The Protection From Abuse Act is set forth in Title 23 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes starting at Section 6101 {“PFA Act”), the Pennsylvania Administ rative Code at Title 246, and The Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure in Sections 1901-1905. The PFA Act provides remedies and protection to people who have been abused by a family or household member, sexual or intimate partners or persons who share biological parenthood.

WHAT IS ABUSE?

The PFA Act defines abuse as any of the following:
Causing or trying to cause physical harm, whether or not a weapon is involved; Rape or sexual assault;
Physical or sexual abuse of minor children;
Putting another person in reasonable fear of immediate and serious physical harm, including threatening phone calls; or
Stalking,following someone around,or repeatedly committing other acts that cause the person fear of bodily injury.

WHO CAN FILE A PFA PETITION?

Spouses, ex-spouses, or separated spouses;
Intimate partners. “Intimate” does not necessarily have to mean sexual. “Intimate” may include a person who was dated in the past;
Biological parents of a child may file against the child; and

REMEDIES PROVIDED BY PROTECTION ORDERS:
Depending on the facts of each particular case, the Court may issue Protection Orders that last for up to three years,and may contain many provisions, including:
Ordering the abuser to stop all contact with the plaintiff or his/her minor children, including staying away from plaintiff’s workplace or school, not harassing the plaintiff or his/her relatives, and not stalking plaintiff;
To give the plaintiff temporary custody of the minor child;
To order abuser to pay temporary child or spousal support, medical bills or medical insurance costs;
To evict the abuser from the plaintiff’s home or apartment even if abuser’s name is on the title or lease. If the home or apartment is in abuser’s name only, abuser may still be evicted, but only if abuser is married to plaintiff, or if they have a child together;
To order the abuser to surrender any weapons and prohibit abuser’s possession of weapons while the PFA Order is in effect; and
To pay damages incurred by plaintiff because of the abuse including medical bills, property damage, attorney’s fees,lost wages,and court costs.

Gay and lesbian partners

TEMPORARY, EMERGENCY AND FINAL PROTECTION ORDERS :

Protection From Abuse (PFA) Actions may be processed in different ways depending on what county you are filing in. Generally, PFA petitions may be filed free of charge at the Court of Common Pleas, or in Philadelphia at the Family Court Domestic Violence Unit, or after normal business hours and weekends with a locally designated hearing officer. Filing fees may be assessed at a later stage in the process against either plaintiff or defendant depending on the facts of the case and the ability to pay.

A plaintiff who files during non-business hours when the courts are closed may receive an Emergency Order if the hearing officer finds that the plaintiff or minor children are in danger of immediate harm or abuse. Emergency Orders expire on the following business day when the plaintiff may commence the PFA action in Common Pleas Court.
When the plaintiff files he or she will first be given an ex parte hearing. An ex parte hearing means that the plaintiff has a hearing before a judge or hearing officer without the alleged abuser being present.

Once a petition has been filed a hearing officer or judge will make the decision whether to grant an emergency order or temporary order and will schedule the case for a hearing.

Emergency Order : If plaintiff files his/her petition after normal business hours or on a weekend when the Courts are closed a hearing officer may issue an Emergency Order. The case will then be brought before a Common Pleas Court judge the following business day at which time a Temporary Order may be issued.

Temporarv Order: If plaintiff files during normal business hours when the Courts are open then a judge may issue a Temporary Order, and a hearing will be scheduled within ten days. The Temporary Order provides immediate protection to the plaintiff until the case is heard and a Final Order can be issued.

A Final Protection Order may be issued after the scheduled hearing.

SERVICE OF PROCESS:

A copy of the petition, any existing ex parte order, and a notice and order for hearing must be served on the defendant before the date of the “regular” hearing.Constitutional rights of due process require that defendant be notified and given the opportunity to present his case and any supporting evidence before a Final Order may be issued by the Court.
The petition and order may be served upon the defendant by any adult or by a law enforcement official. The law also requires that the order be served upon the police department and sheriff, but failure to do so will not invalidate the order.
Because of the short amount of time involved, service of process in PFA cases can be problematic.

Many plaintiffs file these cases without an attorney (pro se) and are not familiar with the rules of service of process.
If you have filed a PFA petition and need to serve the papers on the defendant it is recommended that you use a professional process server such as Heaven Sent Legal Services. Heaven Sent Legal Services specializes in serving process within one day and has the lowest prices of any process servers anywhere. Same day service of process in Philadelphia is $40.Click the ” SERVICES ” link at the top of this screen for a full price list to serve process anywhere in the nation.If you require legal assistance Heaven Sent has an experienced attorney on their staff to provide assistance or representation.

If you have filed a PFA petition, or are considering doing so, it is recommended that you seek the advice of an attorney if possible. Also, plaintiffs may not try to serve process themselves . If you do not hire a professional process server such as Heaven Sent Legal Services, then you should seek the assistance of the Court or your local law enforcement officials to serve your PFA petition upon the defendant.

THE PFA HEARING:

The outcome of any trial depends on the facts of the case. If the case is not settled or postponed then the judge will hear the evidence and testimony presented by plaintiff and defendant.The judge will issue a Final Protection Order if plaintiff proves by a preponderance of the evidence that he or she was abused by the defendant. Other possible outcomes are as follows:
Default: If plaintiff has properly made service upon the defendant and defendant fails to appear at the hearing,then the Court will enter a Final Protection Order by Default.

Agreement :The case may be settled if both parties agree to a Protection Order by Consent. Or,the defendant may agree to the Protection Order,but refuse to admit any wrongful act. This may result in a Final Protection Order by Consent without Admission.

Postponement: The judge may postpone the case for various reasons including unavailability of witnesses, medical reasons,or lack of service of process upon the defendant.

If there is a hearing the plaintiff should be prepared to give testimony and present appropriate evidence.

Types of Evidence Offered at PFA Hearings: Permissible evidence includes testimony of a witness, medical records showing that petitioner was injured by defendant, or pictures of the petitioner illustrating injuries caused by the abuse. Written Police Reports are not admissible as proof of abuse, but police officers may testify as witnesses.

If requesting monetary compensation, petitioner should bring proof of damages including copies of medical bills, proof of lost wages or estimates for property damage.

AS PART OF OUR COMMITMENT TO EXCELLENT CUSTOMER SERVICE, HEAVEN SENT LEGAL SERVICES OFFERS PROTECTION FROM ABUSE FORMS FREE OF CHARGE. TO DOWNLOAD FORMS CLICK THE FORMS LINK:

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