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Protection From Abuse (PFA) Orders

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What is a PFA Order?

Pennsylvania offers a Protection from Abuse order (PFA) which provides legal protection for victims of domestic violence, stalking, sexual assault, or threats of bodily harm by prohibiting the abuser from engaging in certain actions. They are issued by a judge and tell the abuser to stop or they will face severe legal consequences.

A PFA order can provide a variety of protections, including but not limited to:

  • No Contact: Prohibiting the abuser from contacting the victim, either directly or indirectly, including through phone, email, social media, or through third parties.
  • Stay Away: Ordering the abuser to stay away from the victim’s home, place of work, school, or other locations where the victim frequently visits.
  • Eviction: Requiring the abuser to vacate a shared residence.
  • Custody: Temporarily awarding custody of or establishing temporary visitation rights for any children involved.
  • Financial Support: Requiring the abuser to provide financial support to the victim or their children, including contributions to rent, mortgage, or medical expenses.
  • Firearm Surrender: Mandating the abuser to surrender any firearms they possess and prohibiting them from acquiring new ones.

Types of PFA Orders

  • Temporary (Ex Parte) PFA Order: Issued without the abuser present, based solely on the victim’s testimony and evidence. This order is typically granted on the day the petition is filed and remains in effect until the final hearing.
  • Final PFA Order: Issued after a court hearing where both the victim and the abuser have the opportunity to present their cases. A final PFA can last up to three years.

Who Can File?

Victims of domestic violence, including current or former intimate partners, family members, and people who share biological parenthood, can file for a PFA. It is not necessary for the parties to be married.

Step-by-Step Instructions for Obtaining a PFA in Pennsylvania

  1. File a Petition: The first step is to file a petition for a Protection From Abuse order at the courthouse. You need to go to the family court in the county where you live, where the abuser lives, or where the abuse happened.
  2. Complete the Required Forms: You’ll be required to fill out forms detailing the abuse. These forms ask for specific incidents of abuse, including dates and descriptions. It’s important to provide as much detail as possible.
  3. Temporary PFA Order: Once the petition is filed, a judge may grant a temporary PFA order based on the information provided in the petition. This order is typically granted the same day and is in effect until the final hearing, which is usually scheduled within 10 days.
  4. Service of the Order: The abuser must be served with the temporary PFA order and notice of the final hearing. The county sheriff’s department usually handles this.
  5. Prepare for the Hearing: Gather evidence and documentation of the abuse, such as photographs, medical records, police reports, threatening messages, or witness statements.
  6. Final Hearing: Both you and the abuser will have the opportunity to present your case in court. You may bring a lawyer, although it’s not required.

Required Documentation

  • Evidence of Abuse: This includes medical reports, police reports, photographs of injuries, threatening emails, texts, voicemails, and witness statements.
  • Personal Identification: Bring a photo ID for yourself.
  • Information about the Abuser: Any information that can help identify the abuser, like their address, phone number, place of employment, and physical description.

What to Expect During Court Proceedings

  • Temporary PFA Hearing: This is usually brief and may occur without the abuser present. The judge will ask you to explain why you need protection based on the incidents described in your petition.
  • Final PFA Hearing: This is more formal and both parties are expected to be present. You’ll need to present your evidence and possibly testify about the abuse. The abuser has the right to defend themselves, which might include cross-examining you.
  • Judge’s Decision: After hearing both sides, the judge will decide whether to grant a final PFA order. If granted, the order can last up to three years and can include provisions like no contact with the abuser, eviction of the abuser from your home, temporary custody of children, and financial support.


It’s highly recommended to seek legal advice or assistance from local domestic violence organizations when pursuing a PFA order. They can provide support, guidance, and possibly legal representation. Remember, the process can vary slightly by county, so it’s also a good idea to check any specific requirements in your local court.

PFA Attorney Legal Services

We have handled and litigated numerous abuse cases which involve physical abuse or allegations of abuse involving clients and their children. We ensure that their main goal is to protect the rights and safety of their clients.


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