A protection from abuse order is a court order issued by a judge which gives “relief” for a victim (sometimes including their children) from the person abusing them. An individual age 18 or older, or minor accompanied by a parent, adult household member, or a guardian can go to court and ask for a PFA order. The protective “relief” can be granted for a period of up to 3 years, and can make it illegal for the abuser to contact, harass, or abuse the victim and the victim’s children. The order may also require the abuser to return personal property. A violation of a PFA order may result in criminal charges.
Who can be protected by a PFA order?
- Same-sex partners
- Blood relatives including brothers and sisters
- Current and former sexual partners
Who cannot be protected by a PFA order?
- Roommates (without sexual relationship)
- Friends (without sexual relationship)
How to file for a PFA
- Go to your courthouse and fill out a form. This form or “petition” will ask for an explanation of why you are seeking a protection order. You must describe the abuse you have suffered and indicate what type of protection you are seeking such as “no contact” or “relinquish firearms”.
- A judge reviews the petition and may ask additional questions. A temporary PFA may be granted or denied at this time, and a date for a final hearing is scheduled within 10 business days. If a temporary order has been granted the victim is provided protection through the date of the final hearing.
- The local sheriff’s office will deliver a copy of the petition, temporary PFA order and notice of the final hearing to the defendant.
- Hire an attorney to represent you for the final PFA hearing.
- At the final PFA hearing the victim and the defendant will both have the opportunity to come before the judge. Both parties are allowed to have attorneys represent them, and a domestic violence advocate may also accompany the victim. If both victim and defendant agree to the terms of the PFA they will inform the judge and the PFA will be final, this is known as a consent agreement. If either the victim or the defendant do not agree both parties will have the opportunity to share their accounts and the judge will make a determination based on the testimony and/or evidence. The judge can then order a PFA for a period of up to three years.
What is the cost of filing for a PFA order?
PFA orders are free for the victim, in most cases the defendant will have to pay for all or part of the PFA process, otherwise the county will pay.
What happens if a PFA order is violated?
If the abuser violates a PFA the victim should immediately contact the police, the police can arrest the abuser for any violation of the PFA order and may be charged with a crime. The victim may be asked to testify about the violation if there is a hearing. Violations of a PFA order may result in jail time, probation, and/or fines.
Do PFA orders continue across state lines?
Yes, a PFA granted in Pennsylvania is valid everywhere across the country because of the Violence Against Womens Act (VAWA) which is a federal law protecting victims of domestic violence. It is recommended that a victim registers the PFA order at the local courthouse if the victim moves to a different county or state, and also to carry a certified copy at all times. Please keep in mind Pennsylvania is a commonwealth and procedures may vary from county to county.
Contact the Law Office of Timothy Prendergast to learn more and to setup a consultation.