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Protection from Abuse Office

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What is a Protection From Abuse Order?

A Protection from Abuse Order is a civil order that protects victims of domestic violence from abuse. Abuse includes physical injury or threats of physical injury.

What is Abuse?

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

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

*The Act does not cover emotional, verbal or mental abuse.

Who May File for a Protection from Abuse Order?

You may file for protection in Lehigh County if you live or work here, the defendant lives here, or the abuse occurred here. There has to be physical abuse or threats of physical abuse.

A person may file a Protection from Abuse against an intimate partner or family member. Her are some examples:

  1. Spouses or former spouses
  2. Current or former sexual or intimate partners
  3. Household members related by blood
  4. Household members related by marriage
  5. Same sex couples
  6. Parents and children

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

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

How and Where Do I File for Protection from Abuse?

You must appear in person at the Lehigh County Courthouse, Protection from Abuse Office (PFA) 455 W. Hamilton Street, Allentown, PA 18101. There are no attorneys on staff to provide legal advice to you; the PFA staff will assist you in filing the paperwork that is needed. The PFA staff may not give you legal advice.

You must be abused (read the definition above) in order to qualify for the PFA. The staff will assist you in completing the necessary paperwork. After completing the paperwork, the staff will take you and your petition before the Judge.

Petitions are presented to the judge twice daily:

  • In order to attend the 10:30 am hearing, you need to be at the PFA Office with your data sheet completed no later than 9:30am.
  • In order to attend the 1:30 pm hearing, you need to be at the PFA Office with your data sheet completed no later than 12:15p.m.

Clients arriving after 12:15 pm will be referred to their Magisterial District judge.

What Should I Bring With Me When I Go To File For A Protection from Abuse Order?

Please come prepared with the following information:

  • Names (all persons and parties)
  • Date of birth (all persons and parties)
  • Social security number (all persons and parties)
  • Addresses (all persons and parties)
  • Photograph of alleged assailant
  • Vehicle make, model, style, and license plate number of alleged assailant
How Do I Receive a Temporary Protection Order After Filing a Petition for Protection from Abuse?

After filing a petition for protection from abuse, a judge will review your paperwork and will speak with you to determine if a temporary protection order will be granted. If the judge believes a Temporary Order should be granted, he will issue a temporary protection order. All cases will then be scheduled before a judge in approximately 10 days.

What Help is Available at Night, On Weekends Or When The Courts are Closed?

In case of an emergency or if you've been a victim of domestic abuse, contact your local police department or 911. If you are in immediate and present danger of abuse, a Petition for Emergency Relief from Abuse may be filed with the on call district court (police will provide you with the name of the on call emergency magisterial district judge). If the magisterial district judge believes that you are in immediate danger, he/she will grant you an Emergency Protection from Abuse Order.

To find your local MDJ click here.

*This emergency protection order will expire at 4:00 pm the following business day. Be sure to go to the Lehigh County Protection from Abuse office between the hours of 8:00 am and 12:15 pm to file for a temporary Protection from Abuse order if you want to pursue one.

How Do I Get a Final Protection from Abuse Order?

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

Is There a Cost for Filing a Protection from Abuse Order?

Yes, but not to the filing party.

What Protection Will I Receive?

A Protection from Abuse Order may contain the following relief:

  1. direct the alleged assailant not to abuse, threaten, harass or stalk you.
  2. direct the alleged assailant to stay away from your house or apartment, where you live, even if that is also the alleged assailant's home.
  3. direct the alleged assailant to stay away from your school or where you work.
  4. direct the alleged assailant to refrain from harassing you or your relatives.
  5. prohibit the alleged assailant from having any guns or gun permits.
  6. direct the alleged assailant to pay you for losses resulting from the abuse. These could include medical bills and lost wages.
  7. direct the alleged assailant to attend a batterer's counseling program (depending on jurisdiction).
  8. award you temporary custody of your children and may grant you temporary support for yourself and/or the children of the alleged assailant (THIS MAY NOT APPLY IN ALL CASES).

*Terms of order may vary depending on each specific circumstance.

*If you are awarded custody/support you MUST follow-up by filing the appropriate custody/support actions in a timely manner. Do not wait until your order expires. Speak to an attorney prior to taking these actions for legal advice.

Will My Protection Order Be Enforced In Another County or State?

In most cases, yes.

The Pennsylvania State Police maintains a registry of all protection from abuse orders issued throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Many out of state courts will enforce a valid protection order that is issued and properly filed in another state.

How Can I get a Copy of My Protection From Abuse Order?

A copy of your Final Protection from Abuse order will be mailed to you at your last known address. You can obtain a copy of your Protection from Abuse Order by going to the public review room located on the first floor of the courthouse, room 122.3. Photo identification is required. There is a fee for copies.

What Domestic Violence Programs Exist In Lehigh County?

These services include crisis hotlines, safe homes or shelters, legal advocacy, community education, counseling, as well as information and referral. Your local domestic violence hotline is available 24 hours per day, all services are confidential. For more information look in the blue pages of your local phone book.

How Can I Find a Lawyer?

Lawyer Referral Services of Lehigh County (610) 433-7094.

How Do I Withdraw My Temporary Protection from Abuse Order?

You need to come to the Lehigh County Courthouse and go to the Clerk of Courts Office, room 122 with photo identification.

How Do I Withdraw My Final Protection from Abuse Order?

If you wish to withdraw your PFA and you already had your Final Hearing, you would need to come to the PFA Office between the hours of 8:00 am-12:15 pm with photo identification and complete paperwork. You would then be taken before Judge at either 10:30 am or 1:30 pm The Judge would then decide whether to approve your request or not.

How Do I File For Contempt of the Protection from Abuse Order?

Contempt of a PFA Order can be filed two ways: The first way that contempt is filed is by the police departments. If you call the police because you feel the defendant violated the PFA, if the police agree they would file the necessary paperwork and a hearing would be scheduled. The second way, is for the plaintiff to come to the PFA Office and complete contempt paperwork and the PFA staff would take you before a Judge to determine if the is sufficient evidence to proceed with a contempt hearing.

Is Child Care Available?

No. Please make appropriate child care arrangements.

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