Protection from Abuse orders seek to prevent victims from becoming repeat victims of physical, sexual, or emotional abuse by their loved ones. If you or someone you love has already been awarded a Protection from Abuse (PFA) order and is going to be in another state, you may be wondering if your PFA can be enforced there too. The short answer is yes – but your PFA must meet the federal standards laid out in the Violence Against Women Act in order to do so.
What is a PFA?
A PFA is a formal order that protects children or adults from physical or sexual abuse. For the court to award a PFA, the victim must be either (1) an adult member of a household, or (2) a guardian of a minor in the household, and (3) have some type of relationship with the abuser in the household. This relationship can be marriage, bloodline, current or past intimate relationship, or sharing a biological child.
If the perpetrator is not a family member, member of the household, or an intimate partner, the victim can file for a Protection from Sexual Violence or an Intimidation Order.
Enforcing Out of State PFAs and Ex-Parte Temporary Orders
As mentioned above, for a PFA from Pennsylvania to be enforceable in another state, it must meet federal standards. According to the federal Violence Against Women Act, all PFAs granted in the United States will be granted the same efficacy in all other U.S. states, tribal courts, and U.S. territories as the one in which it was ordered. The same is true for ex-parte temporary orders.
What are the Federal Standards?
According to the U.S. Code, a PFA is valid anywhere in the United States, including tribal courts and U.S. territories if:
- It was ordered to thwart violent or threatening acts, sexual violence, harassment, or it was issued to stop another person from coming near or contacting the PFA holder.
- The ordering court had the authority to hear the case.
- The perpetrator was notified of the order and had the chance to go to court and tell their side of the story.
How to Get your PFA or Ex-Parte Temporary Orders Enforced in Another State
A valid PFA is enforceable in another state, whether it has been registered or filed with the new state upon moving or arriving there. To get your PFA or ex-parte temporary order enforced in another state, you will probably need a certified copy of the order with the signature of the prothonotary that gave you the order. This copy will ensure law enforcement will understand the severity of the allegation you are making against your abuser, allowing your abuser to be punished more easily. Additionally, you will have to notify the court that ordered your PFA of your impending move if you will no longer be receiving mail at your old address.
How to Get your Custody Order Enforced in Another State
Often, PFAs will include temporary custody orders. Depending on what your PFA specifically states, the custody order may prevent you from taking the children out of state with you. In most situations, you will have to ask the court's permission to take the children with you before you leave. If your abuser was awarded visits with the children, then you may have to file for the order to be changed or show the court an alternative visitation schedule that is just as fair.
The bottom line is, if your abuser violates your PFA while you are in another state, they will still be punished according to Pennsylvania laws. The same is true if your out-of-state PFA meets the federal standards described above and is violated while you are in Pennsylvania.
How an Attorney Can Help
If you are attempting to move from another state into Pennsylvania or from Pennsylvania to another state with a current PFA order, working with an attorney can ensure this is a smooth process. An attorney will be able to advise you on whether your PFA meets federal standards and is effective in other states, whether the PFA allows for your children to travel or move with you, how to file to change your PFA if necessary, and what to expect when you do move and require protection.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento and Lento Law Firm have years of experience helping their clients navigate the nuances of life with a Protection from Abuse order. You do not have to travel this road alone. Call 888-535-3686 today to schedule a consultation or visit him online. Attorney Lento can help; let him.