What Does Protection from Abuse (PFA) Mean?
August 2, 2022

Anyone who has experienced domestic abuse at the hands of an intimate partner, household member, or family member may be eligible for a Protection from Abuse Order (PFA). Among other things, physical harm or the threat of imminent serious physical harm are considered forms of abuse.

A PFA is a civil matter, and a family lawyer may be able to help. Before you search for a “family lawyer near me” in Pennsylvania, learn what PFA means first.

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

A domestic abuse victim can make an application for a PFA order. Soon after the PFA application is submitted, usually the same day, the applicant, or Plaintiff, will be given an opportunity to present his or her case to a judge without the accused, or Defendant, being present.  Any communication with the Court outside of the presence of the opposing party is considered “ex-parte,” which is where the Order that comes from this proceeding gets its name. The Plaintiff may be given a temporary PFA as the result of this hearing. The judge may ultimately deny the temporary Order if sufficient evidence is not presented.  Whether a temporary Order is entered or not, a later proceeding will be scheduled to address the allegations in the presence of the Defendant and the Defendant will be permitted to present his or her defense at that time.

The temporary PFA order only remains in place until the full hearing is held. A final PFA may be entered following a hearing or based on an agreement between the parties.

How Long Is A PFA Effective?

A PFA is a court order that prohibits the victim and defendant from communicating for up to 36 months. The duration of a Protection from Abuse may change based on the situation, the victim’s requirements, and the judge’s ruling.  If a defendant violates a PFA, the term of the PFA can be extended beyond 36 months.

Can You Find A PFA On a Background Check?

Since a protection from abuse order is a civil matter, a criminal background check will not reveal the existence of a PFA. However, it would appear on other, more in depth background checks. It might be considered for federal employees when seeking or renewing security clearances.

Will A PFA Prevent an Individual from Having a Gun?

A PFA defendant will not be allowed to possess firearms while the PFA is in effect. The Defendant will be required to surrender any firearms in his or her possession to the county Sheriff’s Department. However, once the PFA expires, the defendant will no longer be prohibited from owning or carrying a gun.

How Will A PFA Affect Custody Orders?

If a PFA includes the parents of a child who is the subject of a custody order, the judge may temporarily alter the custody arrangement. A custody Order entered after a PFA, however, can modify any custody terms contained in the PFA.

A PFA may offer a temporary custody schedule intended to give both parties enough time to resolve the issue through the proper custody procedures. Still, it is not a mechanism to obtain a permanent change to a custody order.

Knowing The Process of Protection from Abuse

A PFA Order requires someone to stop abusing another person and may also contain further relief, such as prohibiting contact with the victim and eviction from the home the parties share.

To know what constitutes abuse, you might want to consult with a family law attorney in Pennsylvania.

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

Any person with whom you have one of the following relationships is subject to a PFA Petition from you:

Spouse or former spouse; household members; individuals residing separately but sharing a child; family members; or individuals in a current or previous dating relationship.

An example of this would be someone you “dated,” “went out with,” or were “courting.” They may be referred to as your “boyfriend,” “girlfriend,” “fiancé,” or you may be “seeing” them after spending time with them in a romantic manner.

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

While you can submit a Protection from Abuse petition without hiring an attorney, it’s still best to hire a family law attorney in Pennsylvania. An attorney can help you navigate the process of filing a PFA and understand your rights throughout the duration.

If you think you need a family law attorney in Pennsylvania, contact an experienced and compassionate Daley Zucker, LLC lawyer for a free consultation.

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