Filing for a Protection from Abuse Order in Philadelphia during Coronavirus

We are being asked to stay at home, but not every home is safe.

It’s important to know you can still obtain emergency Protection from Abuse Orders in Philadelphia even though local courts are closed in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Family Law Unit at Philadelphia Legal Assistance, Women's Law Project, and SeniorLAW Center have compiled a comprehensive go-to resource for obtaining Protections From Abuse (PFA) Orders in Philadelphia while courts are closed due to coronavirus.

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Getting Protection From Abuse Orders in Philadelphia During the Pandemic

Your safety is a top priority. If you have an emergency, please call 9-1-1.

Because of the pandemic and emergency declarations throughout Pennsylvania, the state courts have been closed except for emergencies.

Getting a Protection from Abuse Order is an emergency.

You can still get PROTECTION FROM ABUSE (PFA) ORDERS and Protection from Sexual Violence and Intimidation Orders (PSVI) even though Pennsylvania courts are currently closed.

See https://www.courts.phila.gov/pdf/regs/2020/16-of-2020-AGB-ORDER.pdf and below instructions.

You can also get help from local agencies during this difficult time.

Procedures are changing as the courts figure out how to provide emergency services during this shutdown. Check back often to learn what is currently happening.

PA law requires that every county provide a way to get an emergency protection order when the courts are closed.

EMERGENCY PROTECTION FROM ABUSE ORDERS

You can file for an Emergency Protection From Abuse Order at the Stout Criminal Justice Center at 1301 Filbert Street from 5:00 P.M. and until 8:00 A.M. the following day, and weekends from Friday at 5:00 P.M. to the following Monday at 8:00 A.M.  Note: If you wish to file between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. on weekdays (Monday through Friday), please review the Temporary Protection from Abuse order information below.

An emergency order can order the defendant to:

  • stop abusing, stalking, threatening, and harassing you,
  • not to have any contact with you and your children, including at work or school, and
  • leave your Philadelphia County residence if you jointly or solely own or lease it or have children together.

Emergency orders remain in effect until Family Court reopens.

TEMPORARY PROTECTION FROM ABUSE ORDERS

You can file for a Temporary Protection From Abuse order on weekdays from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. by:

If you need additional assistance preparing or filing your petition, contact the legal resources listed below.

The court will conduct a video/audio hearing electronically to decide whether to give you a Temporary Protection From Abuse Order.

You may use video + audio conferencing through web-cameras connected to or built into laptops, tablets, desktop computers, or Smartphones equipped with cameras. In the rare case that you do not have access to videoconferencing, the court will, due to the emergency circumstances, conduct telephone hearings.

Be sure to review and follow the instructions issued by the court for completing the process for a Temporary Protection From Abuse order described at this link https://www.courts.phila.gov/pdf/regs/2020/16-of-2020-AGB-ORDER.pdf

In addition to what can be ordered in an emergency PFA, a temporary protection from abuse order can order the defendant to:

  • not to have any contact with you and your children, including at work or school
  • turn weapons over to the police or sheriff or other person authorized by law to accept them
  • pay child support

Temporary Orders will remain in effect until the Family Court is fully reopened and a full hearing is conducted and a Judge determines whether to issue final protection order.

Serving the Papers and Enforcing the Order

The Philadelphia Police Department is still operating as usual and available to serve and enforce PFAs and to respond to crime.

  • Call your local police precinct to request assistance in serving the papers. You need to contact the district where the defendant can be served, usually where the defendant lives or works. You can find police districts here. https://www.phillypolice.com/districts/
  • You can report a crime of domestic violence or a violation of a protection from abuse order by calling 911. 3
  • If you were sexually assaulted and want to report it to the police, contact 911. The Special Victims Unit is operating as usual.

Philadelphia Family Court’s visitation center is closed. If you have questions about a custody order and safety, we have a guide.  

PROTECTION FROM SEXUAL VIOLENCE OR INTIMIDATION ORDERS (SVPI)

If you are an adult or minor who has been sexually assaulted by a stranger or person with whom you have no family relationship, you may file for a sexual violence or intimidation protection order. The procedures outlined above for Protection From Abuse Orders can be used for this purpose.

The form for filing for a Protection from Sexual Violence Order is here https://www.pfad.pa.gov/Documents/BlankForms/SVPO_Petition.pdf

The form for filing for a Protection from Intimidation Order is here https://www.pfad.pa.gov/Documents/BlankForms/PFI_Petition.pdf

PHILADELPHIA RESOURCES FOR HELP IN STAYING SAFE DURING THIS TIME

PHILADELPHIA DOMESTIC VIOLENCE HOTLINE at 1-866-SAFE 014 (1-866-723-3014) anytime crisis intervention, safety planning, resources and referrals. All calls are free, confidential and anonymous. https://www.womenagainstabuse.org/index.php/get-help/PDVH

WOAR – Philadelphia Center Against Sexual Violence 24 HOUR HOTLINE AT 215-985-3333 and online at www.woar.org

The following resources are available for phone consultation during regular business hours, but none of them is physically open at this time.

WOMEN AGAINST ABUSE LEGAL CENTER: 215-686-7082 https://www.womenagainstabuse.org/services/legal-center

PHILADELPHIA LEGAL ASSISTANCE: 215-981-3800 https://www.philalegal.org/ Telephone intake Monday-Thursday 9:30 – noon, call 215-981-3838

TEMPLE LEGAL AID OFFICE: (215) 204-1800 https://www.law.temple.edu/resources/community-service/temple-legal-aid/

SENIORLAW CENTER: 215-988-1242 http://seniorlawcenter.org/

LEGAL SERVICE DEPARTMENT OF THE MAZZONI CENTER: 215-563-0657 https://www.mazzonicenter.org/legal-services 

LEGAL CLINIC FOR THE DISABLED: 215-587-3350 https://lcdphila.org/

PHILADELPHIA BAR ASSOCIATION LAWYER REFERRAL AND INFORMATION SERVICE: 215-238-6333 https://lris.philadelphiabar.org/

WOMEN’S LAW PROJECT Telephone Counseling Service. Call 215-928-9801 Philadelphia), follow the prompts, and leave a message or Visit our website at https://www.womenslawproject.org/need-help/ and submit an intake form.

Other Parts of Pennsylvania

Find your local domestic violence program through the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence here. https://www.pcadv.org/find-help/find-your-local-domestic-violence-program/

OR the National Network to End Domestic Violence here https://nnedv.org/

OR call your local police department to find out what to do.

March 2020: Our physical offices are closed but we are OPEN and working to serve your needs. Family Law Intake is Monday through Thursday from 9:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. at 215-981-3838. You can apply for legal assistance anytime at philalegal.org/apply.