Domestic Violence Awareness Month: How to File for a Protection From Abuse
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and this year’s theme is “Everyone Knows Someone.” According to The National Network to End Domestic Violence, domestic violence impacts 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men. At Philadelphia Legal Assistance, we are committed to supporting survivors and helping them develop safety plans that may include family law or out of court options. This blog will discuss a commonly considered safety planning option: filing for a Protection from Abuse (PFA).
Deciding to file a petition for PFA against someone can be a tough decision, and we want to assist you in discussing your options. Please call our hotline 215.981.3838; Monday through Thursday from 9:30 am to 12 pm for a detailed discussion about your specific situation if you are on the fence or simply want to learn more about how you can use a PFA to keep yourself safe.
You can file a petition for PFA at the DV Filing Unit, which is located on the 8th floor of the Philadelphia Family Court building located at 1501 Arch St, Philadelphia, PA 19102. The DV Filing Unit is open from Monday through Friday 8:00 am to 5:00 pm. You will be looking for the Domestic Violence Intake Unit when you step out of the elevators on the 8th floor, which you can find by walking to your right and following a hallway that leads back to a sign that says Domestic Violence Intake Unit. You should then walk up to the desk and ask for assistance in filing a PFA. We recommend that you go to court as early as possible because there may be significant wait times. You will then have an ex parte hearing (hearing without the other person there) that day to see if the Judge will grant you a Temporary PFA.
The court staff will interview you about the filing incident, which is a term we use to describe the most recent incident of abuse that has occurred. You will have to be ready to provide details, such as the date, time, location, and description of what happened. Abuse incidents, as defined by the PFA Act, are if someone injured you or tried to injure you (physically or sexually), threatened to harm you, prevented you from going somewhere, or stalked you.
You can ask for a whole host of protections; some commonly requested remedies are that the person can have no contact with you, for the person to be evicted from a shared home, for the person to relinquish any weapons or firearms, and gaining sole custody of shared children.
After you have been granted a Temporary PFA order, the Temporary PFA, Petition for PFA, and Notice to Appear for the Final Hearing need to be served. Services of PFA are being completed by the Sheriff’s Department and the police district closest to where the Defendant lives. If you decided to go to the local police district, the precinct will send a police officer to serve the PFA to the defendant personally. You should make sure that the police officer signs the affidavit of service and returns it to you, as it will be important in the future to be granted a Final PFA order.