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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 Court 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.
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, works, or can be served here, or the abuse occurred here. There has to be physical injury or threats of physical injury.

A person may file a Protection From Abuse Petition against an intimate partner or family member. Here are some examples:

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

*A person under the age of 18 must have a parent, guardian ad litem, or adult household member file on his or her behalf.

*The PFA Act does not apply to disputes between strangers, landlords and tenants, neighbors, roommates, co-workers, or classmate.

How and where do I file for Protection From Abuse?

Go to the Family Court Office at the Lehigh County Courthouse, Room 423, 455 West Hamilton Street, Allentown, Pennsylvania between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 12:15 p.m. Monday through Friday, except for legal holidays. Cases are processed on a first-come first-served basis. Staff may not provide legal advice.  This is a lengthy process and it may take several hours to complete.

You must be a victim of abuse (read the definition above) in order to qualify for a PFA Order. After completing the necessary paperwork, Family Court staff will take you and your Petition before the Judge.

Persons arriving after 12:15 p.m. will be provided instructions for seeking a Temporary and/or Emergency PFA Order.

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):

  • Names (all persons and parties)
  • Dates of birth (all persons and parties)
  • Addresses (all persons and parties)
How do I receive a Temporary PFA Order after filing a PFA Petition?

After filing a Protection From Abuse Petition, a Judge will review your paperwork and ask you questions. If you are granted a Temporary Order, it will remain in effect until a hearing is held for a Final PFA Order. The Final Hearing will be scheduled with ten (10) business days after the Petition for PFA is filed and any Temporary PFA Order is issued.

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 duty" Magisterial District Court (police will provide you with the name of the "on duty" Magisterial District Judge). If the Magisterial District Judge believes that you are in immediate danger, he/she will grant you an Emergency PFA Order.

To find your local MDJ click here.

*This Emergency Protection Order will expire at the end of the following business day. If you want a Temporary PFA Order, go to the Family Court Office between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 12:15 p.m. and file a Petition for PFA.

How do I get a Final PFA Order?

A final hearing will be scheduled in front of a Judge within ten (10) business days of filing your Petition for PFA with the court. The Judge will listen to the facts of your case. If the Judge issues a Final PFA Order, it can be in effect from one (1) to thirty-six (36) months.

Is there a cost for filing a Protection From Abuse Petition?

Not at the time of filing, but, costs may be assessed at the time of the final hearing.

What protection may I ask for?

A Temporary or Final PFA Order may contain the following relief:

  1. direct the Defendant not to abuse, threaten, harass or stalk you.
  2. direct the Defendant to stay away from your home.
  3. direct the Defendant to stay away from your school or where you work.
  4. prohibit the Defendant from having firearms.
  5. direct the Defendant to pay you for losses resulting from abuse. These could include medical bills and lost wages.
  6. direct the Defendant to attend a batterers counseling program depending on jurisdiction.
  7. 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).

*Terms of Protection Orders 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 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 Order?

Family Court staff will provide you a copy of your Temporary PFA Order after you see the Judge and the Order is filed with the Clerk of Judicial Records. A copy of your Final PFA Order will be mailed to you at your last known address. You can also obtain copies of your Order by going to the Public Review room located on the first floor of the courthouse. There is a fee for copies.

What domestic violence programs exist in Lehigh County?

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 contact the hotline at 1 (877) 438-4957

How can I find a lawyer?

Call the Bar Association of Lehigh County Lawyer Referral Services (610) 433-7094.

How do I withdraw my Temporary PFA Order?

If a Temporary PFA Order was granted, go to the Family Court Office between the hours of 8:00 a.m.-12:15 p.m. and complete paperwork. Family Court staff will take you and your Petition before the Judge. The Judge will decide whether to approve your request or not.

If your Temporary PFA Order was denied, go to the Clerk of Judicial Records Office, located in the Lehigh County Courthouse, First Floor, Room 122, with photo identification, to complete paperwork.

How do I withdraw my Final PFA Order?

If you wish to withdraw your Final PFA Order, go to the Family Court Office between the hours of 8:00 a.m.-12:15 p.m. and complete paperwork. Family Court staff will take you and your Petition before the Judge. The Judge will decide whether to approve your request or not.

How do I file for Contempt of the Temporary or Final Order?

Contempt of a PFA Order can be filed two ways. The first way that Contempt is filed is through a police department. If you feel the Defendant violated the PFA Order, and if the police agree; they would file the necessary paperwork and a hearing would be scheduled. The second way, is for the Plaintiff to go to the Family Court Office and complete a Complaint for Indirect Criminal Contempt. Family Court Staff will take you and your Petition before a Judge. The Judge will determine if there is sufficient evidence to proceed with a Contempt Hearing.

Is child care available?

No. Please make appropriate child care arrangements.

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