If you find yourself in a situation where you need protection from a spouse or partner due to domestic violence or harassment, you can seek an Order of Protection. This legal document, also known as a Protection From Abuse order, can provide you with essential safeguards.
Knowing how to get a PFA in Pennsylvania can inform your next steps.
Understand possible grounds
You can request a PFA order if you have suffered domestic abuse, including physical violence, threats, sexual assault or harassment by a spouse or partner. Before filing, gather evidence of the abuse such as photographs, medical records, text messages or eyewitness accounts.
Get the right documents
To start the process, visit the courthouse in your town or city during business hours. There, you can fill out the necessary forms for a PFA order. Court staff can guide you through the process if you need help.
Complete the petition
The first document to complete is the PFA petition. This form requires you to provide information about the abuse, including specific incidents, dates and locations. Be as detailed as possible, as the court will use this information when deciding whether to issue the order.
Obtain a temporary order
After you file your petition, a judge may grant you a temporary protection order without holding a hearing. The temporary order provides immediate protection until a final hearing takes place, typically within ten days.
Serve the defendant
The court will then arrange for service of process to the defendant (your spouse or partner). They will officially receive a copy of the PFA order and notice of the upcoming hearing. Law enforcement or a sheriff’s deputy usually handles process service.
Attend the hearing
At the final hearing, both you and the defendant will have the opportunity to present evidence and testify. Bring any witnesses, documents or records that support your case. The judge will decide whether to issue a final PFA order, which can last up to three years.
Comply with the order
If the judge grants the final PFA order, ensure that you follow all its provisions. You may have to maintain a certain distance from the defendant, refrain from contact or attend counseling or anger management programs if required by the order.
You can renew a PFA order if you still feel threatened when it expires. You can also request modifications to the order if circumstances change, such as moving to a different location.
About 41% of women and 26% of men experience domestic partner violence, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. You are not alone. Support groups and resources are available to help you through this difficult situation.