If you or your children are being hurt by a family member, household member, current or former sexual or intimate partner or a person you had a child with, you may be able to get a Protection From Abuse Order (PFA) to help keep you safe.
A PFA is a court order issued by a judge that can provide you protection from someone who is abusing you. An individual who is 18 years of age or more, or teens/children who are accompanied by a parent, an adult household member, or a guardian ad litem can go to court and ask for protection from the person who is abusing them.
You may also be able to get assistance with filing a PFA, counseling, legal, medical or financial assistance or safety planning from an advocate in a domestic violence program in your county, all services are confidential. If you want to contact a domestic violence program in your county you may click on victim service programs, which will take you to a Pennsylvania map that shows the domestic violence programs in each county and a list of the services provided.
If you are in an abusive relationship, you may want to talk to an advocate at a domestic violence program. The advocate will be able to talk to you about your options. They can provide information about submitting a claim with the Victims Compensation Assistance Program, if you have incurred any out of pocket losses as a result of the abuse. For example, you may be eligible for financial assistance if you were injured and have bills because you needed medical treatment, have counseling expenses, received dental treatment, or request loss of earnings if you missed work because of the abuse. There are eligibility requirements that you must meet and other benefits that may be available to you. The advocate can also talk to you about your option of talking to an attorney. There are a few domestic violence programs that have attorneys on staff.
If you decide to file for a PFA, you will need to file a petition. The process for filing a petition can be different in each county. If you contact a local domestic violence program the advocate will explain how the process works in that county.
In some counties you can file a petition for a PFA online, while in other counties you will need to file at the courthouse. If you need to go to the courthouse, you can ask your advocate to go with you to file the petition. If you do not have an advocate from a domestic violence program, you can request assistance from the Prothonotary Office or the Victim/Witness Coordinator in the District Attorney’s Office. You will need to explain in the petition what the abuser did to you or your child. It is not necessary for you to have an attorney but you can talk to your advocate about what an attorney can do for you. You do not need to pay for filing a PFA. The county judge will read your petition and may give you a ‘temporary order.’ In Pennsylvania, a full hearing is scheduled within 10 business days after you file your petition, even if you are not granted a temporary order.
You will need to attend the full hearing and you will likely need to testify in court to tell the judge why you need protection from the abuser. The abuser will also have the opportunity to testify. At the end of the hearing, the judge will make a decision, based on what was presented at the hearing, on whether to give you a PFA or not and will also decide how long the PFA will be in place. A PFA can be granted up to three years.
Services provided by a domestic violence program are free and confidential and may include the following:
• Assistance in filing compensation claims
• Crisis Counseling
• Emergency Financial Assistance
• Referrals for additional resources
• Shelters or Safe House
• Support Groups
If you are concerned about leaving the abusive relationship because of your pet, you can go on line for information in finding a safe place for your pet at Online Directory of Safe Havens for Animals Programs or you can talk to an advocate about other local resources.
You may also contact the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence for information about services available to you in your local area by calling toll-free at (800) 932-4632 or visiting PCADV’s website at www.pcadv.org.