April 1st, 2020

How to Apply for a PFA During a Coronavirus Stay at Home Order

As the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic rages on, perhaps your stay at home experience isn’t going well. If you are living with someone who, when faced with a stressful event, is lashing out at you with physical, verbal and/or emotional violence, what do you do? You are encouraged to apply for a Protection from Abuse (PFA) Order. Here is how to apply for a PFA during the coronavirus stay at home order.

What is abuse?

You may be asking yourself, what exactly is a PFA and do I qualify? Simply put, it is a court order directing the defendant, your loved one, to refrain from abusing you. In Pennsylvania, abuse is defined as 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:

(1) Attempting to cause or intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causing bodily injury, 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.

(2) Placing another in reasonable fear of imminent serious bodily injury.

(3) The infliction of false imprisonment pursuant to 18 Pa.C.S. § 2903 (relating to false imprisonment).

(4) Physically or sexually abusing minor children, including such terms as defined in Chapter 63 (relating to child protective services).

(5) Knowingly engaging in a course of conduct or repeatedly committing acts toward another person, including following the person, without proper authority, under circumstances which place the person in reasonable fear of bodily injury. The definition of this paragraph applies only to proceedings commenced under this title and is inapplicable to any criminal prosecutions commenced under Title 18 (relating to crimes and offenses). 23 Pa.C.S. § 6102

How to apply for a PFA

There are coronavirus stay at home orders in effect throughout the Lehigh Valley. But, must you remain in that unsafe environment and continue to be the subject of your loved one’s torment and abuse? ABSOLUTELY NOT!

While local courthouses are closed to the public to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Protection From Abuse (PFA) offices remain open. If you believe your situation constitutes abuse, call your local courthouse (click here for Lehigh County, here for Northampton County) to confirm their procedure for applying for a PFA . You will be provided with instructions of when you will be able to see a judge to tell him/her of the facts surrounding your reason for the PFA application.

Upon hearing your presentation of your case, a judge may provide you with a temporary PFA. A temporary PFA can be granted immediately, without your alleged abuser present, and lasts until a final PFA hearing takes place.

You will also receive a court date for the final PFA hearing, at which time the defendant will be present to either share his/her version of the alleged events or he/she may remain silent upon the advice of counsel. Nonetheless, upon conclusion of the hearing, the judge will determine if a final PFA shall issue and how long it will last (Note: the longest allowable period of time for a PFA is 36 months.).

The right to feel safe

If at the expiration of the PFA, you continue to feel unsafe, you may ask the court for a further extension of the Order; however, you must provide current proof as to why an extension is warranted.

Just as the coronavirus crosses all demographics, no matter the race, religion or financial status, so does domestic violence. With so much going on in the world to cause you angst and despair, living in a constant threat of danger can be one fear that you can strike from your list by seeking relief from the court via a PFA.

Stay in place and get your abuser out!

A former prosecutor, Constance K. Nelson counsels families and individuals facing domestic matters including custody, divorce, adoption, alimony and more.

The content found in this resource is for informational reference use only and is not considered legal advice. Laws at all levels of government change frequently and the information found here may be or become outdated. It is recommended to consult your attorney for the most up-to-date information regarding current laws and legal matters.