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How Do You Get a PFA in Pennsylvania?

Published: Mar 03, 2023 in Protection From Abuse (PFA)
Mother walking with young daughter in park

Written by Anthony Piccirilli

A protection from abuse (PFA) is a civil order of protection for both men and women that a judge signs to tell an abuser to stop the behavior if he or she wants to avoid legal consequences.

When Is a PFA Necessary?

You should seek a PFA if either you or a household member is a victim of domestic violence. The state defines domestic violence as an attempt to cause bodily injury or fear of such injury, rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, false imprisonment, physical or sexual child abuse, and following/stalking.

These orders can be filed by spouses, ex-spouses, domestic partners, parents, children, family members, or former partners.

If you’re in an emergency, contact a Pennsylvania Family Lawyer to start filing a PFA immediately.

What are the Types of PFAs?

Pennsylvania issues a PFA according to the kind of abuse you seek protection from. There are three different protection orders available.

  • Emergency order, which is necessary when the courts are closed, and it lasts until the next business day.
  • Ex parte temporary PFA, which a judge will grant if they find that you or minor children are in danger of further abuse based on the information you provide without the abuser being in court. This PFA lasts until the full court hearing
  • Final PFA, which a judge will issue for up to three years if they find it necessary, after hearing testimony from the victim and abuser

How to Get a PFA in Pennsylvania

You should follow these four steps to get a PFA in Pennsylvania:

  • Go to your local Court of Common Pleas to file a petition for protection. This can be the court in the county where either you or your abuser live or work (to ensure the abuser can be served the PFA) or the county in which the abuse occurred. The prothonotary (an elected officer overseeing official documents and records for civil and family court matters) will provide the necessary forms.You must bring identification with you. You may want to call ahead to learn if there are specific hours that the judge reviews the petitions, which will better position you to receive an ex parte temporary PFA rather than an emergency order, which only lasts until the next business day.
    • County Courthouses in Pennsylvania
    • Complete the necessary forms, listing yourself as the plaintiff and your abuser as the defendant. Describe the abuse in detail, if it involved a weapon, when and where it occurred, and a detailed account of what happened. Ask questions if you have them as you complete the paperwork. Do not sign the documents until the prothonotary reviews them as you might be required to sign them before a notary or a judge.
      • Protection From Abuse Forms
      • A judge will review your petition to determine if you should receive an ex parte temporary PFA, which is effective until a full hearing, which is usually scheduled within 10 business days. You will receive copies of the temporary order and petition; you should give a copy of each to the sheriff to serve your abuser. You must also complete the sheriff’s service form, which provides the information needed to notify your abuser of the court hearing. Be certain to keep a copy of your PFA with you at all times.
      • Both you and your abuser must attend a court hearing during which a judge will determine if you should receive a final PFA. Your ex parte temporary PFA will expire if you do not attend court and you will need to begin the process over, so ask the prothonotary for a continuance if you need a later court date. The judge may issue a final PFA if your abuser fails to appear in court or may select a new hearing date. If the latter occurs, then be certain to request that the judge extend your order. Your hearing will require you to testify about the abuse and to present evidence. A PFA lawyer can represent you and help defend your stance. Your abuser will also be allowed to defend themselves against the accusations. The judge will then determine if he or she should grant a final PFA.

Other Helpful Resources

If you are suffering from domestic violence and are seeking relief, you can find agencies and online resources to help you. Use caution: many web browsers will track your internet usage, so your abuser might know you’re preparing to take legal action.

How Pittsburgh Divorce & Family Law, LLC Can Help

A skilled Pennsylvania family attorney with Pittsburgh Divorce & Family Law, LLC can guide you through the PFA process so that you get a final PFA to better ensure the abuse either you or your loved one has suffered comes to an end.

Pittsburgh PFA lawyer Anthony Piccirilli will work to remove you from harm’s way to protect you from someone else’s abusive behavior. He is highly knowledgeable when it comes to getting a PFA in Pennsylvania, including how best to present your case to a judge.

Call (412) 471-5100 or use the online form to schedule your consultation.