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What Is a Protection from Abuse Order in Pennsylvania?

Protection from Abuse Orders (PFA)

Attorney Sheryl R. Rentz and her support staff have handled numerous cases involving various types of abuse, harassment, threats, and violence perpetrated in domestic settings. If you are seeking protection for you and your children from your abusive significant other, please come to us for help. We can provide you with the information and representation you need to find peace and security. To learn more about what our firm can do for you, please call (610) 645-0100.

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Getting Legally Protected from Domestic Abuse

Being the victim of domestic abuse, whether it occurs once or over a period of years, is an extraordinarily frightening and upsetting situation, and one may wonder if there is any way to protect him- or herself from further violence or abuse. The state of Pennsylvania offers different legal aid in order to protect abuse victims, and one such provision is a protection from abuse order. A protection from abuse order (PFA) is a type of restraining order available in Pennsylvania. Judges must approve these orders and, once signed, they provide legal restrictions that limit an abuser from contacting a victim or their children.

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Pennsylvania’s Protection From Abuse Act

Victims of domestic violence can apply for a protection from abuse order based on the Pennsylvania Protection From Abuse Act, which outlines the procedures for applying for an order, how the courts and police should respond to an order, and the rules and regulations both victims and abusers should follow. It is important to understand that this law only applies to victims who are abused by a family member, significant other, or other form of an intimate partner. If you are facing abuse from a stranger, coworker, roommate, or another individual you do not have an intimate connection with, you will need to apply for a Sexual Violence Protection Order.

While the Protection From Abuse Act outlines specific procedures for applying for a PFA in Pennsylvania, these types of orders are valid in other states. Under the Violence Against Women Act, which is a federal law, a PFA is valid on all U.S. territories as well as tribal lands. If you receive a PFA from a Pennsylvania court and move out of state, that order is still valid and your abuser must abide by all restrictions.

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What Are the Different Types of Protection from Abuse Orders in Pennsylvania?

Three main types of PFAs exist in in Pennsylvania, and the type of order granted initially will depend on whether or not the judge believes you need protection. Three types of PFAs are:

  1. Ex parte temporary PFA: During regular business hours, victims can petition a Court of Common Pleas for a protection from abuse order. This involves filling out a petition and speaking with a judge. If they approve your petition, you will receive a temporary PFA that lasts until a court hearing, which is required to take place within 10 days. Ex parte orders means that the order only requires a victim to speak with a judge, as opposed to a file order which requires both the victim and abuser appear before a judge.
  2. Emergency order: Outside of normal business hours, a victim may receive a temporary emergency order by calling 911 and contacting a local Magistrate court judge. If they believe that you or your children are in immediate danger, they will grant you an emergency order. This order will last until 5 p.m. on the next day the Court of Common Pleas is open. On that day, if you would like to extend the order, you must go to the courthouse and petition for an ex parte temporary PFA.
  3. Final PFA: During your court hearing, the judge will review both your testimony, the defendant’s (your abuser), any evidence, police reports, and witness statements to determine if you can receive a final order. If approved, the final PFA will go into effect and can last up to three years, with the option to extend it.

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How Does a PFA Work?

Once a PFA is approved by a judge, whether as a temporary or final order, the abuser must abide by specific restrictions or they will be in violation of Pennsylvania laws and can be arrested by the police. If your abuser violates the PFA, contact 911 immediately. The police are required to arrest anyone who violates an order.

Under a protection from abuse orders, the abuser cannot:

  • Contact you and/or your minor children, including visiting your residence, work, or school
  • Harass, follow, harm, or threaten harm against you and/or your children
  • Remain in the same residency as you if the judge grants you the ownership of the home
  • Purchase firearms or purchase or receive additional firearms

Each order is evaluated on a case-by-case basis and you may also receive compensation for any medical injuries and costs you have suffered, as well as temporary custody or financial support.

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Providing Montgomery County Families Relief

Seeking legal protection from an abuser for you and your children can be an overwhelming process, especially considering you must cope with the trauma and devastation of the abuse. The good news is you don't have to do it alone. Pennsylvania orders of protection lawyer Sheryl R. Rentz is committed to protecting the rights of abuse victims and can help you obtain the lawful protection you need. Please call (610) 645-0100 for immediate assistance.

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Frequently Asked Questions About PFAs

Who can petition for a protection from abuse order?

Anyone who is 18-years of age or older or has the legal approval of an adult guardian may request a PFA to protect them from a:

  • Parent
  • Current or former spouse, including domestic and same-sex partners
  • Current or former romantic, sexual, or Intimate partner, including boyfriends and girlfriends
  • Individuals who are related by blood or marriage, including in-laws, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents
  • Child

PFAs are not available to individuals seeking protection from a stranger, coworker, or roommate who is not an intimate partner.

How long does a protection from abuse order last?

Emergency orders last from the moment is it approved to the next day the Court of Common Pleas is open, ending at 5 p.m.

Ex parte temporary orders last until your court hearing, generally within 10 business days.

Final orders can last up to three years with the option for it to be extended.

How fast can I get a protection from abuse order?

If you contact a court for an emergency order outside of business hours, the request can be approved over the phone. However, this order will expire within the next business day at 5 p.m. If you file at a Court of Common Pleas during business hours, you can receive the order within the same day.

Does it apply outside of Pennsylvania?

Yes, PFAs are valid in all 50 states and on tribal lands.

What if my abuser violates the order?

If your abuser violates the user, they are violating Pennsylvania laws and can be arrested and charged with contempt of court according to 23 Pa.C.S. § 6101. According to this statute, penalties include a fine of between $300 to $1,000 and six months in prison.

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