pENNSYLVANIA CIVIL PROTECTION ORDERS
Frequently Asked Questions
Civil Protection Orders
If you or someone you know is experiencing physical or sexual abuse, or stalking/harassment, a civil protection order may prove crucial in keeping you and your family safe. Civil protection orders can be filed without prior incidents being reported to the police. There are three distinct types of orders in Pennsylvania: PFAs (Protection From Abuse Orders), SVPOs (Sexual Violence Protection Orders), and PFIs (Protection From Intimidation Orders).
While a civil protection order is not usually an end-all solution, it can certainly prove to be a vital part of someone’s safety plan, depending on the situation. CAPSEA works with those petitioners seeking civil protection orders, starting at any stage of the process, even the very beginning. Below is more information about each kind of civil protection order, as well as a detailed list of the ways CAPSEA can help a petitioner through the process of obtaining one.
Navigating the different civil protection orders in Pennsylvania can be challenging for victims of abuse or harassment. A new CAPSEA brochure helps explain what options are available to victims and what circumstances qualify.
DOWNLOAD THE USER-FRIENDLY BROCHURE HERE.
Protection From Abuse Orders
Learn more about the different types of Protection of Abuse Orders that you can petition for if you feel threatened.
Possible Remedies Offered By a PFA
If you are granted a PFA, the following orders may be given to the abuser, depending on the situation.
Sexual Violence Protection Orders
An SVPO applies when the petitioner does not have an intimate relationship with the perpetrator.
Protection From Intimidation Orders
These civil orders protect petitioners from all forms of intimidation, stalking and harassment.
Definition: What Is Intimidation?
Intimidation is usually defined as being one of two crimes: stalking or harassment. Learn more about both.
Learn How CAPSEA Can Help
CAPSEA is ready and willing to help petitioners seeking protection orders every step of the way.
Protection from Abuse Orders
A PFA applies when one of the following relationships exist or have existed between the petitioner and defendant:
- Current or former spouse
- People who live or have lived as spouses
- current or former intimate sexual partners
- Family/ household members related by blood
- Family or household members related by marriage or affinity
A PFA protects petitioners who are experiencing or have experienced physical, sexual, or psychological abuse. This includes threats of physical harm or being placed in reasonable fear of imminent serious bodily injury, as well as stalking. In Pennsylvania, a petitioner can receive one of three types of PFAs:
The first type is an emergency PFA, granted in circumstances when there is an immediate need for protection. By contacting their local police department and/or the CAPSEA hotline when the courts are closed, the petitioner is connected with an “on-call” District Judge. petitioners can be granted an emergency PFA, which lasts until the next business day. Then the petitioner will have to fill out the temporary PFA paperwork and attend an ex-parte hearing with the President Judge.
An Ex Parte (Temporary) PFA
This type of PFA is temporary, granted to a petitioner by the President Judge. The ex-parte hearing means one-sided, which means the defendant is not present at this hearing and the judge bases his decision on what is presented from the petitioner filing the temporary PFA. If the temporary PFA is granted, a final PFA hearing is scheduled within ten court days. If the temporary is denied, CAPSEA will explain other options the petitioner has.
A final PFA is only granted after a hearing is conducted in which the petitioner and the abuser are able to present their case to the judge. This can be done through testimony, witnesses, and/or presented evidence. There is also an option for the abuser to agree to the final order without having a hearing. If granted, these orders can last up to three years, and can be extended if there is a violation during the duration of the order.
How a PFA Can Help
Possible Remedies Offered By a PFA
In the event you are granted a PFA, the following orders may be given to the abuser, depending on the circumstances:
- An order for the abuser not to abuse, harass, stalk, or threaten to use physical force against you and/or your minor children.
- An order for the abuser to be removed from the home you or both of you occupy (under certain circumstances, if you are living in a place where the abuser is the sole owner, the judge can still remove the abuser from the home or order them to give you alternate housing).
- An order to award temporary custody or temporary visitation rights of your minor children.
- An order for the abuser to pay financial support (including medical bills, health insurance, etc.) to you.
- An order prohibiting the abuser from having any contact with you and/or minor children, including staying away from your place of employment or your child’s school.
- An order for the abuser to give his/her firearms and firearm license to the police and to prohibit him/her from getting additional firearms.
- An order for the abuser to compensate you for losses that came as a result of the abuse medical/ dental care, relocation and moving expenses, attorney and counseling costs, loss of earnings, etc.).
