What is a Protection from Abuse Order in Pennsylvania?

Feb 16, 2024 | Family Law

Thomas M. Clark, Esq., (717) 221-7952, tclark@tuckerlaw.com

If your client is facing issues of abuse or domestic violence, you may be able to obtain a Protection from Abuse Order. Most jurisdictions allow a person to have a PFA drafted and presented to a judge for consideration very quickly.

Who is protected? Spouses or persons who have been spouses, persons living as spouses or who lived as spouses, parents and children, other persons related by consanguinity or affinity, current or former sexual or intimate partners, or persons who share biological parenthood.

What is abuse (§ 6102(a))?

  • Attempting to cause or intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causing bodily injury, serious bodily injury, rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, sexual assault, statutory sexual assault, aggravated indecent assault, indecent assault, or incest with or without a deadly weapon.
  • Placing another in reasonable fear of imminent serious bodily injury.
  • The infliction of false imprisonment pursuant to 18 Pa.C.S. § 2903 (relating to false imprisonment).
  • Physically or sexually abusing minor children, including such terms as defined in Chapter 63 (relating to child protective services).
  • Knowingly engaging in a course of conduct or repeatedly committing acts toward another person, including following the person, without proper authority, under circumstances which place the person in reasonable fear of bodily injury. The definition of this paragraph applies only to proceedings commenced under this title and is inapplicable to any criminal prosecutions commenced under Title 18 (relating to crimes and offenses).
  • If it is determined that the Petitioner is in immediate danger, the Court may grant a temporary PFA Order.
  • If a temporary PFA Order is entered, the Court shall schedule a final PFA Hearing within ten (10) business days.

The Final PFA Hearing

Within ten business days a hearing shall be held before the court, at which the plaintiff must prove the allegation of abuse by a preponderance of the evidence.

A final PFA can last up to three (3) years and can be extended under certain circumstances.

Final relief that may be granted (§ 6108).

  • Direct defendant to refrain from abusing plaintiff or minor children.
  • Grant possession to the plaintiff of the residence (evicting the defendant or restoring possession to the plaintiff if the residence or household is jointly owned or leased by the parties).
  • If the defendant has a duty to support the plaintiff or minor child living in the residence and the defendant is the sole owner or lessee, granting possession to the plaintiff of the residence or, with the consent of the plaintiff, ordering the defendant to provide suitable alternate housing.
  • Awarding temporary custody (the court shall consider any risk posed by the defendant to the children as well as risk to the plaintiff). The following shall apply:
    • A defendant shall not be granted custody if defendant:
      • Abused the minor children or poses a risk of abuse.
      • Has been convicted of violating 18 Pa.C.S. § 2904 (relating to interference with custody of children) within two calendar years prior to the filing of the petition for protection order or that the defendant poses a risk of violating 18 Pa.C.S. § 2904.
        • Where the court finds after a hearing under this chapter that the defendant has inflicted abuse upon the plaintiff or a child, the court may require supervised custody.
        • Where the court finds after a hearing that the defendant has inflicted serious abuse upon the plaintiff or a child or poses a risk of abuse toward the plaintiff or a child, the court may:
          • Award supervised visitation in a secure visitation facility.
          • Deny the defendant custodial access to a child.
          • After a hearing, the court can direct the defendant to pay financial support to those persons the defendant has a duty to support.

The court can prohibit the defendant from entering the place of employment or business or school of the plaintiff or minor children.

For additional information, please contact Thomas Clark at tclark@tuckerlaw.com or at (717) 221-7952.

Related Blogs