The processing and presentation of Protection from Abuse (PFA) petitions, scheduling of hearings and other aspects of administering the Protection from Abuse Act are handled through the PFA Department, located in Room 301 of the Family Law Center.
Who Can Obtain a PFA Order?
A victim of abuse may file for a PFA order in the Family Division Court against an intimate partner or a family member, such as:
- Spouses or ex-spouses
- Current or former sexual or intimate partners (including dating relationships)
- Family members related by blood or marriage (including parents, children, siblings)
- A parent, legal guardian or adult household member may seek a PFA on behalf of a minor child, if that child is a victim of abuse by a family member or the minor’s intimate partner (boy/girl friend).
What type of abuse is covered by the PFA Act?
The PFA Act defines abuse as the occurrence of one or more of the following acts between family members or intimate partners:
- Attempting to cause or intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causing bodily injury or serious bodily injury, rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, sexual assault, statutory sexual assault, aggravated indecent assault, indecent assault or incest with or without a deadly weapon
- The infliction of false imprisonment
- Physically or sexually abusing minor children
- Knowingly engaging in a course of conduct or repeatedly committing acts towards another person, under circumstances which place the person in reasonable fear of bodily injury
- Placing another in reasonable fear of imminent serious bodily injury
What Can a PFA Order Do?
A plaintiff can ask for the following forms of relief in the PFA petition:
- prohibit abuse, harassment, threats and stalking
- require that the abuser leave the home or household (even if both parties own it or are on the lease)
- require that the victim’s new address or location remain confidential
- grant temporary custody of the children.
- prohibit contact with the victim (and the victim’s children, if applicable) and prohibit the abuser from places of employment and school
- require for the abuser to turn over any firearms or other weapons
The judge will consider the requests and may grant all or some of them in the PFA order.
How to apply for a Temporary PFA Order at Family Court
- You should arrive at Court as early as possible and expect to remain at Court for several (3-4) hours.
- You will need to complete a PFA Petition and appear at a hearing before a Judge.
- A free, secure children’s playroom is available at the Family Court.
- You can file for a Temporary PFA without the payment of any fees.
- Information regarding the availability of free legal representation or other legal assistance will be provided.
How long does a Temporary PFA remain in effect?
If the Judge issues a Temporary PFA Order, a Final PFA Hearing will be scheduled within ten (10) business days. The Temporary PFA Order will remain in effect until the Final PFA Hearing date. In order to extend the Temporary PFA Order, you must return to Court for the Final PFA Hearing. At the Final PFA Hearing, a Final PFA Order may be issued for up to a maximum time period of three (3) years.
What happens at the Final PFA Hearing?
The Final PFA Hearing is the scheduled date and time for the Defendant to appear in court to either contest or consent to the issuance of a Final PFA Order.
- DISMISSALS: If the Plaintiff does not appear at the Final PFA Hearing, the Temporary PFA Order may be dismissed.
- WITHDRAWALS: The Plaintiff may withdraw the request for a PFA and the Temporary PFA Order will be terminated.
- CONTINUANCES: A Temporary PFA Order may be extended and a new Final PFA Hearing date may be rescheduled for various reasons. Continuances may be granted when the police have been unable to locate and serve the Defendant, if the Defendant requests more time to obtain legal representation or if either party or their attorneys makes a reasonable request for a continuance.
- FINAL PFA ORDER BY DEFAULT: If the Defendant does not appear at the Final PFA Hearing and there is sufficient proof that the Defendant received proper notice of the date and time of the hearing, then a Final PFA Order may be issued against the Defendant, for up to three (3) years.
- FINAL PFA ORDER BY CONSENT: If the Defendant appears at the Final PFA Hearing, the parties are given the opportunity to negotiate a settlement of the case through the entry of a Final PFA Order, for up to three (3) years. Both parties must agree and give written consent to the length and terms contained in the Final PFA Order.
- FINAL PFA ORDER AFTER A HEARING: If the parties can not negotiate a settlement of the case, a Final PFA Hearing will be conducted by a Judge. Both parties may testify and present relevant witness testimony and evidence about the case to the Judge. The Judge will decide if a Final PFA Order is issued and, if so, for how long of a time period.
What else do I need to know?