April 16, 2021

Protection from Abuse (PFA) Explained

Experiencing domestic abuse is distressing and seeking a Protection from Abuse (PFA) Order can provide a lifeline. At Daley Zucker, we understand the complexities involved.

Let’s navigate the process together, shedding light on what PFA means and addressing common questions.

What Does Protection from Abuse (PFA) Mean?

Anyone facing domestic abuse from an intimate partner, household member, or family member may seek a PFA. This civil order addresses physical harm or the imminent threat of serious harm. Before diving into the legal realm, it’s crucial to grasp the fundamentals.

PFA Meaning: What is an Ex-Parte Hearing and Temporary PFA?

A victim initiates a PFA application, leading to an ex-parte hearing—typically on the same day—allowing the plaintiff to present their case to a judge without the accused being present. This may result in a temporary PFA, with a subsequent full hearing scheduled for both parties to present their cases. The temporary order remains until the full hearing, where a final PFA may be granted based on evidence or mutual agreement.

How Long Is A PFA Effective?

A PFA lasts up to 36 months, but this can vary based on circumstances, victim needs, and judicial decisions. Violating a PFA can extend its term beyond 36 months.

Can You Find A PFA On a Background Check?

Given that a PFA is a civil matter, it won’t appear in a standard criminal background check. However, it may be visible in more comprehensive checks and considered for certain security clearances.

Will A PFA Prevent an Individual from Having a Gun?

While a PFA is in effect, the defendant can’t possess firearms and must surrender them to the Sheriff’s Department. Once the PFA expires, firearm restrictions are lifted.

How Will A PFA Affect Custody Orders?

A PFA involving parents may temporarily alter custody arrangements. A subsequent custody order can modify terms outlined in the PFA, but the PFA doesn’t serve as a mechanism for permanent custody changes.

Who Is Eligible to Submit A Petition For Protection Against Abuse?

A PFA petition can be filed against a spouse, former spouse, household members, individuals sharing a child, family members, or individuals in a current or previous dating relationship.

How is a Protection from Abuse (PFA) Order Obtained?

While filing a PFA petition is possible without an attorney, consulting a family law attorney in Pennsylvania is advisable. Professional guidance aids in understanding the process and securing your rights.

PFA Types in Pennsylvania: An In-Depth Look

Pennsylvania recognizes three PFA types, issued based on the judge’s evaluation of required protection. Emergency orders provide immediate relief after hours until the next business day when courts open. Ex parte temporary PFAs address immediate protection needs and last until the scheduled court hearing. “Final” PFAs, lasting up to three years, can be extended under specific circumstances.

How to Get a PFA in PA: A Step-by-Step Guide

File a petition at the courthouse: Submit a petition at the county courthouse where the abuse occurred or the alleged abuser’s residence. In certain circumstances, the victim may file in the county where they reside, even if the alleged abuser does not reside there.

  • Fill out the appropriate forms: The prothonotary’s office at the courthouse assists in completing necessary paperwork, emphasizing details of the abuse.
  • Judge will review your Complaint: You will have the opportunity to present the allegations in your Complaint to a judge. The judge may grant an ex parte temporary order if immediate danger is perceived. Copies of the petition and temporary PFA order are provided.
  • Attending a hearing for a final PFA: The final step involves a court hearing where both parties present evidence. The judge decides whether a final PFA is warranted.

How to Win a PFA Hearing: Tips for Success

To enhance chances of winning a PFA hearing, gather evidence, including messages, pictures, and incident details. Witnesses and legal representation contribute to a strong case.

How to Withdraw a PFA in Pennsylvania: A Change in Circumstances

Should circumstances change, the petitioner can withdraw a PFA. Procedures vary by county and may involve filing appropriate paperwork and presenting a case to the judge.

What if the Abuser Violates the PFA Order?

Immediate contact with the local police or 911 is crucial if the abuser violates the PFA. The violator may face arrest, and a contempt hearing may lead to jail time or fines.

Navigating PFA with Daley Zucker: Your Supportive Ally

Amid the complexities of seeking a PFA, having an experienced attorney is invaluable. Daley Zucker serves clients in central Pennsylvania, offering compassionate assistance. Reach out to our team for a free consultation.

FAQ: Protection from Abuse (PFA) in Pennsylvania

Can a PFA be filed against a non-family member?

A PFA applies to individuals with specific relationships like spouses, family members, or those in current or past dating relationships.

Is hiring an attorney necessary to file a PFA?

While not mandatory, having a family law attorney enhances understanding and ensures proper navigation of the PFA process.

Can a PFA be extended beyond three years?

Yes, under certain circumstances, a PFA can be extended beyond the standard three-year term.

What evidence is crucial in a PFA hearing?

Text messages, pictures, emails, and detailed incident descriptions are crucial evidence. Witnesses can also provide valuable testimony.

Can a PFA affect child custody permanently?

No, a PFA can lead to temporary alterations in custody arrangements, but permanent changes require a separate custody order. A finding of abuse in a PFA will be considered in the custody matter.

Is there a fee to file a petition for a PFA?

There is generally no fee to file a petition for a PFA at the courthouse.

How quickly can an emergency PFA be granted?

Emergency PFAs provide immediate relief until the next business day when regular court proceedings resume.

Can a PFA be withdrawn if circumstances change?

Yes, a petitioner can withdraw a PFA by filing the appropriate paperwork and presenting the case to the judge. Ultimately, the judge must authorize the withdrawal of the PFA.

What legal repercussions can an abuser face for PFA violations?

Violating a PFA can lead to arrest, and at a contempt hearing, the violator may face jail time or fines. Although the PFA is a civil order, violations may result in a criminal offense.

How can Daley Zucker assist in the PFA process?

Daley Zucker, LLC provides expert guidance and compassionate support throughout the PFA process. Contact us for a free consultation.

Navigating the complexities of Protection from Abuse (PFA) requires understanding the legal intricacies and having a compassionate ally by your side. At Daley Zucker, we stand ready to offer compassionate guidance and support, ensuring that your journey through the PFA process is guided by experience and empathy. Seeking a PFA is a courageous step toward safety, and our team is here to provide a helping hand.

Whether you need legal advice or representation in court, contact Daley Zucker, LLC for a free consultation. Together, we can navigate the path toward a safer and more secure future.

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