When a relationship goes sour, it can often be an emotionally painful experience. However, sometimes it is also a physically painful experience. If one partner is abusive or threatening to the other, it may be a matter of time before the abuser places the victim’s life in danger. In Pennsylvania, those who fear for their safety because of the threats or actions of a partner or family member can seek a protection from abuse order through the courts.

A PFA order, or restraining order, places restrictions on the person who is causing others to fear for their well-being. For example, the court may prohibit the abuser from contacting the victim or from coming within a certain distance from the victim’s home or work. The PFA may require the abuser to surrender all weapons or to return the victim’s personal property. Violating a PFA may lead to the abuser’s arrest.

How do I get a PFA?

Intimate partners, spouses, former partners, parents, children and others who are related to an abuser are eligible to file for a PFA. To do so, the victim will complete a petition at the courthouse and appear before a judge to answer further questions about the claimed abuse. The protection of the PFA can last up to three years, but those who obtain such orders should take extra precautions in case the abuser becomes more violent because of the PFA enforcement.

It is wise for a victim of abuse to carry a certified copy of the protection from abuse order at all times. Those with active PFA orders should contact Pennsylvania police immediately if the abuser should violate its terms. Since filing for a PFA order may be a difficult decision, those in abusive situations may find comfort in the advice of an attorney with experience handling domestic abuse cases.