Protection From Abuse (PFA) Order
You may be able to obtain immediate, court-mandated protection through a civil Protection from Abuse (PFA) Order, regardless of whether criminal charges are filed against your abuser. You do not need citizen status to file for a PFA.
The PFA order can do any or all of the following:
- Order the abuser to stop the violent or abusive behavior and refrain from harassing, contacting, stalking you, or sending others to harass or talk to you on their behalf
- Exclude the abuser from your residence
- Grant temporary custody of your minor children to you
- Order the abuser to turn over weapons to the police
Filing a Civil Protection from Abuse Order
You can obtain a Temporary PFA Order at 440 Ross Street, Room 3030, Monday through Friday – between 8:30 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. The process may take several hours, so we recommend showing up as early as possible.
If you are unable to safely wait for a hearing in Allegheny County Family & Juvenile Court on a weekday between 8:30 a.m. and 11:00 a.m., or if courts are closed for a holiday, Emergency PFA Orders are available. Emergency PFAs are in effect until the next business day at 5pm. For example, if someone filed for an EPFA on a Friday, the order would expire at 5 p.m. that Monday. Holidays are not counted as a business day. You will need to file for a Temporary PFA after the Emergency PFA expires.
You can file for an Emergency PFA at either:
- Magisterial District Judge’s Office in your community on any afternoon that the office is open
- Allegheny County Night Court (412-350-3240), 660 First Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15219 on weekdays after 3:00 p.m., and 24-hours a day on weekends and holidays
It is free to file for a PFA.
If you are facing financial or other limitations, our Legal Advocates can provide you with information regarding the availability of free legal representation. When you file for a PFA, you can fill out an attorney referral form to have a free attorney represent you during your final hearing. Don’t let the need of an attorney prevent you from seeking a PFA; the attorneys accept cases regardless of income.
The Court’s PFA Unit staff and domestic violence program advocates will be available to assist and support you in filing a PFA petition. Advocates are also available to help safety plan and connect you with other resources through either their agency or others. You can ask any advocate for information.
Once you complete the Temporary PFA petition, you will need to appear in front of the judge that same day. A Final PFA hearing will be set 7-10 days from the initial filing of the Temporary PFA to extend the order for up to 3 years. A final PFA has the same power as the temporary PFA – it is just an extension of the temporary.
During the final hearing, you and the opposing party will be present, but in separate waiting areas. Most PFA cases do not go before the judge, and the attorneys will act as liaisons between you and the opposing party to come to an agreement. If you have young children that need supervision, the Family Court will provide a free and secure children’s playroom on site.
All Family Court proceedings take place at the Allegheny County Family & Juvenile Court, located at 440 Ross Street, Room 3030 in Downtown Pittsburgh.
What to Do If You Are Granted a “Hearing Date Only”
If you applied for a Temporary PFA and the judge granted you a Hearing Date Only, that does not mean that you still cannot get a Final PFA. Though the Hearing Date Only doesn’t grant you protection, the opposing party is still served and expected to show on the date of the hearing. As long as an application is filled out, you are still able to apply for an attorney.
There are other outcomes that can occur besides a Final PFA when granted a “Hearing Date Only.” A Consent Non-PFA Order of Court (Consent Agreement) is an option, and it contains relief to meet the needs such as no-contact, custody, and return of property. A Consent Agreement is not a PFA, and if violated, you must return to Court to file a motion to explain the violation and a new hearing may be scheduled. If a Consent Agreement is violated, you may also apply for a new Temporary or Emergency PFA.
What to Do If You Have a PFA Order That Is Being Violated
Immediately call 911 and request police support. Local law enforcement may be able to arrest the defendant for violating the PFA Order.
If the police do not arrest the defendant immediately, you can take a copy of your PFA Order to either your local District Judge’s office or to Night Court and file a Complaint for Indirect Criminal Contempt for Violation of a PFA Order. An arrest warrant may then be issued so that the defendant may be arrested. Even if the defendant is not arrested, the violation is still noted, and there will be a Complaint for Indirect Criminal Contempt (ICC) hearing scheduled. Before that hearing, an advocate that is well versed in ICCs will call to speak with you about your options and what you would like to do in regards to the violation.
What to Do If Your Abuser Is in the Allegheny County Jail
If your abuser is in the Allegheny County Jail and you would like to be notified of their release, please register with the Offender Release Notification program by calling 1-866-972-7284.
Women’s Center & Shelter also offers specialized legal representation to victims of domestic violence through the Civil Law Project, where such representation will provide justice, autonomy, restoration, and safety.