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PFA FAQ

What should I know about a PFA?

A PFA stands for a Protection From Abuse order. There is no such thing as a restraining order in Pennsylvania, although many people call a PFA a restraining order. A PFA is a court order that protects someone from abuse from their abuser. A person can file for a PFA for themselves or on behalf of their children who are under the age of eighteen. You must meet with an advocate first before speaking with HAVEN’s lawyer. If there is an emergency situation during non-business hours and/or a judge is not available, a survivor may be able to get an emergency PFA. To do this, call 911 and state that you would like an emergency PFA and need to contact your District Magistrate. If your request is granted the emergency PFA lasts until the next business day when you need to obtain a temporary PFA with the assistance of a HAVEN advocate on their next business day.  If you have any questions about obtaining an emergency PFA, please call HAVEN 570-724-3549. Or visit their website Tioga County Victim Services


Reminder:

  • Even if a person has experienced abuse, they are not guaranteed to be granted a PFA.
  • HAVEN does not issue PFAs.  These are court documents and must be handled by the courts and a judge.
  • Applying for a PFA takes several hours to complete, so take the appropriate measures to make sure you can be in the office for several hours if needed.
  • If possible it is better to call to make an appointment. 

In order to qualify for a PFA, an abuser must be one or more of the following:

  • Spouses or former spouses
  • Current or former sexual or intimate partners
  • Household members related by blood or marriage
  • Persons related by blood or marriage
  • Same sex couples
  • Parents and children

*If the abused person is a minor, then a parent, guardian ad litem, or adult household member can file on behalf of the child.

*The PFA act does not apply to disputes between strangers, neighbors, roommates, co-workers, or classmates.

Under the Protection From Abuse Act, abuse is defined as any of the following:

  • Attempting to, intentionally or recklessly causing bodily injury.
  • Placing another, by physical threat, in fear of imminent serious bodily injury.
  • False imprisonment.
  • Physically or sexually abusing minor children.
  • Stalking a person and placing that person in reasonable fear of bodily injury.

What you can ask for in a PFA: 

  • Direct the defendant not to abuse, threaten, harass or stalk you.
  • Direct the defendant to stay away from your home.
  • Direct the defendant to stay away from your school or where you work.
  • Prohibit the defendant from having firearms.
  • Direct the defendant to pay you for losses resulting from abuse. These could include medical bills and lost wages.
  • Direct the defendant to attend a batterers counseling program depending on jurisdiction.
  • Award you temporary custody of your children and grant you temporary support for yourself and/or the children of the defendant (THIS MAY NOT APPLY IN ALL CASES).

What should I know about PSVI/SVPO?

PSVI stands for Protection from Sexual Violence and Intimidation; it has only been in effect since July 1, 2015. There are two types of orders for this protection, the SVPO (Sexual Violence Protection Order) and the PFI (Protection From Intimidation). These orders are designed to protect adults and minors from such acts as sexual violence, harassing, stalking, and intimidation.

These protection orders are similar to PFAs, however, a victim must not have a previous relationship history with the abuser in order to obtain. For example: A victim could obtain a SVPO, if s/he has been sexually assaulted by a coworker (with whom s/he has no other relationship [past or present] with other than "Coworker"). Or: A minor may obtain a PVI, if s/he is being harassed or stalked by an elder.

If the abuser is:

  • a family member - PFA is issued
  • a stranger - SVPO/PFI 
  • an ex intimate partner - PFA
  • coworker or acquaintance - SVPO/PFI

​What are my options?
You can make an appointment with one of HAVEN’s advocates to discuss your options. Once the advocate has assessed your situation they will give you your options: 

  • 24-hour toll-free hotline – trained advocates are available 24/7 to take your call, including holidays and weekends.
  • Empowerment and options counseling – Our advocates can discuss what options are available and provide individual or group counseling.
  • Advocacy – Advocates can provide active support for a variety of issues.
  • Medical and Legal Accompaniment – our advocates can go with you to the hospital and to court hearings in order to provide emotional support.
  • Legal Services – Our staff attorney can represent you in court and can assist you in attaining a Protection From Abuse Order (PFA)
  • Children’s Services – Our advocates provide services to children who are survivors or have witnessed abuse.
  • School and Community Programs – We offer a variety of prevention education programs focusing on healthy relationships, consent, Mandatory Reporter Training, becoming engaged bystanders, and anti-bullying.
  • Information and Referrals – If we do not provide a service you need, we give referrals to another agency.
  • Assistance in Filing Crime Victims Compensation Claims – If you are a survivor of a crime or have obtained a PFA, you may be eligible for financial assistance through this state program.
  • Emergency Housing – HAVEN has Hope Houses throughout Tioga County and may provide safe housing for up to 30 days while you determine your next step.

