What is a PFA?
You have legal options. You can file criminal charges against your abuser. You may also request the court order the abuser to stop hurting you and your children. These orders, called Protection from Abuse Orders (PFAs) can prevent your abuser from entering your home, keep your abuser away from you, your family, and your place of work, grant temporary custody of children, and/or make your abuser pay support.
Not all PFAs are alike – a Family Court Judge will decide what is appropriate in individual cases. Listed below are three types of PFA orders, when each is available, and a brief description of each.
Emergency Protection Order (EPO)
In evenings, on weekends, or during holidays you may seek an EPO. An EPO will last until the next day the Chester County Courthouse in West Chester is open. The District Judge on call for Chester County can issue an EPO. Call the police or DVCCC to find out which District Justice is on call. The EPO is effective as soon as it is signed, but the abuser will not know about the EPO until he/she is served the order by the police.
Temporary Protection from Abuse (Temporary PFA)
Survivors of domestic violence may petition for a PFA Order at the Chester County Courthouse in West Chester, from Monday to Friday between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. The DVCCC staff can help you prepare the paperwork for your petition. A Temporary PFA Order is issued by a Family Court Judge of the Court of Common Pleas. The Temporary PFA lasts until a hearing can be scheduled (usually about 10 days). The sheriff must serve the abuser in person with the PFA and a notice of the hearing date. PFAs can include the following clauses: no abuse, no contact, bar the abuser from the home, award temporary child custody, and/or confiscate weapons. All Orders are not alike; the Judge will decide what is appropriate in individual cases, based on the facts presented to him/her. There is no fee charged for filing the petition. Court costs are usually assessed against the abuser. Court cost may be charged to the petitioner if he/she does not appear or withdraws the petition.
Final Protection from Abuse (Final PFA)
After a hearing in the Court of Common Pleas, a Final Order, effective for up to three years may be granted if the judge decides there is sufficient evidence of abuse. The Final PFA may contain the same remedies provided in the Temporary PFA Order, or the conditions may be modified.
What Happens if my Abuser Violates the PFA?
Any violation of a PFA should be immediately reported to the police. The abuser will be arrested, and a violation hearing will be held within one week. Penalties for violating a PFA Order can include up to six months in prison and/or a fine of up to $1,000. The Final PFA can be extended for three years if the abuser commits another act of abuse during the time the PFA is in effect.
For Legal Assistance, reach out to DVCCC’s main office at
610-431-3546 and dial option “2” for Legal Services.
We know this is a lot of information to process and understand. It is even harder when someone is afraid or upset. Any member of our Legal Staff can provide you with information to help you understand the process and procedures involved so you can make an informed decision about what is best for your situation. Our legal staff will assist and accompany you through every step of the PFA process.
You make your own decisions.
No one will force you to take legal action. Our first concern is for your safety.
DVCCC services are designed to give you information and support you need and help you live free of violence.
If you are in immediate danger call 911.
DVCCC has two attorneys and several trained legal staff persons who can help you further understand your legal options. We can accompany you to court, support you during legal proceedings, and in some cases, our attorneys can represent you.
DVCCC works in collaboration with law enforcement, and the District Attorney's Office to assure domestic violence survivors are served efficiently and compassionately.
DVCCC can provide:
Legal options counseling – a meeting to discuss and understand various legal options available
Legal advocacy – DVCCC staff can support and inform you throughout the legal process and advocate on your behalf
Representation in Protection from Abuse (PFA) hearings – a DVCCC staff attorney can represent you in court
Accompaniment to court hearings
Outreach to district courts
DVCCC may also provide legal advice and representation to clients in areas including custody, divorce, spousal support, child support, and bankruptcy.