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*Safety First - When seeking legal options, it is important to make safety a top priority.

 This page includes resources in areas of civil law frequently relevant to individuals confronted with domestic violence.


    This is NOT legal advice.
    This is general information.
    Note to Attorneys:
    "The danger of violence, including the risk of death, escalates when a domestic violence survivor attempts to leave a batterer. Seeking legal assistance is a step towards independence, which threatens a batterer's sense of power and control and may lead to increased violence. If you represent a client who is planning to leave or to take any legal or financial steps to separate from a batterer, alert her to the increased likelihood of violence."


    Safety First 

    Separation Violence is real! If you are an attorney, or using this information for yourself or a friend, it is important to know that the most dangerous time for a victim, her children, and those assisting her (e.g., law enforcement officers, attorneys), is when she leaves. Safety planning is essential. Speak with an advocate trained in domestic violence to develop your own personalized safety plan

    Why not 'just leave'?

    Many people who are not experienced with the dynamics of domestic violence understandably assume that domestic violence victims would be safer if they left their abusive partners. In fact, in the short term, the contrary is true. Domestic violence victims are at great risk of serious physical abuse after they separate from their perpetrators, and run the greatest risk of being killed during the separation stage.

    "Women are often highly at risk for homicide and repeat severe violence for the first year after they have left their abusers (with the first three months especially dangerous) or when it is clear to the abuser that the woman is leaving for good." Jacquelyn C. Campbell, Prediction of Homicide of and by Battered Women, in Assessing Dangerousness: Violence by Batterers and Child Abusers 85, 96 (Jacquelyn C. Campbell ed., 2d ed. 2007)

    Children may also be in greater danger from a batterer once parents separate. Learn about 10 myths about child custody and domestic violence.


    Protection From Abuse Order ("PFA")

    A PFA, or Protection From Abuse order, is a court which prohibits abusive behavior.

    In order to petition the court for a PFA, an individual (or party) must demonstrate the following:

    Relationship - The person who is filing for the PFA must be related to the abusive party in one of the following ways: married, sexual partners, parents of the same children, or related by blood or affinity (marriage)

    Abuse - As well as demonstrating a relationship, the person filing for the PFA must show one or more of the following types of abuse:

    • causing or attempting to cause bodily injury
    • placing another in reasonable fear of imminent bodily injury
    • false imprisonment
    • physical or sexual abuse of minor children
    • engaging in a course of conduct which places the person in fear of bodily injury (i.e. stalking)

    There are three stages, or types, of PFAs:

    • Emergency Order - can be issued when the Court of Common Pleas is closed; order terminates by 4:30 p.m. of the next business day
    • Temporary Order - issued by Court of Common Pleas; notice must be served on defendant and hearing must be scheduled within 10 days
    • Final Order - issued by Court of Common Pleas for up to 36 months

    What type of relief can be requested in a PFA?

    • cease and desist abuse
    • eviction or exclusion from marital residence
    • prohibit contact
    • temporary custody of minor children
    • temporary child or spousal support
    • seizure of weapons
    • other relief as the court deems appropriate

    If the PFA is violated, the person can be arrested and charged with indirect criminal contempt. If found guilty, the defendant could face a fine and/or up to 6 months imprisonment. 

    To obtain a PFA Order in Montgomery County, go to the Prothonotary's Office, located on the first floor of the Montgomery County Court House. The Prothonotary's Office will provide you with the appropriate paperwork and provide further directions. (Protection from Abuse information for Montgomery County is no longer available through the web.)

    You may be eligible for free legal representation through Legal Aid of Southeastern Pennsylvania.

    In Montgomery County, through its Legal Advocacy Project, non-lawyer advocates from the Women's Center of Montgomery County provide assistance to individuals seeking Protection from Abuse Orders and provide court accompaniment to victims.

    A domestic violence counselor/advocate may accompany a party to any legal proceeding or hearing under the PFA law. 23 Pa. C.S. 6111


    Child Custody


    PALawHelp provides legal information, referrals to legal service provides and information about local courts on numerous topics, including child custody, and child support.
    PALawHelp also currently has the following documents for use in Pennsylvania courts:
    Pennsylvania Complaint for Custody
    Pennsylvania Petition for Modification or Contempt of a Custody Order
    LawHelp Interactive forms are for low-income people, who can't pay for legal assistance, and their non-profit advocates. Commercial use is strictly forbidden.


    Child Support


    The PA Department of Public Welfare website has a Child Support Program page.  
    On this page you will find the PA Child Support Handbook, which contains information about the following topics:
    • Pennsylvania Child Support Program
    • Domestic Violence: Addressing Safety Risks in the Support Process
    • Child Support and Cash Assistance
    • Establishing Paternity for Your Child is in Your Hands
    • Receiving Child Support
    • Paying Child Support
    • Medical Support
    • Free or Low Cost Health Insurance- CHIP and adultBasic
    • Child Support Resources and Telephone Numbers


    Additional Resources

    More legal information and support for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault may be found at:

    American Bar Association: Resources for Survivors

    Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence: Information Center

    Women's Resource Center

    Legal Aid of Southeastern Pennsylvania - limited free legal representation is available for low-income and vulnerable people. Legal Aid of Southeastern Pennsylvania provides such legal representation in Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery counties. The Montgomery County offices are located in Norristown and Pottstown:


    625 Swede Street

    Norristown, PA 19401






      248 King Street


    Pottstown, PA 19464


    Lawyer Referral Service  - The Montgomery Bar Association may be a potential resource if you are looking to hire an attorney. Their Lawyer Referral Service matches prospective clients with attorneys  based on the type of legal matter and the client's location.

    Questions to Ask Before You Hire an Attorney

    Consumers' Guide to Legal Help-Pennsylvania

    For online resources, self-help resources and forms (including in languages other than English) visit the  PALawHelp Domestic Violence & Protection From Abuse Page

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