When you are at risk of harm from your spouse or partner, it’s not only frightening, it could also be deadly. Fortunately, Pennsylvania has options for immediate and long-term protection for victims. Here’s what you need to know about the types and time frames of protection from abuse orders.
A protection from abuse - or “PFA” - order is Pennsylvania’s version of a restraining order. It is a judge’s authorization of civil legal protection for a person in need of protection from violence or threats of violence by a relative, paramour or other close relative. There are three types of abuse orders, each covering a specific time frame, from short to long term:
- An emergency order offers immediate protection on weekends, late nights or holidays when the courts are closed. It only lasts until the next business day when the courts reopen. To get an emergency order, contact the police. They will connect you with the magisterial district judge on call. If the judge agrees you are in immediate danger, he or she will grant the order. You will then need to go to court the next day to request what is referred to as an ex parte temporary PFA.
- An ex parte temporary PFA order is a temporary court order that lasts until a full court hearing can be scheduled within 10 business days of the initial filing. A judge grants this order if he or she thinks you or your minor children are in danger of abuse. The abuser does not have to be present at the initial hearing and isn’t notified beforehand. If the abuser has a gun or other weapon, the judge may order it be turned over to law enforcement.
- A final PFA order is issued only by agreement of the parties or by a judge’s finding after a full court hearing at which the party who filed the action must present evidence to substantiate the need for a final order. This type of order lasts up to three years and can be extended if it is found to have been violated during its duration.
A PFA order can remove the abuser from your home, even if he or she is the only titled owner. It can also prohibit the abuser from having any contact with you or your children, and to pay financial support, including medical bills, health insurance and rent or mortgage payments. A final PFA order requires an abuser to give up any firearms and license, and stop harassing, stalking, threatening or abusing you or your minor children in any way.
A common concern is that a PFA order has been sought in bad faith in an attempt to manipulate the custody of a child. These are delicate situations for those falsely accused, and time is of the essence given the tight time frames involved.
There are other important considerations, such as if the abuser lives in another county or state. To help navigate what can be a complicated process, consult an experienced protection from abuse attorney in Pennsylvania who knows how to navigate the courts and fulfill the requirements to get you the legal protection you need. We can help. Contact us at 215-340-2207 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.