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Protection From Abuse (PFA) FAQS

 What is abuse?

  • Causing, trying to cause or threatening to cause physical harm
  • Rape or sexual assault
  • Putting someone in reasonable fear of immediate and serious harm
  • Stalking or performing acts that would put someone in fear of harm
  • Kidnapping or extreme control

 Who may file for a PFA?

  • Adult household members or an adult who is a guardian of a minor child OR
  • You must have one of the following relationships to the abuser:
    1. Related by marriage (spouse, in-laws, etc)
    2. Related by bloodline (parents, children, cousins, etc)
    3. Biological parents of a child
    4. Current or past "intimate" partners (sexual and/or dating)

 How do I get protection?

  • If the abuse occurs on a weekend you may get an Emergency PFA Order at your local magistrate.
    • Emergency PFA Orders last until Monday morning
    • You should then file for a Temporary PFA Order
  • If the abuse occurs during the week you may file for a Temporary PFA Order at your courthouse typically  at 8:30am.
    • This Order will only last until the hearing date set by the court where both sides may present evidence to a Judge
    • The hearing will take place within 10 business days of the issuance of the Temporary PFA Order

 How is the Abuser notified of the Protection Order?

  • Both Emergency and Temporary Orders are issued without the abuser present.
  • The police will serve Defendent with a notice of the hearing or someone over the age of 18 may serve the abuser as long as they sign an affidavit of service afterwards and bring it to the final hearing.

 What should I expect at the hearing?

  • As long as the Defendent (i.e the alleged abuser) is properly served either a settlement or a hearing will take place. If the Defendant is not properly served you can expect a continuance until service is made
  • If the Defendant does not appear (after being properly served) a default judgement may be entered by the Judge (this is a final order that can last up to three years)
  • If the Plaintiff (i.e. the person who filed for the PFA) does not appear the case will be dismissed and the protection will cease

 What protection can the Court order with a PFA?

  • Order the abuse to stop
  • Evict the abuser from the house
  • Arrange a way for the abuser to get his/her personal belongings out of the home
  • Establish custody, partial custody and visitation rights
  • Order the abuse to pay support. This can include health insurance coverage, rent, mortgage payments, etc. For child support you should file a seperate case with domestics
  • Order the abuser to stay away from your place of work, schooling, and residence
  • Order the abuser to stop harassing, stalking, or contacting you (this includes in person, over the phone, letters and social media)
  • Order the abuser to relinquish weapons, ammunition, and any firearms. This includes any licenses for fire arms or carrying permits
  • Order the abuser to pay financial losses or damages

 How long can a PFA last?

  • Emergency Orders only last for the weekend they are issued
  • Temporary orders last up to 10 days, within which time the Judge schedules a hearing
  • Continued Temporary Orders (settlements) and Final Orders can last anywhere from one day to three years
  • A judge can extend any of these orders if they feel you are still at risk or if the Defendant violates the order

 What happens if a Defendant violates the PFA Order?

  • You must report any violation immediately to your local police or magistrate.
  • If there is enough evidence that the Defendant might have violated the PFA they will notify the court and a hearing will be scheduled.
  • A hearing will take place place in front of a Judge who will determine if the PFA was violated and if so, how the Defendant will be punished.
    • The Judge can Order the following:
      • An Extension of the PFA Order
      • A fine up to $1,000.00
      • Up to six months in jail

Allegheny County PFA Procedures:

  • Go to the Allegheny County Family and Juvenile Court facility at 440 Ross St., Pittsburgh Room 3030 between 8:30am and 11:00am on weekdays.
  • Persons wanting to file a PFA should arrive as early as possible
  • Both a legal advocate from the Women's Center and Shelter and a family law attorney from Neighborhood Legal Services will be on-site at the Family Court's Safe Families Recourse Center to assist and provide information

HOW TO APPLY FOR A TEMPORARY PFA ORDER AT FAMILY COURT – explains the times, location and procedures for filing a PFA in Allegheny County.

EMERGENCY PFA INFORMATION – explains how and where to obtain an after-hours (after 11:00 am), overnight/weekend Emergency PFA order from an MDJ.

 Beaver County PFA Procedures:

  • Go to the Beaver County Court House, 810 3rd St, Beaver, second floor, Court Administrator's office between 8:30 am and 9:00 am weekdays
  • Court personnel will then provide you with forms as well as clerical (but not legal) assistance necessary to help you petition the Court on your own behalf and/or on behalf of your minor children.
  • Additionally, an advocate from the Women's Center of Beaver County is usually on hand to guide petitioners through the process and to answer questions about domestic violence.
  • After you are granted your Temporary Order you may call our offices for assistance

 Butler County PFA Procedures:

  • Go to the Butler County Courthouse, 124 W Diamond St, Butler. The PFA Office is located in the Domestic Relations Section, Level L between 8:30am and 10:30am weekdays.
  • Petitions will be presented to the Family Court Judge at approximately 11:30am, you should plan to be there the entire morning.
  • VOICE Advocates will be present if you have any questions about domestic violence or the PFA process
  • After you are granted your Temporary Order you may call our offices for assistance

 Lawrence County PFA Procedures:

  • Go to the Lawrence County Courthouse, 430 Court Street, New Castle. The PFA Coordinator/ Lawyer Referral is part of the Court Administration and is responsible for the processing of all Protection From Abuse Petitions between the hours of 8:00am - 11:00am and 1:00pm-3:00pm.
  • The county PFA Coordinator, Charlene Marcri can be reached at (724) 656-1921 with any questions
  • Arise Shelter advocates are available to discuss the process and domestic violence. They also can be reached at (724) 652-9036
  • After you are granted your Temporary Order you may call our offices for assistance.
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