (PA Sup 2003)  Still possible, even when scheduling goddess has delayed next court date till after original order expired.

Lanza v. Simconis (Pa Sup 2006) Evidentiary hearing mandated by PFA Act. Plaintiff must have opportunity for counsel, witnesses, cross-X.  Not dealt with here, because appellant (plaintiff) did not preserve issue on appeal:  But suggestive that the petition hearing must be ex parte – see also 23 Pa. C.S.A. Section 6107(a)(1) (“shall”).

Lawrence v. Bordner (PA Sup 2006)  in OBO case:  if emergency custody arrangement is in child’s best interest, include this in the PFA as temporary relief while custody proceedings are in the works.

Lee v. Carney (PA Sup 1994)  If a consent order has been entered, and there is no fraud or mistake involved, then it is enforceable (even if some elements are odd ones, or burden the plaintiff).

McCance v. McCance (PA Sup. 2006)   Sister-in-law of defendant has standing to file for a PFA order because of “affinity.”  (Not defined in Act; use Black’s)

McKelvey v. McKelvey (PA Sup 2001)  A sua sponte mutual protection order entered by the trial court is outside the bounds of the PFA Act.

Melvin v. Melvin (PA Sup 1990)

Mescanti v. Mescanti (PA Sup 2008)  Nonverbal evidence (e.g., sound of guns being cocked) enough to establish reasonable fear.

Miller OBO Walker v. Walker (PA Sup 1995)  PFA definition of abuse is broader than CPSL, so corporal punishment that does not rise to the level of criminal culpability can still be defined as abuse for PFA purposes.

N.T. v. F.F. (PA Sup 2015)  Minimal contact with the State of PA has to be established before a PFA can be sought against a nonresident of PA.

P.E.S. v. K.L. (PA Sup 1998)

R.G. v. T.D. (PA Sup 1996)  (1) Being former intimate partners is enough for standing. (2) Stalking as a course of deliberate conduct is enough to meet the definition of “abuse” if plaintiff is in fear for her safety. (3) Phone and email threats are sufficient to place a person in reasonable fear of imminent bodily injury.

Raker v. Raker (PA Sup 2004)  For Plaintiff to prevail in PFA hearing, need only establish preponderance of the evidence.

Scott v. Shay (PA Sup 2007)  (1) Victim of sexual abuse does not have standing to file PFA petition if the relationship is not family/affinity/ intimate partner. (2) If there is no “course of conduct” (pattern of actions) present, the evidence is insufficient.

Shandra v. Williams (PA Sup 2003)  Trial court should not modify pre-existing child custody order without hearing re. best interests of child.

Slusser v. DeBoer (PA Sup 2009)  Parties’ shared consanguinity with a child is enough to grant standing for PFA order. (e.g., mother & grandfather)

Snyder v. Snyder (PA Sup 1993)  (1) At the hearing, a plaintiff is not limited to the specific allegations written in the petition. (2) Remedies are at the trial court’s discretion, including exclusion of the abusive person from a jointly-owned residence.

Stamus v. Dutcavich (PA Sup 2007)  Trial court may not dismiss PFA unless petitioned by one or both parties.

T.K. v. A.Z.  (PA Sup 2017)  (1) Plaintiff in PFA case need not use the word “fear” to describe experiences of anxiety for her physical safety.  (2) Stalking is sufficient to meet definition of abuse.  (i.e., it’s not just “rude,” it’s “abusive.”)

Thompson v. Thompson (PA Sup 2008)  Examples of reasonable fear of bodily injury, even if these specific words were not used by witnesses.

V.B.T. v. Family Services (PA Sup 1998)

Varner v. Holley (PA Sup 2004)  Under the PFA Act a minor defendant is not entitled to court-ordered counsel, but he is entitled to an interested adult to defend on his behalf.

Viruet ex rel. Velasquez v. Cancel (PA Sup 1999)  (1) CPSL is narrower than PFA in its definition of abuse:  PFA has five definitions, only one of which is the CPSL one.  PFA is appropriate even if abuse doesn’t rise to the level of “serious bodily injury,” because it is meant to prevent future injury. (2) Corporal punishment should not leave bruises everywhere. (3) Court may not impose a prepaid bond requirement even if they feel a plaintiff has filed frivolously.  (In 2006, all fees will be waived for plaintiff.)