Domestic violence can take many forms, all of which are illegal under the Pennsylvania Protection From Abuse Act, 23 Pa.C.S. § 6101 et seq. If you are a victim of domestic violence, then you should take immediate action to remove yourself from the dangerous situation and file a Protection From Abuse Order (PFA). You are not required to have a lawyer to file for a Pennsylvania PFA, as this is typically an urgent situation. Once you have completed the initial filing, however, it is highly advisable to speak with an experienced PA domestic violence attorney about your rights and what lies ahead.
What is a PFA?
A PFA Order is a civil restraining order issued by a judge to protect domestic violence victims and their children from further abuse. A Pennsylvania PFA can provide many types of protective relief. If the defendant (abuser) does not follow any of the terms of the PFA, criminal charges will apply. Under the PA Protection From Abuse Act, the court may grant an order or agreement that includes:
- Prohibiting the defendant from having any contact with you or your minor children, including the place where you live, work, or attend school
- Granting you exclusive possession of a shared residence
- Awarding temporary custody or establishing temporary visitation rights with regard to minor children
- Directing the defendant to pay you financial support in the form of rent, health insurance, or other expenses
- Prohibiting the defendant from harassing your relatives
- Limiting the defendant’s ability to have a gun or a gun permit
Directing the defendant to pay you for reasonable losses suffered as a result of the abuse, including medical, dental, relocation and moving expenses, counseling, loss of earnings, attorney’s fees, and/or repair or replacement of any real or personal property damaged.
Who Can Obtain a Pennsylvania PFA?
A victim of PA domestic violence may file for a PFA Order against a relative or intimate partner, such as:
- Spouses or ex-spouses
- Domestic partners (individuals who are living or have lived together)
- Relatives by blood or by marriage
- Current or former sexual or intimate partners (including dating relationships)
- Someone with whom you have a child together
How to Get a PFA in Pennsylvania
Each county in Pennsylvania has a different process to obtain a PFA Order. In Pennsylvania, you may file a petition for a Protection From Abuse Order by appearing in person at the Pennsylvania Courthouse Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. This specific window of time is in place to ensure that you will have ample time to see a judge. The Pennsylvania Courthouse is located at 2 East Airy Street, Norristown, PA 19401.
In Pennsylvania, the Office of the Prothonotary is responsible for the recording and filing of Protection From Abuse Orders. Courthouse staff will help you to complete the initial paperwork, but they cannot and will not offer legal advice. As a victim of domestic violence seeking relief under the Pennsylvania PFA Law, you will not be charged any fees or costs associated with the filing, issuance, registration, or service of a petition or related filing by the court. If a PFA Order is granted, fees and costs will be assessed against the defendant.
After you complete the necessary paperwork, you will appear before a judge who will review your petition and speak with you to determine whether to issue a PFA Order. If the judge grants your request, a Temporary PFA Order will be issued.
Filing for a PFA Order in Pennsylvania requires that a hearing must be scheduled within 10 business days of the filing of the petition. You should have an experienced PA domestic violence attorney represent you at the PFA hearing. The PFA hearing will be held before the court, and at that time, you will be required to prove your allegations of abuse. A judge will listen to the facts of your PA domestic violence case. You and your abuser will both be given an opportunity to testify and to present evidence and witnesses, and both of you have the right to be represented by a lawyer.
If the judge determines that abuse has occurred, the court will grant a Final PFA Order. A Final PFA Order can provide protection for up to 3 years. You have the right to file for an extension of your Pennsylvania PFA an unlimited amount of times.
Contact A Domestic Violence Attorney in PA
It is very important for victims of domestic violence in PA to realize that they have legal rights and to seek help immediately. It is also important to keep in mind that a PFA Order cannot guarantee the absolute safety of any victim. Obtaining a Pennsylvania PFA Order is just one step that must be taken in conjunction with a comprehensive safety plan for your family.
At The Martin Law Firm, our PA domestic violence attorneys provide compassionate, yet zealous representation for victims of domestic violence. Our attorneys will make sure that you are well-informed of your legal rights, and we will provide you with helpful guidance during this difficult time. Contact The Martin Law Firm today to schedule a family law consultation with an experienced PA domestic violence attorney.