If you believe that you have been the victim of abuse and want to petition the Court of Common Pleas for a Protection From Abuse order, you should report to the Court Administrator’s office, located on the second floor of the Courthouse, between 8:30 a.m. and 9:00 a.m., Monday through Friday.
If you need to obtain an Emergency Order during the night, weekend or holiday hours, call the Beaver County Emergency Services Center (911). The dispatcher will contact the Magisterial District Judge on duty and notify him or her of the situation. You will then need to go to that Magisterial District Judge’s office to receive an Emergency Order.
An Emergency Order is only in effect until the next regular business day of the Court. If you need to extend the protection granted by the Emergency Order, you then must come to the Courthouse and file for a Temporary Order.
The process of preparing a legal document and having the Court review it can be time consuming: be prepared to spend at least one and a half to two hours at the Courthouse.
Please come prepared with information, which will help locate the defendant: his or her address, date of birth, social security number, where the person works.
Court personnel will then provide you with forms as well as clerical (but not legal) assistance necessary to help you petition the Court on your own behalf and / or on behalf of your minor children. Additionally, an advocate from the Women’s Center of Beaver County is usually on hand to guide petitioners through the process and to answer questions about domestic violence.
Filling Out Forms
- You will be provided with an Intake Form, which will ask for information to help the data entry clerk prepare your petition. You will need to write down the incident(s) or act(s) of abuse from which you are seeking protection. The Court then reviews your description of the alleged abusive incident or series of incidents to determine whether it is appropriate to enter a Temporary Protection from Abuse order.
- The Service Information sheet requires you to provide information about the Defendant in order to help the Sheriff’s department serve him / her with the Petition and Temporary Order. The Defendant must be served in order to have notice of the allegations in the petition and to be given a chance to present a defense at the hearing.
The Intake Form and the Service Information Sheet are available on this website to download and complete prior to coming to the Courthouse.
Interview and Review of Petition
- After completing these forms you will be interviewed by a Judicial Law Clerk, who will review all of your paper work to ensure all necessary information for the Court and the Sheriff’s Department has been completed. This occurs after the data entry clerk enters the information into a computer and prints out all the necessary paperwork, including the Petition.
- A Judge will then review your Petition to determine whether the incident which you described meets the criteria for entering a Temporary Order under the Protection from Abuse Act. At this stage of the proceeding, the Judge is only permitted to give you a Temporary Order. A Final Order cannot be entered until the Defendant has been given an opportunity to appear and be heard.
Granting of a Temporary Order
- The Temporary Protection Order will be in effect for approximately ten (10) days. When a Temporary Order is issued, a hearing date and time is scheduled to determine whether a Final Order will be entered. This is an opportunity for the Defendant to either consent to a final order or contest the entry of a final order. A Final Order can last for up to 36 months, but can be shorter in duration.
- Once a Temporary Order is signed by the judge, the original Petition and Order must be filed at the Prothonotary's office. All necessary copies will be made for you in this office. You will be given a certified copy of the order to keep and any other copies you may need to give to your local police department.
- A copy of the petition and order, along with the Service Information Sheet will be brought to the Sheriff’s Department. The Sheriff will then send a deputy to serve the Defendant with the Petition and Order and carry out any other instructions contained in the order.
- You should leave the Courthouse with copies of the following paperwork:
Temporary Protection Order
This Order will include the date for a hearing to determine whether a Final Order will be entered.
Copies of all other important information, including the Petition. This should be given the attorney who will represent you at the final hearing as soon as possible.
On the day you obtain your order, you should give certified copies of the Temporary Protection Order to the police department where you live and / or where you work. This gives the police notice that there is an Order entered against the Defendant directing him or her not to have any contact with you.
Denial of a Temporary Order
In the event that the Court of Common Pleas reviews your petition and denies you the relief that you are seeking, you have the right to have a hearing. The hearing on the denial of your petition will be scheduled on the next available PFA hearing date, usually within a week.
Preparing for the Final Hearing
- If you do not already have an attorney, it is important that you obtain one before the next hearing. You can contact the Beaver County Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service at (724) 728-4888. If you cannot afford an attorney, contact Neighborhood Legal Services Association at (724) 378-0595. You should call for an appointment the same day you receive your Temporary Order.
- At the next scheduled Court hearing, a Final Order may be entered after a hearing if the judge finds that you have met the burden of proof on the allegations of abuse. A Final Order can also be entered without a hearing if the parties can agree upon the conditions to be contained in the Order. The Final Order can be in effect for as long as 36 months.
After the Final Hearing: The Granting or Denial of a Final Order
- If the Court issues a Final Order of Court, either after a hearing or if the Defendant agrees to have an order entered against him / her, you should leave the Courthouse with a certified copy of the Final Order as well as a copy for any local law enforcement agency which needs to be notified.
- If the Court does not enter a Final Order of Court and dismisses the petition, the Temporary Order is no longer in effect. You have the right to appeal the Court’s decision. Your appeal rights and the time for filing an appeal should be discussed with your attorney who will advise you on how to proceed.
Failure to Appear
- If the Defendant fails to appear for the hearing after being served and having the opportunity to be heard, then the Court will enter a Final Order against the Defendant.
- If you (the petitioner) fail to appear for the final hearing without notifying the Court and asking for a continuance, your petition will be dismissed and the Temporary Order is no longer in effect.
- If both parties fail to appear, the Temporary Order will expire on the date of the hearing.
Violation of a Protection From Abuse Order
If the Order is granted in your case and the defendant violates the Order, you should notify your local police department. You also have the ability to file a private complaint if you believe the order has been violated and the police do not notify the Court of Common Pleas or the on-duty District Justice. If you were represented by an attorney at the Final Hearing, contact that lawyer for advice on how to proceed. If the Defendant contacts you and you are unsure whether the Defendant’s conduct constitutes a violation, call your attorney and discuss the situation with him or her.
Once the Court is notified of an alleged violation, a hearing will be scheduled to determine if there has been a violation of the court order. If the order has been violated, the Court of Common Pleas of Beaver County may hold the defendant in Indirect Criminal Contempt and punish him / her in accordance with the law. Being found in contempt may result in a jail sentence for up to six (6) months and/or a fine not to exceed $1,000 and may include other relief set forth in the Protection From Abuse Act.
If you need emergency counseling or shelter, contact the Women’s Center of Beaver County by calling its 24 hour hotline at (724) 775-0131.