In the state of Pennsylvania, a restraining order is called a PFA, or Protection From Abuse Order. A PFA is issued to those who are victims of domestic violence. It is a document signed by a judge that instructs the victim’s family or household member, sexual or intimate partner, or person with whom they have a child in common to stop their abusive action. The order can provide protection by keeping the abuser from abusing, harassing or stalking; by removing them from a shared home; by awarding temporary custody or visitation rights of minor children; and by prohibiting them from any contact with you or your minor children. It can also require them to turn in firearms or other weapons, order them to pay financial support of the cost of losses resulting from their abuse, and other reliefs as requested.
The state defines abuse as attempting to cause bodily injury, rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and other types of assault or abuse. The PFA can be issued as an emergency order for those who need immediate protection when the courts are closed; an ex parte temporary order that is based on the information that you provide without the abuser being present in court; and as a final PFA, which is provided after a hearing at which both sides have the opportunity to tell their story, present witnesses, and provide evidence.
To obtain a Protection From Abuse, you start by filing a petition with the Court of Common Pleas in the county where you live or work, or where the abuse took place or where the abuser can be served. If you are asking for an abuser to be removed from your home, the petition must be filed in the county where you live. The filing does not cost any money, and a prothonotary at the courthouse can help you fill out the forms, though they cannot provide legal advice. If you are seeking help after hours an emergency order may be provided by the magisterial district judge on call.
After the restraining order forms are completed and submitted, your petition will be reviewed by a judge who may sign a temporary order that stays in effect until the full hearing. A copy will be served to the abuser by the sheriff, and you are responsible for providing a copy to the sheriff as well as filling out a service form. A hearing will be scheduled within ten business days unless the petition is dismissed, and a judge will make the final decision.
Getting a Protection From Abuse order is an important step for anybody who is the victim of domestic violence. If you need assistance or guidance in the process of getting a restraining order, we can help. Contact us today to set up an appointment.