Protection From Abuse

If you are, or have been, in a relationship with someone who has been or is threatening to be physically abusive to you and the abuse has occurred recently: You may qualify to get a Protection From Abuse Order (PFA). If you have a Protection From Abuse Order (PFA) and it has been violated: You may qualify to file an Indirect Criminal Contempt Complaint.

Please be advised that obtaining a Protection Order takes time. You may need to set aside several hours when you file for a Temporary Order and you will also need to be available for several hours to appear in court on the date of your hearing for a Permanent Protection Order.

Questions and Answers:

What is a PFA?

A PFA (Protection From Abuse Order or Protection Order) is a restraining order issued by the District Court or the Court of Common Pleas in Media.

Who can get a PFA?

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.

What is abuse under the PFA Act?

Under the Protection From Abuse Act, abuse is defined as physical abuse, a threat that places you in immediate fear of physical injury, or a pattern of conduct (such as stalking) that places you in immediate fear of physical injury.

What can a PFA prohibit?

A Protection Order can:

  • Prohibit abusive conduct
  • Remove the abuser from your residence
  • Include other provisions a judge deems appropriate.

What are the three stages of a PFA?

Emergency Order – issued by a District Justice when the Court of Common Pleas is closed.  It is in effect until the next business day at the Court of Common Pleas.
Why? An incident of abuse has occurred within the last 24 hours (48 hours on weekend)
When? After 4:30 p.m. Monday – Friday, weekends, and holidays

Temporary Order – issued on a daily basis by the Court of Common Pleas in Media and is in effect until the hearing for a Permanent PFA is held.

Permanent Order – issued for up to 36 months at a hearing before the Court of Common Pleas.  The hearing date is scheduled when you receive the Temporary PFA.

Who do you call for assistance to get a 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 (24 hr/7 day a week hotline) or go to their office (office open 9 am to 5 pm Monday through Friday).  If you arrive before 10:30 am Monday through Friday, you will receive assistance for same day court appearance.  After 10:30 am, assistance will be provided for next day court appearances.

If you wish to file on your own (Pro Se), you may go to the Office of Judicial Support in the Media Courthouse or seek private legal counsel.  Legal Aid of Southeastern PA provides free representation at hearings for permanent orders.  Legal Aid of SE PA can be contacted at (610) 874-8421.

What are the steps to get a PFA?

Obtaining a PFA is a process.  To file, you must:

  • Complete a petition for a Temporary PFA at Domestic Abuse Project or the Office of Judicial Support
  • File the petition in the office of Judicial Support
  • Speak with a judge
  • Take copies of the PFA Order (Temporary and Permanent) to your local police department attend a hearing for a Permanent PFA

If a violation occurs, what should the victim do?

The victim should immediately call the police. Based on the type of violation and evidence, the police will either file a report with the District Justice or advise the victim of the right to file a private contempt complaint. If the police file a report, the contempt 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 4:00 pm).

What is an indirect criminal contempt?

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.

Why is it necessary to contact or go to the District Attorney’s Office?

The victim must be interviewed and the case must be evaluated.  The victim contact within the District Attorney’s office will advise the victim on court dates and procedures.  The District Attorney’s office will file the petition with the District Court.