Obtaining A Restraining Order When Courts Are Closed During the Pandemic

Mother holding baby, both wearing protective masks

At Thomas, Conrad & Conrad, our family law attorneys help victims of domestic abuse break the cycle of violence and find the protection they need under the law. During the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of people have been out of work and stuck at home, which has unfortunately led to a rise in domestic violence.

Those dealing with domestic abuse may not know where to turn to find help, but rest assured that in Pennsylvania, courts are still issuing protection from abuse (PFA) orders.

Filing for a Temporary Protection from Abuse Order During COVID-19

In Pennsylvania, each county must provide recourse for victims to file for restraining orders, even during the pandemic. Although the process for obtaining a PFA varies from county to county, processes are similar.

In Lehigh County, you can still file for a temporary protection from abuse order, intimidation protection order, or sexual violence protection petition at the Protection from Abuse Office at the Lehigh County courthouse. If you need to file for a modification or extension of an existing PFA, you can do so at your local PFA office.

The forms for filing for a PFA are available online. Your attorney can help you fill out all required forms and accompany you to the courthouse. After your intake is complete, you will have a hearing before a judge, who may grant a temporary PFA. You will also be given a court date for the final PFA hearing.

If you’re seeking an emergency PFA outside of the office’s regular hours, in most cases, you should contact your local magisterial district judge. Your attorney can determine where an emergency PFA needs to be filed after hours and assist you with the process.

Again, processes for obtaining a PFA vary by county, so it is important to find an attorney who is familiar with the changes instituted by counties in the Poconos and Lehigh Valley regions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Your Final PFA Court Hearing

Your temporary PFA order is effective until the court hearing on the final order is held, typically 10 business days after the initial order is issued. It is important to note that in some courts, timelines may have changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Before this hearing, your attorney will discuss your case with you and help you collect evidence to back up your claims.

Having a seasoned family law attorney to act as your advocate during these proceedings can help ease some of the stress you may be feeling. Whether the hearing is conducted in person or via videoconference, the defendant has a right to present their case.

For some victims of domestic violence, it can be unsettling to face their abuser in the final PFA hearing. Your lawyer will ensure you are well prepared for the hearing and clearly explain to the court your reasons for filing for a final PFA. A final order may be in effect for up to three years.

Who Can File for a Restraining Order in Pennsylvania?

In Pennsylvania, you may file a protection from abuse petition against an intimate partner or family member, which may include a spouse, someone related by blood or marriage, same-sex partner, parents, and children. You may not file for a PFA against roommates, neighbors, strangers, coworkers, or classmates.

If you do not have a relationship that qualifies for a PFA under the Protection from Abuse Act, you may file a sexual violence protection petition if the abuser has committed or threatened sexual violence against you. If you are in immediate danger, call the police.

Speaking with an attorney before you file any kind of petition can help to ensure you complete the correct paperwork, file with the right PFA office, and use certain language to describe what happened and why you are seeking a protective order. 

Contact a Family Law Attorney in the Lehigh Valley

If you or a loved one is a victim of domestic violence and needs help with filing for a restraining order during the pandemic, our compassionate team at Thomas, Conrad & Conrad can help. We understand that matters involving domestic abuse are urgent.

Our responsive family law attorneys are here for you. We are dedicated to helping you stay safe and can also assist you with matters surrounding divorce, child custody and support, alimony, and spousal support.

Contact us online or call our Bethlehem office at 610-867-2900 to learn more. We serve clients throughout the Lehigh Valley and the Pocono Mountains region and have additional offices in Allentown, Stroudsburg, and Topton, Pennsylvania.

If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic abuse, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY).

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