Pennsylvania's Protection From Abuse Act sets up a statewide system for victims of domestic abuse to simply and easily petition the court for protection. All that must be established in order to file is that a person is a victim of abuse and that the abuser is a household member. A household member does not necessarily need to actually reside in the household, rather, they can be a person with whom the victim is related to, or has been "intimate" with in a romantic or sexual partnership. Once this is established, the victim can go to their county court and file for a Protection From Abuse (PFA) order.
The PFA Order Process
Each county has a different process for filing a Protection From Abuse order. However, although the counties have different official filing processes, obtaining a Protection From Abuse order follows the relatively the same steps for each county.
Emergency PFA Order
Many times, the process begins with the filing of an emergency PFA order. Emergency PFA orders are filed when the court is not in session, or off business hours. Each county has its own process for how an emergency PFA can be filed, though these methods typically involve either a dedicated hotline or contacting the local police, from here the caller will receive direction on how to get an emergency PFA issued by an on-call judge. Emergency PFA orders will normally last until the following business day, where the petitioner can attend court during regular hours.
Temporary "Ex Parte" PFA Order
Most of the time, the process can begin normally. A victim of abuse can go to the court during normal business hours, and ask to petition the court for a PFA order. In most cases, the petitioner will have a brief meeting with the judge, without the abuser present. The judge will then decide whether or not to issue a temporary or "ex parte" PFA order. This order will normally last until a hearing to make the PFA order permanent. Most of the time, even if a temporary PFA order is not granted, the case will move forward to a hearing for a full and permanent PFA order.
Permanent/"Final" PFA Orders
The final step in the PFA order process is a hearing with a judge or an appointed master. This hearing will usually permit each side to retain representation from an attorney. The permanent or "final" PFA order will usually last for about 3 years, depending on the circumstances. Both the petitioner and the alleged abuser will have a chance to defend their respective sides at this hearing, and the judge will render a decision after all evidence and testimony have been presented.
If you or a loved one is involved in filing a PFA order, or other matter of Family Law, contact attorney Joseph D. Lento today.