Many Pennsylvania households are annually affected by domestic violence. Victims are sometimes forced to flee from their homes to escape from abuse only to see their abuser's violence escalate.
Pennsylvania domestic violence law provides abused people the option to seek a Protection from Abuse Order against their abuser. A PFA may help prevent a person accused of certain types of abuse from continuing to harm their victims or from threatening to do so.
People who are victims of physical abuse, sexual assault, stalking or false imprisonment may be eligible to file a PFA against the person who harmed them. In addition, the parent or guardian of a minor child who was sexually or physically abused may be able to seek a PFA on the child's behalf. People can file a PFA when the person abusing them is a current or ex-spouse, an intimate partner, a parent or a child. People whose abusers do not share these relationships with them cannot seek a PFA but may be able to file criminal charges.
It does not cost money to file a PFA. People can generally expect to see a judge the day they apply. Judges can grant temporary protective orders, effective for 10 days or until the hearing for the final order, if they believe the applicant is in immediate danger. The temporary order prohibits accused abusers from any contact with their victims. Magisterial district justices, who may grant a temporary protective order, are typically available after business hours.
While courthouse staff will generally help victims with their petition for a Protection from Abuse Order, some victims find that they benefit from consulting an attorney. An experienced attorney may be able to help the person build their case by compiling photos, recorded messages and other evidence of abuse.
Source: PALawHelp.org, "Protection from Abuse Orders", November 19, 2014