Protection From Abuse (PFA) and Domestic Abuse
A protection from abuse order is a civil order that provides protection from harm by family or household members, sexual or intimate partners or persons who you have a child in common with.
In PA, there are a few different types of protection from abuse orders (“PFA”). The type of PFA you may initially get depends on whether the judge believes you need protection or not.
WHAT IS ABUSE?
Under the Protection From Abuse Act, abuse is defined as any of the following:
- Attempting to, intentionally or recklessly causing bodily injury, rape, spousal sexual assault or unconsentual intercourse with or without a deadly weapon.
- Placing another, by physical threat, in fear of imminent serious bodily injury.
- False imprisonment.
- Physically or sexually abusing minor children.
- Stalking a person and placing that person in reasonable fear of bodily injury.
What types of PFA’s are available and How Long Do They Last?
If you need immediate protection when the courts are closed (such as on a weekend, late night or holiday), you can call your local police department or 911. They will tell you which magisterial district judge is on-call that night, and provide you with the telephone number where you can reach her or him. If the judge thinks you are in immediate danger, they may grant you an emergency order. An emergency order will only last until the next business day. An emergency order is designed to give you protection until a court opens and you have a chance to ask for an ex parte temporary PFA. If you do not go to court on the next business day to apply for an ex parte temporary PFA, your emergency order will expire.
When you ask the court for a PFA, a judge will give you a temporary PFA if they find that you or your minor children are in danger of further domestic abuse and need immediate protection. Typically, the judge will make this decision based only on the information you provide, without the abuser being in court. This temporary order will last until your full court hearing for the final PFA where the abuser has an opportunity to testify and present evidence. A hearing is usually scheduled within 10 business days. If the abuser has a gun or weapon, be sure to tell this to the judge when applying for your ex parte temporary PFA so that the judge can order the weapon to be immediately turned over to the sheriff.
After a hearing in which you both have an opportunity to tell your side of the story through your testimony, evidence, and witnesses, a judge can grant you a final protection from abuse order (PFA). A final PFA lasts up to 3 years and can be extended under certain circumstances.