Pennsylvania abuse victims seeking a PFA order should find the necessary forms readily available with assistance to properly fill them out. When Pennsylvania's legislature passed the state's Protection from Abuse Act, 23 Pa. Cons. Stat. Sections 6101 et seq., it expressly provided in Section 6106(h) that “[t]he courts and hearing officers shall … [p]rovide simplified forms and clerical assistance in English and Spanish to help with the writing and filing of the petition for a protection order for an individual not represented by counsel.” Retaining a Pennsylvania attorney would be a sure way of obtaining a PFA order. That's what skilled and experienced PFA attorneys do. But filling out the PFA forms on one's own is also supposed to be readily achievable, if not exactly easy, for the safety and security of the abuse victims the legislature intended the Act to protect. Some forms also exist for a person responding to a PFA order, such as a petition to modify the order.
The Prescribed PFA Forms
To help court clerks meet their statutory obligation to assist abuse victims in getting PFA orders, Pennsylvania adopted 231 Pa. Code Rule 1905. Rule 1905 prescribes the forms necessary to obtain a Pennsylvania PFA order. Indeed, Rule 1905 doesn't just create the forms but also puts them in checkbox and fill-in-the-blank style so that abuse victims can complete them line by line, perhaps with the court clerk's help or the help of a friend who can read and write articulately. You can get the Rule 1905 forms and other forms addressing other PFA issues at the courthouse, online from local bar associations and advocacy organizations, or through the links below. The forms include:
- The lengthy petition for protection from abuse that the plaintiff must file in court to get the PFA proceeding started, with many checkboxes to choose from and many lines to complete to provide the court and defendant with the necessary information and allegations
- An optional petition regarding firearms, weapons, and ammunition, for those cases in which the defendant owns, possesses, or controls those items presenting a danger to the plaintiff
- The notice of hearing and order that go to the defendant to alert the defendant to retain a PFA defense attorney and to appear in court for the PFA hearing
- A temporary order that the court may issue on the plaintiff's initial filing and preliminary hearing until the defendant receives notice and can appear for the final PFA hearing
- An affidavit of service or certificate of service showing to the court that the defendant received copies of the above filings or other filings
- The final order of the court issuing or denying the PFA order including, if issued, detailed terms and warnings to the defendant
- A petition to modify a PFA order, which either the plaintiff or defendant may complete after the court issues a PFA order, asking the court to change the order to better meet the parties' new circumstances
The Purpose of the PFA Forms
Forms are forms. A plaintiff abuse victim seeking a PFA order is going to have to fill them out, whether the plaintiff knows what the forms are for or not. But knowing what the forms accomplish can help the plaintiff ensure that the plaintiff is putting down the right information in the right place for the right end. Of the above six forms, the first one, the petition, tells the court what happened and what the plaintiff needs the court to do about it. Under the state's Protection from Abuse Act, Pennsylvania courts can only issue a PFA order if the plaintiff's petition shows the statutory requirements. Those requirements include critical things like a qualifying relationship between the plaintiff victim and defendant perpetrator, specifically that they are “family or household members, sexual or intimate partners or persons who share biological parenthood,” and the occurrence of “abuse” as the Act defines that term in several alternative ways. The plaintiff's petition must allege facts to support each condition for a PFA order. That's why the plaintiff should take great care in fully and accurately completing the petition. The other forms will be much more up to the court to complete, including the notice of hearing, temporary order, affidavit of service, and final order. Those forms help alert, caution, warn, and restrict the defendant. The plaintiff should focus on the petition, which is how the court gets the information to proceed with the PFA process and, ultimately, a PFA order.
Tips on Filling out the PFA Forms
Of course, hiring a skilled and experienced attorney is the best way of ensuring that PFA forms are complete and accurate. But for a plaintiff who is not going to retain an attorney, whether because of cost, availability, emergency, or other reasons, a few tips can help the plaintiff. Indeed, these tips not only help the plaintiff but the defendant, too. PFA proceedings complicated by errors, omissions, falsehoods, or exaggerations, and orders the court should not have issued or should have issued with other terms and conditions help no one. The first tip, then, is that the plaintiff should be truthful in every particular. Lying on a PFA form is itself a punishable wrong. And it's not just outright lies that can get a plaintiff in trouble and throw a wrench in the whole proceeding. Twists, distortions, and exaggerations also undermine the plaintiff's credibility and can delay, derail, or misguide the proceeding. The plaintiff should also not be guessing, conjecturing, speculating, assuming, surmising, or otherwise making things up. The plaintiff should only be alleging what the plaintiff knows or infers from first-hand observation or reliable sources. And one final tip is that even if you cannot afford an attorney or choose not to retain one, consider asking the help of a family member, friend, or guide from a local resource center. It's almost always best to have your own retained skilled and experienced attorney representation. But having someone supporting you through the process can also help.
Retain a Premier Pennsylvania PFA Attorney
Pennsylvania PFA defense attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm's skilled PFA defense team are available for representation in your Pennsylvania PFA case. Get the skilled and experienced help you need for the best outcome. Don't let an unwarranted PFA order destroy your home, finances, employment, and relationships. Call 888.535.3686 or go online now to retain attorney Lento and the Lento Law Firm team.