Protection Orders


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CORONAVIRUS INFORMATION:  Emergency protection from abuse orders (PFAs) are essential functions and will move forward during this pandemic. This page provides helpful information about protection orders and the steps involved in filing for a protection order, but please check county-court information for any pandemic-specific amendments. 


Protection orders are rules for the person hurting or threatening the victim. Filing a protection order, also known as a protection from abuse order or PFA, with PA Courts can help protect the victim and the victim’s family. If the abuser breaks these rules the person can be punished and the police can make an arrest.

In Pennsylvania, filing the paperwork for a protection order is done at the local courthouse or through the magisterial district judge outside of regular court hours -- at no charge. Courthouse staff can also help with interpreter services for those people who have trouble speaking, hearing or understanding English.

Victims can go through the process on their own or with an advocate from the local domestic violence or sexual assault program. Courthouse staff can help connect the victim with an advocate.

Legal counsel can represent a victim at no cost, but it is not required. However, advocates and courthouse staff cannot give you legal advice.

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confidential and freeFree and confidential assistance for victims of domestic violence or sexual violence.

Download protection order forms in a variety of languages.

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county courthouseTemporary and final petitions are filed at your local county courthouse.

Emergency petitions (after hours, weekends, holidays) are filed in the minor courts.

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interpreter servicesLanguage and sign language interpreter services are available for help completing forms

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hearing processVIDEO: Learn about the hearing process including how long the protection order lasts and when the abuser must be present at the hearing

Important: Always carry a copy of the order at all times and make sure

school, daycare, etc. also have a copy.


Types of protection

Protection orders can tell the abuser to:

  • Stop abuse, threats, harassment or stalking
  • Leave your house and not enter your home, school, business or place of employment
  • No longer contact you – no texting, calling, emailing or social media
  • Relinquish weapons and/or gun permit
  • Attend batterers counseling program
  • Reimburse you for reasonable out-of-pocket expenses that were incurred as a result of the abuse
  • Grant you temporary child custody/spousal support
  • Allow the judge to grant any other relief deemed appropriate to stop the abuse

There are three kinds of protection orders:

  1. A Protection From Abuse order, or PFA, protects someone who is being physically hurt, followed, threatened or sexually hurt by an intimate partner, dating partner or family member. 
  2. A Protection From Sexual Violence order, or SVP, is for someone who is a victim of sexual violence by someone they didn’t have an intimate relationship with, like a friend, stranger, or co-worker, and is still at risk of being hurt by that person.
  3. A Protection From Intimidation order, or PFI, is a little different because a PFI protects a minor from someone who is 18 or older who is harassing or stalking them who they do not have an intimate relationship with.

What is considered abuse under the law?

The occurrence of one or more of the following acts between family or household members, sexual or intimate partners or persons who share biological parenthood:

  • Causing or attempting to cause bodily injury
  • Placing someone in fear of imminent serious bodily injury
  • Rape or sexual assault
  • Stalking
  • Physically or sexually abusing a child
  • Repeatedly committing acts which place an individual in fear of bodily injury
  • Interfering with an individual's freedom of movement
  • NCEA Red Flags of Abuse

What if an abuser violates the protection order?

  • Call the police immediately. The police can arrest the abuser and a contempt hearing will be held.
  • If found in contempt of the PFA Order, the abuser can be fined up to $1,000.00 and/or incarcerated for up to six months.

How to file for a protection order in Pennsylvania.

Protection orders can be filed in four easy steps:

Foursteps 01

The paperwork will ask for information about:

  • both you and the defendant
  • anyone else, including any children, who you want protected
  • why you’re filing for a protection order

There is no cost to file for a protection order.

Foursteps 02 This is done in an informal hearing called the temporary hearing.
Foursteps 03

Temporary orders are valid until the final hearing.

  • After the order is granted, the defendant will be served the paperwork by the Sheriff or other law enforcement, including the petition, temporary order and date of the final hearing
  • The defendant will not be allowed to have contact with you
  • If the judge denies the temporary order, you will still have a final hearing where testimony and evidence is presented
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  • The final hearing is scheduled within 10 business days of the temporary order hearing
  • You may bring witnesses, domestic violence advocates and/or lawyers with you
  • Final protection orders last for up to three years

Need help now? Dial 911 for law enforcement (after hours, weekends, holidays)

Emergency Protection Orders

  • Available if you need immediate protection and the courts are closed
  • Call 911 for emergency protection orders/contact information for the on call judge
  • Only valid until the next business day at 5 p.m.

How does the protection order hearing process work?





LOCATION Magisterial District Judge Court of Common Pleas Court of Common Pleas
PARTIES only victim present only victim present defendant must have been served
LENGTH OF ORDER end of next business day up to 10 business days up to 3 years

• no abuse

• no contact

• exclusion from victim's home

• no abuse

• no contact

• exclusion from victim's home

• no stalking

• weapons prohibitions

• custody

• no abuse

• no contact

• exclusion from victim's home

• no stalking

• weapons prohibitions

• custody

• child/spousal support

• damages

• other relief