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 Children’s Court’s PFA Department, located in Room 3030 of the
Family Law Facility.
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:
What type of abuse is covered by the PFA Act?
- 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)
The PFA Act defines abuse as the occurrence of one or more of the following acts
family members or intimate partners:
What Can a PFA Order Do?
- 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
- Placing another in reasonable fear of imminent serious bodily injury
A plaintiff can ask for the following forms of relief in the PFA petition. 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
- ask the judge to order the abuser to stop threatening, abusing, harassing or stalking
the victim and the victim's children
- ask the judge to make the abuser leave the home or household (even if both parties
own it or are on the lease)
- request that the victim's new address or location remain confidential
- ask the judge for temporary custody of the children.
- ask the judge to prohibit the abuser from contacting the victim and the victim's
- ask the judge to order the abuser to turn over any firearms or other weapons
- 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?
What happens at the Final PFA Hearing?
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.
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
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
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.
More information is available in the
Children’s Court Manual.