What Is a PFA in Pennsylvania?

by | Jun 23, 2022

A PFA, also known as a Protection From Abuse order, is Pennsylvania’s version of a restraining order under 23 Pa.C.S. § 6101. A judge may sign a PFA if they believe that partner or family member abuse is happening, more likely than not, based on the Petitioner’s evidence. If a PFA is issued, it can legally limit contact by removing the Respondent from the home, requiring they stay away, not communicate, and prevent contact with shared children.

In This Article

Philadelphia PFA defense lawyer, Brad V. Shuttleworth, Esq., shares key details about what a PFA in Pennsylvania is, including who can obtain one, when someone can get a PFA, the different types available, and where you can get legal advice when trying to obtain or defend one.

Who Can Obtain a PFA Order?

Per 23 Pa.C.S. § 6102, a PFA order protects victims from abuse at the hands of family members, domestic partners, and sexual partners. This level of protection extends to victims of domestic violence, as well as those who may not be living with their abusers.

Examples of family members and partners that could obtain a PFA order include:

  • Current spouses
  • Ex-spouses
  • Current intimate partners
  • Former intimate partners
  • Dating relationships
  • Parents
  • Siblings
  • Children
  • Current household members
  • Former household members
  • Other blood-related family

The person filing for the PFA is the Petitioner, and the person it is being filed against is the Respondent. A judge will sign Emergency and Ex Parte PFAs if they believe there is good cause to do so until the issuance or denial of the Final PFA. Ex parte means without your presence.

When Can Someone Get a PFA Order in Pennsylvania?

When the Petitioner asks a judge for a PFA, the court will consider their requests and how they specifically need protection from the Respondent. The judge may or may not grant their request, depending upon the facts of the case.

A Petitioner could get a PFA order in Pennsylvania against another person if they experienced any of the following by the Respondent:

  • Injuries
  • Attempted injuries
  • Fear for their life
  • Being restrained
  • Being stalked
  • Sexual assault
  • Other forms of abuse

The judge will review the evidence to render a decision. Regardless of what role a person plays in the PFA, evidence is necessary either to prove or refute claims. Ensure you preserve as much evidence of the situation as possible before speaking with a lawyer, although they can help you with this aspect in emergency situations.

Examples of the types of evidence you should preserve in a PFA case include:

  • Phone call records
  • Text messages
  • Social-media posts
  • Social-media messages
  • Photographs
  • Police reports
  • Letters
  • Notes

You may not know which evidence may be helpful in your case until you speak with an experienced lawyer, so do not destroy or delete anything.

What Types of PFA Orders Are Available in Pennsylvania?

There are three types of PFAs to know about in PA, which include Emergency, Ex Parte, and Final PFA orders. However, the type that will be used in your case depends on the time issued, whether minor-aged children are involved, and more.

Here is a closer look at the three different types of PFAs below:

Type 1. Emergency Order

An emergency order is used when the courts are closed. If a family member is experiencing abuse during this time, they can contact law enforcement officials to find out who and where a magisterial district judge or other hearing officer is located.

Petitioners in immediate danger can get a PFA without the Respondent present. They only last until the courts reopen, meaning that they will have to go to court and get an Ex Parte PFA at that time.

Type 2. Temporary Ex Parte PFA Order

An Temporary Ex Parte PFA is when the court believes that the petitioner or minor-aged children could face domestic abuse if no intervention takes place. Ex Parte is a term that means the Respondent does not receive notification of the order’s issuance beforehand.

A Temporary Ex Parte PFA will last until the final PFA hearing, scheduled within ten days of Ex Parte issuance. Respondents with deadly weapons will need to relinquish them to law enforcement officials as ordered. They usually turn them into the county or city where the PFA was issued.

Type 3. Final PFA

The final PFA hearing is where both parties will have an opportunity to present evidence, make claims, and testify. A judge will grant the final PFA order if they believe there has been “abuse” as defined in the Act. The Petitioner only needs to prove their case by a preponderance of the evidence, which is basically a more-likely-than-not standard.

Once issued, it can last up to three years, unless it is extended, in certain circumstances.

Related Article: How Do You Defend Against a PFA in PA?

You can get legal advice about PFAs in Pennsylvania by speaking with an experienced and skilled lawyer. They can provide you with the answers you need about your case as it relates to the situation you are experiencing specifically.

At Shuttleworth Law PC, we obtain and defend PFAs, which positions us as a knowledgeable, tenacious, and compassionate legal representative when working on your case. This level of dedication ensures that we recognize merit when we see it and will hold the justice system accountable to the promises made to citizens.

Call Shuttleworth Law PC for a Free Case Evaluation

No one should ever face domestic violence, nor should they ever experience false accusations. Regardless of what you are facing in this moment, Shuttleworth Law PC understands both PFA offense and defense in Pennsylvania and wants to help you get the outcome you deserve.

Call a Philadelphia PFA defense lawyer for a Free Case Evaluation now at (215) 774-1371 or by messaging Brad V. Shuttleworth, Esq. here. We can travel to you or meet by secure video chat if you are unavailable to meet at our Philadelphia office.

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