About protection orders
A protection order is a powerful tool to help keep victims safe. It can stop the abuser from contacting and abusing the victim. The order can include other protections as well, such as custody, relinquishment of firearms, and/or eviction of the abuser.
For many victims of abuse, protection orders are the most immediate forms of relief. A victim can file for a protection order at any time.
Filing for a protection order
To obtain a civil protection order, file the appropriate forms with the Prothonotary’s office in the county where you live or work, in the county where the abuse happened, or in any county where the person who abused you can be served.
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.
Types of protection orders
Protection from Abuse Order (PFA)
You can request this type of protection order if you have a specific family or household relationship with the person you’re seeking protection from. These relationships include: spouse or ex-spouse, parent or child, sibling, a family member related to you by blood or marriage, a person who lives or lived with you as a spouse, a current or former intimate partner, or someone you have a child with.
It does not cost anything to file a PFA. After you file the completed forms with the Prothonotary, you will have a short hearing with the judge. The judge will review the petition and either grant a temporary protection order or deny it. If you have been granted a temporary PFA, it will protect you until the final hearing. The court will usually schedule a final hearing within 10 days. The defendant will be served with a copy of the temporary PFA.
When you return to court for the final hearing, be prepared to describe why you need a full PFA. You will want to bring any evidence or witnesses that may help with your case. 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 in place for up to three years.
Protection from Sexual Violence Order (SVPO)
You can request this type of protection order if you are a victim of sexual violence and do not have a specific family or household relationship with the perpetrator. You do not need to report the sexual violence to the police to receive an SVPO.
Similar to the process for a PFA, you will fill out the forms for an SVPO, give them to the Prothonotary, and then see the judge. The judge will review the petition and either grant a temporary SVPO or deny the request.
Again, after you see the judge, you will be given a date within 10 days to return to the court for a final hearing and the defendant will be served with a copy of the temporary SVPO. After a final hearing, the judge can grant a final SVPO for up to three years.
Protection from Intimidation (PFI) Order
To qualify for a PFI, the victim must be a minor (under the age of 18), and the perpetrator must be an adult (over the age of 18). It can be requested if the minor is the victim of harassment or stalking by the perpetrator. The people involved cannot have a specific family or household relationship.
The process for obtaining a PFI is identical to the process for obtaining an SVPO. Like an SVPO, you do not need to report the defendant’s actions to the police in order to receive a PFI.
For more information and guidance, please contact one of our attorneys. If you are in immediate danger, call 911.