Protection Order Information (PFA)

What is Abuse

The term abuse is defined in the Protection From Abuse Act (as amended 1994) as including:

  • Attempting to cause or causing bodily injury (physical injury), involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, rape, or spousal sexual assault
  • Being placed in reasonable fear of injury by a physical or verbal threat or menacing gesture
  • Being kept in a place against your will by force or threat of force
  • Physical or sexual abuse of a child
  • Being followed or threatened in a way to place one in reasonable fear of bodily injury


Filing a PFA requires that a hearing must be scheduled within ten business days after the petition is filed and any temporary order is issued.

Plaintiffs (persons who filed the petition) are eligible to be represented at the hearing without charge by MidPenn Legal Services, they can choose to have private counsel represent them, or they can appear without an attorney and represent themselves. If you want to have legal representation, it is important to contact MidPenn Legal Services or your attorney as soon as a hearing has been scheduled. If, after the hearing, a protection order is entered, copies should be sent to all law enforcement agencies with jurisdiction or reason to enforce it. Copies also are maintained in a special PFA Registry.

Violations of either a temporary order or a final order are considered in contempt of court and are scheduled before a judge within 10 days. All violations of the temporary orders or final orders should be promptly reported to the local law enforcement agency that has jurisdiction to enforce the order.

The majority of criminal contempt proceedings will be prosecuted by the District Attorney’s Office although there will be some occasions where MidPenn Legal Services or private attorneys will prosecute the contempt. In certain types of civil contempt problems Domestic Violence Legal Clinic may assist a victim at the contempt hearing. 

Who May File for Protection from Abuse

In order for the court to have the authority to consider and grant a Protection From Abuse Order, the acts of abuse must occur between either adults or minors who have the following types of relationship:

  • Child of defendant
  • Child of Plaintiff
  • Current or former cohabitant of defendant
  • Current or former sexual or intimate partner with defendant
  • Family member related by blood (consanguinity) to defendant
  • Family member related by marriage or affinity to defendant
  • Parent of child with defendant
  • Sibling of defendant
  • Spouse or former spouse of defendant

Where to File a PFA

You can file a Protection from Abuse Petition with an attorney, with advocate assistance, or through the Bail Administration Office. You may wish to see an attorney or other persons knowledgeable about abuse to discuss whether a protection order is what you need or want. You may contact a private attorney or one of the following offices:

  • Bail Administration
    50 N. Duke St.
    Second Floor
    Lancaster, PA 17602
  • Domestic Violence Legal Clinic
    35 E. Orange St.
    Second Floor
    Lancaster, PA 17602
  • Lawyers Referral Services
    28 E. Orange St.
    Lancaster, PA 17602

How to File a PFA

Through the Office of Bail Administration

Protection from Abuse Petitions are taken Monday - Friday from 8:30 a.m. - 1 p.m. at:

  • Bail Administration Office
    50 N. Duke St.
    Second Floor
    Lancaster, PA 17608

Please note that this is a lengthy process and may take several hours to complete.

The staff of Bail Administration will assist you in filling out a petition and order for protection from abuse. They cannot give legal advice. Your petition and order will then be presented to a judge. If your order is granted it will remain in effect until the hearing is held. After the judge signs the temporary order, copies will be made, and your petition will be filed in the Prothonotary Office. Before leaving the Bail Administration Office, you will receive two copies of your protection order. You should keep a copy with you at all times.

Service is provided to the defendant by the Sheriff's Department. The Sheriff will notify the defendant that an order has been issued by handing a copy of the petition and order to him/her. The Sheriff's Department will notify you when service has been made. The Bail Administration staff will notify the police departments in the jurisdictions in which you live and work that an order has been issues by the Court.

You may wish to have an attorney represent you at the court hearing. After your petition and order are filed, you should immediately contact your attorney. If you do not have an attorney you may contact:

  • MidPenn Legal Services (services are free)
    38 N. Christian St.
    Suite 200
    Lancaster, PA 17602-2828
  • Lawyers Referral Services
    28 E. Orange St.
    Lancaster, PA 17602

Through the Domestic Violence Legal Clinic (DVLC)

  1. Go to the DVLC offices located at 35 E. Orange St., Second Floor, Lancaster, PA 17602, or call 717-291-5826 to arrange an appointment to speak with a legal advocate. If you are in need of a safe place, you may call the Domestic Violence Services Shelter at 717-299-1249.
  2. After an appointment with the legal advocate, a Petition for a Protective Order can be prepared. DVLC staff will assist in the preparation, filing, and processing of the necessary papers. DVLC staff is also available for assistance and support after the filing of the legal papers.
  3. The legal process and papers will follow the same course as if filed directly with the Bail Administration Office.

Emergency Protection from Abuse Orders

An Emergency Protection from Abuse Order is available when the courthouse is closed. An emergency PFA can be obtained through the magisterial district judge. You should call your local police department and tell them you want to file a petition under the Protection from Abuse Act. The police will be able to help you contact the appropriate magisterial district judge.