A protection from abuse (PFA) order is implemented by a judge to formally prohibit further acts such as domestic violence and harassment. In 2018, there were an estimated 47,861 temporary PFA orders processed in the Pennsylvania courts. This reflects an increase of more than 18% over the prior year. Dauphin County processed approximately 328 of these orders during that year.
How to Obtain a PFA Order
Those who have been victims of abuse may petition for a PFA in several ways. During court hours, this process can be completed at the Domestic Relations Office or Children's Court PFA Department within the Dauphin County Court of Common Pleas. If the court is closed, your local police department can assist you or you can contact the Dauphin County Victim Witness Program.
Who is Eligible for a PFA?
A PFA petition generally applies to any of the following parties:
- Abuse involving a spouse or former spouse
- Among people who were or currently are involved in a dating relationship or sexual or intimate partnership
- Relatives or other household members including parents, brothers, sisters or children
Defining Abuse in Pennsylvania
Abuse involves acts that are committed with intent. These actions may result from attempting to cause harm or creating an environment where the alleged victim could reasonably fear they could be harmed. The acts may include bodily harm, rape or sexual assault, incest, and more. Abuse may involve falsely imprisoning a victim or abusing children physically or sexually.
Initial Petition and Temporary Order
An alleged victim of abuse may submit a petition for a judge to consider. A parent or guardian may submit a petition on behalf of a minor when needed. If the judge determines that it is reasonable to believe that the victim(s) are in danger, then a temporary order will be implemented. The temporary order is put in place and the alleged abuser will be served with a copy of the PFA.
The temporary order will also include a requirement that the parties appear for a hearing within 10 business days. Parties should consider retaining legal counsel before the hearing. Your lawyer should be familiar with this area of legal practice.
All parties are allowed to present evidence and question witnesses. The petitioner (the alleged victim) must prove that the allegations of abuse have merit by the preponderance of the evidence. The court may then establish a final or permanent PFA based on its findings.
PFA Conditions and Requirements
A PFA will always require the abuser to commit no further acts of abuse and prohibits contact. The court may enter provisions that protect any minor children when applicable. This may involve living arrangements, child custody, visitation schedules, financial support, and more. The abuser may be required to relinquish any firearms or other weapons that they own or possess.
A statewide PFA registry is accessible for members of law enforcement. The abuser may be arrested when there is reasonable cause to believe that any conditions of a PFA were violated.
Experienced Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Lawyer
If you were served with a PFA it is important to consult with an attorney. Those who are subject to a PFA may have difficulties with background checks for employment, be prohibited from owning a firearm, and other adverse consequences. The Lento Law Firm provides clients with a comprehensive defense strategy and will ensure your legal rights are protected. For a consultation, contact the office at (888) 535-3686.