There are three types of civil protection orders:
- Protection from Abuse Order (PFA)
- Protection from Sexual Violence Order (SPVO)
- Protection from Intimidation (PFI)
These orders are meant to help keep victims safe. A judge will sign the order to stop the abuser from contacting and abusing the victim and may also provide other forms of relief, including custody, relinquishment of firearms, and/or eviction of the abuser, that help assure victim safety and security. A victim can file for a protection order at any time. To obtain a civil protection order you must file the appropriate forms with the Prothonotary’s office in the county where you live or work, or any county where the person who abused you can be served or where the abuse happened. If you are going to ask the judge to remove the person from the home, you must file the petition in the county where the home is located.
Protection from Abuse Order (PFA)
This type of order can be requested if you have a specific family or household relationship. These relationships include husband or ex-husband, wife or ex-wife, a person who lives or lived with you as a spouse, a brother or sister, a parent or child, a family member related to you by blood or marriage, a current or former sexual intimate partner, or someone you have a child in common with. There are no fees associated with filing for a PFA. After you file the completed forms with the Prothonotary, you will see the judge. The judge will review the Petition and either grant a temporary protection order or deny it. After you see the judge you will be given a date within ten days to return to the court for a final hearing and the defendant will be served with a copy of the PFA order. If you have been granted a temporary PFA, it will protect you until the time of the final hearing. When you return to court you will need to be prepared to describe why you need a full PFA. The defendant may be present at the final hearing. The defendant can agree to the PFA in which case the judge will issue a Consent Order. If the defendant does not agree, there will be a hearing. After the judge hears from the parties, the judge will either grant a final PFA or deny it. If granted, a PFA can be valid for up to three years.
Protection from Sexual Violence Order (SVPO)
A Protection from Sexual Violence Order can be requested if you do not have a specific family or household relationship with the defendant. You can obtain a SVPO if you are a victim of sexual violence. Similar to a PFA, you will fill out the forms for a SVPO, give them to the Prothonotary, and then see the judge. Just like a PFA, the judge will review the Petition and either grant a temporary SVPO or deny it. Again, after you see the judge you will be given a date within ten days to return to the court for a final hearing and the defendant will be served with a copy of the SVPO. You must assert to the court that you are a victim of sexual violence committed by the defendant, who is not a family or household member. You don’t have to seek criminal charges or be successful with criminal prosecution of the defendant’s actions to receive a SVPO.
Protection from Intimidation (PFI) Order
Similar to the SVPO, a PFI can be requested if you do not have a specific family or household relationship with the defendant. However, in order to request a PFI Order, you must be under the age of 18, and the defendant must be over the age of 18. The process you must follow to obtain a PFI Order is identical to the process for obtaining a SVPO. You must assert that you are victim of either harassment or stalking by the defendant. Like a SVPO, you don’t need to seek, or be successful with, criminal prosecution of the defendant’s actions to receive a PFI Order.
PFA, SVPO and PFI orders are the most immediate forms of relief for many victims of abuse. For more information and guidance, please contact one of our attorneys. If you are in immediate danger, please call 911.