Protection from Abuse Orders (PFA)
- What is a PFA?
- What is abuse under the PFA Act?
- Who can get a PFA?
- What can a PFA prohibit?
- What are the 3 stages of a PFA?
- When do you call for assistance to get a PFA?
- What are the steps to get a PFA?
- Violation of a PFA Order = Indirect Criminal Contempt
- What is an indirect criminal contempt?
- If a violation occurs, what should the victim do?
- Why is it necessary to contact or go to the District Attorney's Office?
- Sources of immediate assistance
Under the Protection From Abuse Act, abuse is defined as physical abuse, a threat which places you in immediate fear of physical injury, or a pattern of conduct (such as stalking) which places you in immediate fear of physical injury.
In order to petition for a PFA, you must be, or have been, in a relationship with or a family member of the person against whom you want to file.
Act 25 of 2014, effective July 1, 2015, created a new chapter of Title 42 entitled, Protection of Victims of Sexual Violence or Intimidation. Victims of sexual violence and intimidation who do not have a family or household member relationship with the defendant are eligible to petition for Protection from Sexual Violence and or Intimidation. For additional information, please refer to the "Protection of Victims of Sexual Violence or Intimidation" section of The Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania's website.
A protection Order can do the following:
- Prohibit abusive conduct
- Remove the abuser from your residence
- Other provisions which the Judge deems appropriate
Emergency Order - Usually issued by District Justice after 3:00 PM on business day or when Court of Common Pleas is closed. It is typically in effect until the next business day at the Court of Common Pleas.
Temporary Order - Issued by Court of Common Pleas or District Justice and is in effect until the hearing for a Permanent PFA is held.
Permanent Order - Issued for a number of months based on a hearing before Court of Common Pleas. The hearing date is scheduled when you receive the temporary PFA.
To obtain information on filing for a PFA and, with few exceptions, free legal representation throughout the process, you can contact the Domestic Abuse Project at (610) 565-4590 or go the their office (see map) before 10:30 AM Monday through Friday for same day Court appearance. After 10:30 AM, assistance will be provided for next day Court appearance. If you wish to file on your own (Pro Se) you may go to the Office of Judicial Support (see map) in the Media Courthouse or seek private legal counsel. If you qualify, Delaware County Legal Assistance provides free representation at hearing for permanent Orders.
Their services are not available for temporary Orders. Delaware County Legal Assistance Program can be contacted at (610) 874-8421.
To file, you must:
- Complete a petition for a temporary PFA at Domestic Abuse Project or Office of Judicial Support.
- File the petition.
- Proceed to the Office of the Court Administrator (see map) so the petition can be taken before a Judge.
- Take copies of the PFA Order (temporary and permanent) to your local Police or Sheriff's Department for service.
- Attend a hearing for a permanent PFA.
Please remember that obtaining a Temporary Protection Order may require several hours to accomplish. The time needed is entirely dependant upon availability of the Judge. In addition, you will also need to be available for several hours or perhaps all day to appear in Court on the date of your hearing for a Permanent Protection Order. You should make suitable arrangements with your employer and child care provider.
An indirect criminal contempt is a violation of one or more of the non-economic conditions placed on the defendant by an existing emergency, temporary or permanent Protection From Abuse Order.
The victim should call the police immediately. Based on the type of violation and evidence, the police will either file a complaint with the District Justice or advise the victim of the right to file a private complaint. If the police file a complaint, the petition will proceed based on the police filing. The victim should contact the District Attorney's Office at (610) 891-4811. To file a private indirect criminal contempt complaint, the victim must complete a petition and have an interview at the District Attorney's Office in Media Monday through Friday between the hours of 8:30 AM and 3:00 PM.
The victim will be interviewed by an Assistant District Attorney. During the process, your case preparation is begun. You will also be advised about future Court dates. The District Attorney's Office will complete the filing of the petition with the District Court.
In any emergency, call 911. The police will assist you and provide information on how to get an emergency PFA and will file a report.
For assistance to petition for a PFA and counseling assistance:
Domestic Abuse Project of Delaware County
14 West Second Street Media, PA 19063
610-565-4590 (24 hour hotline for victims)
Delaware County Legal Assistance Program (Permanent Order only)
410 Welsh Street Chester, PA 19013
For assistance when a PFA is violated:
201 West Front Street Media, PA 19063
For legal representation in related family matters referral:
Front & Lemon Streets Media, PA 19063
Batterer Counseling Centers
Rosetree Counseling Center