PFA in PAApril 16, 2021
A protection from abuse or PFA, as they are commonly referred to, is an order signed by a judge that protects victims of domestic violence from their abuser. It lets the abuser know that if abusive or harassing conduct continues, they will face legal repercussions for their actions. Sometimes, the abuser may face legal repercussions if there is any contact at all with the victim after the PFA is entered.
There are 3 different types of PFA orders in Pennsylvania. PFA types are determined by the judge issuing the order and are based on the kind of protection he or she feels is needed. If you need an order immediately, an emergency order may be granted, which only lasts until the next business day when the courts are open.
An ex parte temporary PFA is issued if the judge feels that you and/or your minor children need protection immediately. This temporary order stays in effect until your court hearing. At the court hearing, the abuser is given the chance to present evidence and tell his or her side of the story. A judge will then decide whether a final PFA order should be granted. If granted, the final PFA lasts up to three years and can possibly be extended under certain circumstances.
How to Get a PFA in PA
To obtain a PFA in Pennsylvania, there are four steps to follow.
1) File a petition at the courthouse.
You can file a petition for a protection from abuse order at any county courthouse where you live, work, the abuse took place, or the abuser lives or works. However, if the abuser must be removed from the home, the petition must be filed in the county that your home is located.
It is best to contact the courthouse before you arrive to find out if there are certain times designated for petitions to go before the judge. Otherwise, you will have to wait until the next business day. Make sure to take a driver’s license or other form of identification with you. There is not a fee to file a petition for a PFA.
If the courthouse is closed, and you cannot wait until they open, you should contact your police department to assist with obtaining an emergency order from the magisterial district judge that is on-call.
2) Fill out the appropriate forms.
The prothonotary’s office, at the courthouse, will provide all the necessary forms and assist with filing all of the paperwork for the PFA petition. Be sure to include all details of the abuse, such as a vivid description of the incident(s), location and dates. If you were threatened with a weapon, be sure to include that, as well.
3) Judge will review your petition.
Once you have completed and filed the necessary paperwork, your petition will be given to the judge for review. As previously mentioned, if the judge feels that your or your children are in any danger, he or she may grant the ex parte temporary order. You will receive copies of both the petition and temporary PFA order.
It is important that you keep a copy of the temporary PFA order with you at all times, as well as provide copies of the petition and order to the sheriff. These copies will also be served to the abuser. Within ten business days, a court hearing will be scheduled.
4) Attending a hearing for a final PFA.
The last step of obtaining a final PFA is attending a scheduled court hearing. During this hearing both you and the abuser will have the opportunity to testify and present evidence. You will also be able to have witnesses speak on your behalf that may have witnessed the abuse take place. The judge will then decide whether the final PFA will be granted.
How to Win a PFA Hearing
To increase your chances and ensure that you win your hearing for a PFA, it is important to make sure that you collect any and all evidence. This would include text messages, pictures, emails, incident details, locations, and dates. If there have been any witnesses to the abuse, ask that they attend the hearing and give their account.
It is also important that you do not contact the abuser or allow them to ignore a temporary order that may be in place, by allowing them contact with you or your minor children. Hiring an attorney to assist you in navigating all the legalities is also an important step, especially if your abuser has hired one.
How to Withdraw a PFA in Pennsylvania
If your circumstances have changed after a PFA has been granted and you wish to withdraw the order, there is a process that you will need to follow. Every county has their own guidelines, but they all typically involve filling out the appropriate paperwork. You will then need to explain to the judge why the PFA is no longer needed and what has changed about your situation. It is ultimately up to the judge, as to whether or not he or she dismisses the order.
What if the Abuser Violates the PFA Order?
If your abuser violates the PFA Order that has been granted, you should immediately call the local police department or 911. The abuser will be arrested, and a contempt hearing will be held. If the abuser is deemed in contempt of the Order, he or she can possibly go to jail for a period of up to six months and/or be fined up to $1,000.
It is always a good idea to hire an experienced attorney that can assist you through this difficult and often confusing time. An experienced attorney can address your legal questions and concerns and be sure that you have the necessary information to make the right decisions for your situation.
Contact Daley Zucker today to speak to one of our compassionate and experienced team members.