What is a Protection From Abuse Order?
In Pennsylvania, a victim of domestic violence can file for a Protection From Abuse (PFA) Order. A PFA is also known as a "stay away" order or a "restraining order." It prohibits an abuser (the Defendant) from having any contact with the person who files the petition (the Plaintiff). The order will prohibit any type of contact by the Defendant, including letters, phone calls, and electronic communication.
A court can issue a PFA order if the Plaintiff was a victim of actual physical violence, or if the Defendant attempted to cause bodily injury, or if the Plaintiff was put in reasonable fear of imminent bodily injury by the Defendant ( See 23 Pa.C.S. 6102).
A Protection From Abuse Petition can be filed against the Plaintiff's spouse, a current or former intimate partner, or any family or household member. The Plaintiff may file a PFA petition for his/herself, or on behalf of another family member, including minor children.
Usually a court will issue a Temporary PFA Order, which will last until a hearing can be held. After the hearing, the court may issue a Final PFA Order, which will be in effect for up to three years.
A Final PFA Order will appear on the Defendants permanent public record as a "finding of abuse." The entry of a temporary PFA Order can be expunged if a Final PFA Order is never entered.
In addition to prohibiting contact, a Protection From Abuse order can also include one or more of the following provisions:
- Eviction of the Defendant from their residence, if it is shared with the Plaintiff.
- A temporary custody order, granting custody of minor children to the Plaintiff, denying custody or visitation by Defendant, and/or requiring supervision during visits.
- An order for child support.
- An order for the Defendant to relinquish firearms, ammunition, and other weapons during the duration of the PFA order.
- An order for the Defendant to pay all court costs for the PFA action.