What is a Protection from Abuse Order?

PFAs in Pennsylvania

A Protection from Abuse Order, otherwise known as a PFA, is a court order that can protect you or a minor child from being abused, harassed, threatened or stalked, as well as award money for losses that occurred because of the abuse. There are two types of PFA’s, a temporary PFA and a final PFA, discussed in more detail below.

What is abuse?

The PFA Act defines abuse as when a family or household member, or sexual or intimate partner: causes or attempts to cause bodily injury, sexual assault and/or rape, or incest; places you or a minor child in fear of immediate bodily harm; falsely imprisons you or a minor child; or repeatedly commits acts, including following, you or a minor child without permission.

What specific protections does a PFA provide?

A PFA can direct an abuser to stop abusing or threatening you and can direct an abuser to stay away from your residence, work or school. The abuser may also have any guns or weapons seized from their possession, and require the abuser to attend a domestic violence counseling program. A PFA can also grant custody of minor children. You can read more about PFA protections here.

What is the difference between a temporary PFA and a final PFA?

A temporary PFA and final PFA largely provide the same protections, but are obtained in different ways. With a temporary PFA, you file a petition at your local courthouse or domestic violence center, and if a judge thinks you may have a case, you will have a hearing. Only you and any witnesses you may have will testify as to the alleged abuse at the hearing. If the judge thinks there has been abuse and that you are in immediate danger of abuse, the judge can grant a temporary PFA that lasts for a maximum of 10 days.

At a final PFA hearing, you are able to be represented by an attorney. A final PFA can be obtained one of two ways. First, after a temporary PFA expires, there will be a hearing to determine whether you need a final PFA. The other way to have a final PFA hearing is by agreement of the parties. The alleged abuser can also be present, with counsel, and both sides are able to present evidence and witnesses. A final PFA can last for up to 3 years.

What happens if a PFA order is violated?

If an abuser violates an order by harming you or threatening your safety, the abuser can be arrested and found in contempt of the order. This can result in the abuser being jailed for up to 6 months, as well as incurring a $1,000 fine.

If you are in Central Pennsylvania and think you may need to obtain a PFA, contact us to discuss your concerns.