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Victims of domestic violence deserve protection from their abusers. In Pennsylvania, protection from abuse order (PFA) is a civil remedy that prohibits an alleged abuser from communicating with and harassing or stalking another party. Whether you have been served with a PFA or you’re a victim of domestic violence, understanding the three types of PFAs in Pennsylvania is critical.

1. Emergency PFA

When courts are closed after hours or on a weekend or holiday, it’s possible to get a temporary PFA by contacting your local police department. They can direct you to the magisterial district judge that handles emergency PFAs in your jurisdiction. If the judge determines that you’re in immediate danger, they may grant emergency protection from abuse order. This type of order typically only lasts until the appropriate court is open where you can file for a temporary PFA.

It’s important to keep in mind that if you do not apply for an ex parte PFA on the business day when the court opens, the emergency order expires. Lawyers for domestic violence victims can help you navigate the process and provide the legal support you need.

2. Ex Parte Temporary PFA

In legal terms, ex parte means that an order can be granted to the person who requested it without requiring a response from the other side. When you file for a PFA, the judge will likely give you a temporary PFA if they believe you or your children are in danger and need immediate protection.

Temporary protection from abuse order will be in effect until your hearing for a final PFA, which is typically scheduled within 10 business days. At the hearing, both you and your alleged abuser have the right to testify and present evidence.  If you’ve been served with a PFA and want to fight it, a defense lawyer can help you prepare for the final PFA hearing and represent you in court.

3. Final PFA

At the final PFA hearing, both sides may present evidence, testimony, and witnesses to back up their claims, and then a judge decides whether a final PFA is granted. A final protection from abuse order can last up to three years and may be extended in certain circumstances, such as if an abuser harms you again or behaves in other ways that demonstrate a continued risk of harm while the final PFA is in place.

Who Can Get a PFA in Pennsylvania?

In Pennsylvania, only certain households or family members may request a Protection from abuse order. This includes a spouse, intimate partner, sibling, parent or child, another family member related by blood or marriage, or someone with whom you have a child. If you’re a victim of sexual violence or intimidation by someone other than a partner or family member, a sexual abuse lawyer can help you obtain a different kind of protective order, such as a sexual violence or intimidation protection order.

Regardless of whether you’ve been abused or need legal representation because you’ve been accused of abuse, our team of domestic violence lawyers, criminal defense attorneys, and sex crimes attorneys can help.