You should never have to fear for your safety and face physical, sexual, or emotional abuse from a spouse, partner, or family member alone. If you have been the victim of violence, or abuse, or if you’ve been threatened, you may be able to file for a Protection from Abuse (PFA) Order in Pennsylvania. An experienced and understanding family law attorney can help provide guidance.
Read on to learn more about how to get a Protective Order in PA and how an experienced domestic violence attorney in PA can help.
What Is a Protective Order?
If granted, a PFA, commonly known as a restraining order, is a way to protect individuals from their abusers by restraining the abuser from coming to your home, workplace, school., etc. A PFA may also include a no-contact order, meaning they cannot contact you or your minor children.
You may notice that the terms protective order, Protection from Abuse (PFA) and restraining order and often used interchangeably.
If the restrained individual violates the protective order, they may face additional restrictions and, in some cases, criminal charges or jail time.
Who Is Eligible?
To file for a restraining order in Pennsylvania, the accused individual must fall into one or more of the categories listed below::
- A current or former spouse
- A current or former romantic partner
- A current or former domestic partner
- A parent
- A child
- A blood relative
In order to file for a PFA in PA, you also must be over 18, an emancipated minor, or have an adult guardian’s signature on your petition. Parents may also file for a PFA on behalf of their minor children.
If you are being abused or harassed by a non-family member, this could be covered by another protection – for example, a Sexual Violence Protection Order or a Protection from Intimidation (PFI) order.
1. Complete and File Your Petition
You can start the process of applying for a PFA at your local county courthouse or domestic violence service agency. The process for filing can vary from county to county. Typically, you will complete a petition form with your personal information, details about physical, sexual, or emotional abuse, and what you ask the court to do.
For instance, you can ask the court to bar your abuser from contacting you or ask for them to return your property.
After you complete the forms, a judge will review them. If the judge has additional questions, the court may contact you. The judge will also set a hearing date no more than ten business days out and may issue a temporary PFA until that date.
As the individual filing the petition, you may be referred to as the plaintiff or petitioner.
Filing a PFA is free. Any fees will be the defendant’s responsibility if a PFA is issued.
2. Serving the Defendant
The county sheriff’s office will serve the defendant with a copy of your petition, hearing details, and possibly, a temporary PFA.
3. Attend the Hearing
Both the petitioner and the defendant will have the opportunity to present their case at the hearing. Both parties may have an attorney present, and plaintiffs may have a domestic violence advocate present.
If the plaintiff and the defendant can reach an agreement, the judge will finalize those terms. If you disagree, the judge will decide based on the testimony and any evidence.
The judge can issue a PFA for any length of time up to the three-year maximum.
4. After the Hearing
If a PFA is granted, you will receive a copy of the order. You should always keep one copy on your person. Local law enforcement will also receive a copy of the final PFA order.
Contact law enforcement immediately if you think the defendant has violated the order.
The US Violence Against Women Act means your PFA is valid in every US state and tribal territory.
Mette, Evans & Woodside – Your PA Family Law Attorneys
If you are the victim of domestic violence or believe you are in danger of becoming a victim, an experienced family law attorney can help you get a protective order in PA. If you have family law or domestic abuse challenges and need insightful and compassionate guidance, reach out to us.