- An order to grant any other appropriate relief you are able to request.
What Is an SVPO?
Sexual Violence Protection Orders
A SVPO is very similar to a PFA, offering petitioners protection from further harassment, abuse, or stalking, with a major difference lying in the nature of the relationship between the petitioner and perpetrator. An SVPO applies when the petitioner does not have a family, household, or intimate relationship with the perpetrator, which is unlike the PFA where there has to be a relationship. Examples of relationships that would fall under an SVPO include:
- Co Workers
A SVPO can be obtained by anyone affected by a situation involving sexual violence (including threats of sexual violence). They can be obtained without any actual charges having to be brought against the perpetrator, and are given to petitioners who are still at risk of harm from the perpetrator. If granted, they can also be applied to third parties, like parents, children, or siblings, when necessary. Like final PFAs, an SVPO can last up to three years, with the option present to extend it.
What Is a PFI?
Protection From Intimidation Orders
A PFI applies when a petitioner is under the age of 18 and the defendant is over the age of 18, meaning that they are not applicable to cases involving two minors or two adults. These civil orders protect petitioners from all forms of intimidation, stalking and harassment. To obtain a PFI the petitioner and defendant must not have a family, household or intimate relationship with the perpetrator.
PFIs can protect minor petitioners by restricting an adult offender from entering the petitioner’s residence, place of employment and/or education, and by prohibiting any indirect contact through third parties. Like PFIs, there are three types: emergency, ex parte (temporary), and final, with the process being much the same for obtaining any of the three. A petitioner is not required to press charges in order to file for a PFI, and only in the event of a violation of the order can the perpetrator be punished by law.
All of these actions can be taken regardless of age but petitioners under the age of 18 must have a parent or legal guardian file on their behalf. If the petitioner is over the age of 9, they must be present with the filing parent or guardian when the request for the order is filed.
What is the legal definition of Intimidation?
What is Intimidation?
Intimidation is usually defined as being one of two crimes: stalking or harassment.
Stalking is when a perpetrator:
- (a) Engages in a course of conduct or repeatedly commits acts toward another person, including following the person without proper authority, under circumstances which demonstrate either an intent to place such other person in reasonable fear of bodily injury or to cause substantial emotional distress to such other person; or
- (b) Engages in a course of conduct or repeatedly communicates to another person under circumstances which demonstrate or communicate either an intent to place such other person in reasonable fear of bodily injury or to cause substantial emotional distress to such other person).
Harassment is when, with intent to harass, a perpetrator:
- Communicates to or about such other person any lewd, lascivious, threatening or obscene words, language, drawings or caricatures
- Communicates repeatedly in an anonymous manner;
- Communicates repeatedly at extremely inconvenient hours; or
- Communicates repeatedly in a manner other than specified in description above.
We Are Here For You
How CAPSEA Can Help
CAPSEA is ready and willing to help petitioners seeking protection orders every step of the way. From the initial call, we walk them through the process of obtaining a civil protection order, as well as what type of protection is needed for their specific situation. CAPSEA can offer support and accompaniment throughout the petition process. Below is the step by step process:
- The petitioner calls and explains why they are calling. CAPSEA offers the petitioner options for how to protect themselves.
- The petitioner decides if he/she would like to try for a protection order.
- We coordinate a meeting with the petitioner to complete the paperwork (depending on the time of day we may have to set up a meeting with district justice for an emergency PFA).
- We assist the petitioner with the paperwork and explain anything they do not understand.
- After the petition has been submitted, we wait with the petitioner to have an ex parte hearing with the president judge (defendant not present).
- CAPSEA staff accompanies the petitioner during the ex parte hearing. Whether the petition is granted or denied, we are there to answer any questions and offer options.
- If the petition is granted, the court schedules a full evidentiary hearing within ten court days, where the defendant has the right to be present. Even if a temporary PFA is denied the petitioner has the right to still file, but will not have protection in the time between the ex parte hearing and the final hearing.
- CAPSEA refers petitioners to Northwestern Legal Services (No Cost Legal Service), if the petitioner is seeking legal representation for the final hearing. CAPSEA will offer counseling and any other services needed.
- CAPSEA attends all final civil protection hearings to support the petitioner. We are there to refer other services and help with safety planning in the event protection is not granted.
If you or someone you know needs help, call our 24-hour Hotline: