Protection from Abuse

PROTECTION FROM ABUSE (PFA) ORDERS

In Pennsylvania, the Protection From Abuse (PFA) Act provides options for victims of domestic violence to seek safety and protection from abusers. All PFA orders state that the defendant/abuser cannot abuse, harass, threaten, or stalk the victim/plaintiff. Other forms of relief are also available depending on the specifics of the case.

Click here to download a link to read the PFA act

Pursuant to Section 6106(h)(2) of the PFA Act (23 Pa.C.S. § 6106 (h)(2)), ” the courts and hearing officers shall provide the plaintiff with written and oral referrals, in English and Spanish, to the local domestic violence program, the local legal services office, and to the county bar association’s lawyer referral service.”

ELIGIBILITY

You may file for a PFA if the person who has harmed, threatened you, or is trying to harm you is or was:

  • Your spouse
  • Living with you as your boyfriend/girlfriend/partner
  • A sexual or intimate partner (including dating relationships)
  • Related to you by blood or marriage, including your child, your parent, etc.

The PFA act covers ONLY physical and sexual abuse, false imprisonment, and behaviors by the defendant/abuser that cause the plaintiff/victim reasonable fear of bodily injury. Emotional, psychological, verbal, financial and any other form of abuse is not covered under the PFA Act.

FILE FOR A PFA IN BERKS COUNTY

The specifics about filing for a PFA vary from county to county in PA.

How to file in Berks County:

Temporary Protection From Abuse (TPFA) Process:

Applications for a temporary PFA (TPFA) are made between 8:00am and 2:00pm, Monday through Friday, at the PFA Office on the 1st floor of the County Services Center at 633 Court Street in Reading. If a hearing date is scheduled, BWIC may be able to provide you legal representation at no cost. Call the BWIC office at (610) 373-1206 x107 to schedule an appointment. Legal representation is not guaranteed.

Final Protection From Abuse (PFA)

At your final PFA hearing, the judge will determine the final disposition of your PFA order. Here are some points to remember:

  • If you are not represented by an attorney, the judge will call your case and ask how you wish to proceed. You may request a continuance to obtain a lawyer, or you may proceed without one.
  • Be prepared to provide testimony and evidence of the abuse.
  • The person against whom you filed the PFA will also receive a copy of the PFA and notice to be present in the courtroom at the hearing.
  • If you are represented by an attorney, your attorney will speak to the defendant and/or his/her counsel to determine if the hearing is necessary or if an agreement can be reached for the issuance of a PFA.
  • The case will be continued if the Sheriff’s Department has failed to serve the defendant with a copy of the TPFA.
  • Your PFA will be dismissed if you fail to appear for your final hearing.

Emergency Protection From Abuse Orders:

If you wish to file for a PFA after hours on weekdays (or after 2:00pm), nights, weekends or holidays, you must utilize the emergency PFA process.

Go to the first floor of the Courthouse and check in with security; explain to them that you wish to see a judge to file an emergency protection from abuse order. Emergency orders may also be filed at your local magisterial district judge’s office.

Courthouse security will contact a BWIC advocate to accompany you through the process if you wish.

If the judge grants the emergency order, in order to continue protection, the plaintiff must return the next business day to file for a temporary order; the emergency order will expire at 4:00pm of the next business day.

IMPORTANT POINTS TO REMEMBER:

  1. Berks Women in Crisis advocates and attorneys are available to help you through the process. See Legal Services tab for further details or call the BWIC office at (610) 373-1206 x107 and leave a message. Follow the instructions and we will return your call as quickly as possible.
  2. One of our attorneys may be able to represent you at your final PFA hearing, but representation is not guaranteed.
  3. A PFA order does not go into effect until it is served on the defendant by the sheriff or law enforcement. When you file, be prepared to give information about where the defendant can be found for service.
  4. If you go to the PFA office Monday-Friday during business hours to fill out a petition for a temporary PFA, you are entitled to be in front of or seen a judge. The judge will decide whether or not to grant the order.
  5. Temporary custody provisions are available through the PFA order.
  6. If your temporary PFA is denied, a hearing should be scheduled within 10 business days. You may obtain representation and present your evidence at the hearing.
  7. The emergency and temporary PFA processes are ex parte, meaning that the order can be granted by the Judge hearing from one side only – the victim, not the defendant. However, the defendant will be given notice to appear at the final PFA hearing, and may be represented by counsel, to present his or her defense.

The Protection From Abuse order process is one option for victims of domestic violence, but it is not for everyone. Please contact BWIC (610-372-9540 English hotline; 610-372-7463 Spanish hotline) to engage in safety planning; we can provide you with information that may assist you in deciding whether or not the PFA order is a good option for you.