What happens to me if emergency safe shelter is full?

Because there are many individuals looking for emergency housing and sometimes no beds are available, HAVEN staff members will try to help you find alternate accommodations at a neighboring emergency housing.

What should I bring with me when I go to file for A Protection From Abuse Order?

Please come prepared with the following information (if available):

  • Your photo ID
  • Names (all persons and parties)
  • Date of birth (all persons and parties)
  • Social security number (all persons and parties)
  • Addresses (all persons and parties)
  • Vehicle make, model, style, and license plate number of alleged assailant

How do I receive a Temporary Order of protection after filing a Protection From Abuse Petition?

After filing a Protection From Abuse Petition, a Judge will review your paperwork and will speak with you to determine if a Temporary Order will be granted. If the Judge believes a Temporary Order should be granted, he will issue one. All cases will then be scheduled for a Final Hearing before a Judge in approximately 10 business days.

How do I get a Final Order of protection?

A hearing will be held in front of a Judge within ten business days of filing your petition with the court, and the Judge will listen to the facts of your case. If the Judge finds that abuse has occurred, a Final Order of protection will be issued. The length can be from one (1) to thirty-six (36) months.

Are PFA and Protection Orders Valid Across State Lines?

Yes, a PFA order from Pennsylvania is valid in every county in Pennsylvania, every state across the country, and on tribal lands. Protection orders from other states or tribal courts are also valid in Pennsylvania. This is because the Violence against Women Act {VAWA), a federal law that protects victims of domestic violence, makes all states honor other courts' protection orders. There are law enforcement databases that make it easier for police to electronically check protection orders, but they are not foolproof. It is important for victims to have their PFA orders with them whenever they are traveling or if they move to a new address, especially out of state.

A plaintiff who has a PFA order does not have to register it in a different county or state for it to be valid, but registering it with the local courthouse may be helpful. On the plus side, registering an order allows police to quickly verify the order and respond faster if an abuser violates it. On the downside, some states will notify the defendant when the victim registers a PFA order in a new county or state. If the victim does not want an abuser to know where they are, they may not want to register the PFA. Procedures for registering a PFA order vary from state to state.

It is good for a victim to have a certified copy of the order along at all times, especially if a victim decides not to register a PFA order after moving. (A certified copy is one that is stamped with a raised seal and initialed by the court.) It is also a good idea to have multiple copies of the order for work, home, and/or school.

What if an Abuser Violates the PFA Order?

In most cases, the victim should immediately call the police if the abuser doesn't keep to ("violates") the terms of the PFA order. According the PFA Act, the police can and should arrest the abuser for any violation of the PFA order. The only exception is that the police cannot arrest an abuser for not paying expenses and support as ordered.

A defendant who violates a PFA order can be arrested and charged with a crime called indirect criminal contempt. The victim may be asked to testify about the violation at a court hearing. If the court finds the defendant guilty of violating the PFA order, the court can give jail time, probation, and/or fines. Even though the police may arrest and charge an abuser for indirect criminal contempt, the abuser may be released before the hearing. Victims should consider talking to a domestic violence advocate about steps to take to stay safe.

 

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233

Pennsylvania Coalition against Domestic Violence (PCADV): 1-800-932-4632  Click here for website

National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC): 1-877-739-3895  Click here for website 

Pennsylvania Coalition against Rape (PCAR): 1-800-692-7445 Click here for website

Joyful Heart Foundation:  Click here for website

 

Emergencies

Tioga County Emergency Services: 911

Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hospital Emergency Room: 570-723-0140

Pennsylvania State Police (Mansfield): 570-662-2151

Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-932-0363

Missing Children Hotline: 1-800-235-3535

Runaway Hotline: 1-800-231-6946

Haven: 570-724-3549