Safety Planning During Coronavirus (COVID-19)

STAYING SAFE DURING COVID-19 PANDEMIC

The Family Law Unit at Philadelphia Legal Assistance is OPEN and working remotely during the pandemic. 

Call our Family Law Hotline at 215-981-3838 for help Monday - Thursday, 9:30 A.M. - 12:00 P.M.

Safety protocols around COVID-19 may make survivors of domestic violence more vulnerable. Directives such as social distancing and self isolation can force survivors to be in close proximity to their abusers, make it more difficult for survivors to leave abusive situations, isolate survivors from available resources, and worsen tensions in abusive relationships.

The Family Law Unit at Philadelphia Legal Assistance encourages those in abusive situations to establish a creative safety plan to stay safe in this unique context.

BASIC TIPS FOR SAFETY PLANNING: 

  • Gather important documents, such as:
    • Valid ID 
    • Insurance card
    • Social security Card
    • Birth certificate for you and your children
  • If possible, plan a daily check in with a family member or friend via phone. Tell your family member what you would like them to do if you do not answer the phone (try again later, come over, call police).  Create a code word to help you discreetly notify your family member or friend if you are unsafe. You should also discuss what that person should do if you use the code word.
  • Identify safe areas in your home where there are no items that may be used as weapons. Be aware of exits.
  • Teach your children how and when to call 911 and where they can go in the home to stay safe if an incident of abuse occurs.
  • Identify a safe place to go in case you have to leave your home in a hurry. Keep in mind that:
    • Public transportation might me less reliable
    • Some public spaces might be closed or have limited hours
    • Shelters might have limited availability
  • Know your local resources. For further info/tools visit https://www.thehotline.org/help/path-to-safety/

Domestic Violence Hotline:

If you’re interested in further assistance, you can call the following domestic violence hotlines.

THESE HOTLINES WILL REMAIN OPEN 24/7. 

National Domestic Violence Hotline: Call 1-800-799-7233 or 1-800-799-7233 for TTY, or if you’re unable to speak safely, you can log onto thehotline.org or text LOVEIS to 22522

Philadelphia Domestic Violence Hotline: Call 1-866-723-3014

FILING FOR PROTECTION FROM ABUSE (PFA) During Covid-19: 

Even though Philadelphia Family Court is generally closed to the public until April 30, 2020, you can still file for a Protection From Abuse Order. 

How can a Protection From Abuse (PFA) Order help me?

An Emergency or Temporary PFA Order, among other relief, 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, have children together, or are married to the defendant.

How do I file for a Protection From Abuse (PFA) Order?

You can file in person or remotely. Below are instructions on how to file:

In Person: "EMERGENCY PROTECTION FROM ABUSE ORDERS"

You can file in person for an Emergency Protection From Abuse Order at the Stout Criminal Justice Center at 1301 Filbert Street during the following times: Monday through Thursday starting from 11:00 A.M. until 8:00 AM the following day;weekends starting Friday at 11:00 A.M. until the following Monday at 8:00 A.M. and holidays.

Remote Filing: "TEMPORARY PROTECTION FROM ABUSE ORDERS"

There are two ways to file for a PFA remotely. Note: You need a valid email address and telephone number for both methods.

  1. You can file for a Temporary Protection From Abuse order by emailing a pre-prepared petition to TempPFA@courts.phila.gov. You can find a blank petition and instructions for filling it out here: https://www.courts.phila.gov/pdf/forms/domestic-relations/Petition-for-Protection-From-Abuse-w-instructions.pdf.

Note: If you email your petition after 11:00 A.M., you will be 

  1. You can also file for a Temporary Protection From Abuse order by calling the Domestic Violence Unit at 215-686-6311, ext. 19217, Monday through Friday from 8:30 am to 11:00 am. DV Unit staff will interview you over the phone and prepare a petition for you.

After you file by email or phone, court staff will contact you to schedule an electronic hearing in front of a judge. Hearings will be held Monday through Friday from 11:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M. If you are granted a Temporary PFA Order, the court will mail it to you, or you can pick it up at the employee entrance of Family Court, 1501 Arch Street, Monday through Friday from 4:00 P.M. to 5:00 P.M. (Note: You must show a valid photo I.D. to pick up your order.)

If you’re interested in learning more about filing for a PFA, you can call the Family Law Hotline at Philadelphia Legal Assistance at 215-981-3838, Monday through Thursday, 9:30 A.M. to 12:00 P.M.

Legal Resources and Safety Planning

The following are open for phone consultations during this time though none of them are physically open at this time

Philadelphia Legal Assistance 215-981-3800  

Safety planning, legal options counseling and advice, assistance filing paperwork 

Telephone intake Monday – Thursday 9:30 – noon, call 215-981-3838 

https://www.philalegal.org/ 

Women Against Abuse Legal Center 216-686-7082 

Safety planning, legal options counseling and advice, assistance filing paperwork 

https://www.womenagainstabuse.org/services/legal-center 

SeniorLAW Center 215-988-1242 

http://seniorlawcenter.org/ 

Women’s Law Project 215-928-9801  

https://www.womenslawproject.org/ 

Philadelphia Domestic Violence Hotline 1-866-SAFE 014 (1-866-723-3014) 

https://www.womenagainstabuse.org/index.php/get-help/PDVH