Know the Laws: Alabama
UPDATED July 28, 2016
A protection from abuse order (PFA) is a civil order that protects you from abuse by a current or former intimate partners or certain household members.
You can file for an order if you are the victim of domestic abuse, as defined below, or if you have reasonable cause to believe that you are in immediate danger of becoming the victim of any act of abuse.* Alabama law defines "domestic abuse" for the purpose of getting a protection from abuse order as the occurrence (actual or attempted) of one or more of the following acts between a current or former intimate partner/household member:
You will notice that the petition for a PFA doesn't include "harassment" as a box to check off - however, if you read the legal definition of harassment, you can see how else you may be able to indicate harassment in one of the available check boxes on the petition.
* Ala. Code § 30-5-5(a)(1)
** Ala. Code § 30-5-2(1)(a)-(i),(k)-(o)
*** Ala. Code § 30-5-2(1)(j)
There are two types of orders:
Temporary (ex parte) protection from abuse orders.
You can get a temporary ex parte protection order if the judge believes it is necessary to protect you or your children from abuse, or from the immediate and present danger of abuse. You can get an emergency PFA without having to go through a full court hearing. An emergency PFA can protect you from the time you file for the final order until your full court hearing can take place. (However, by law, the judge can take three business days to decide whether or not to grant you an ex parte temporary order.) The full court hearing usually takes place within 10 days of your filing date.*
The advantage of an emergency PFA is that you can get one without the abuser present (known as an ex parte order). You can apply for an emergency PFA by going to the circuit court clerk in the county courthouse in your area. In some counties, you may be required to go to family court or domestic relations court. Tell the clerk you want to apply for an emergency PFA. You must complete the application form and you may be required to see a judge and explain why you need protection.
If the judge denies your request for an emergency PFA, you may still ask the judge to consider your PFA petition through the full court hearing process. At the hearing, you would have a chance to present evidence and witnesses to prove that you were abused and the abuser has a chance to present the same to prove you were not abused.
Final protection from abuse orders.
A final PFA can be issued at a hearing where the abuser is given notice of the hearing and has the right to be present. At the hearing, both you and the abuser present evidence (tell your sides of the story) to a judge. Final PFAs can be permanent (have no expiration date) unless the judge says otherwise or the order is later modified (changed).**
Once the hearing date is set for the final PFA, you must attend that hearing or else your temporary order may expire and you will have to start the process over. If the abuser does not show up to that hearing, the judge may grant a final PFA or s/he may set a new hearing date. If the judge sets a new hearing date, and you had an emergency PFA, make sure the judge extends the emergency PFA so that it is effective until the new hearing date.
Note: You may also want to think about seeking shelter while going through the PFA process. You can call the Alabama Domestic Violence hotline, 1-800-650-6522, or contact one of the AL State and Local Programs listed under the Where to Find Help tab at the top of this page.
* Ala. Code § 30-5-6(a),(b)
** Ala. Code § 30-5-7(d)(2)
In an emergency (ex parte) protection from abuse order, a judge can:
In a permanent protection from abuse order, a judge may order all of the protections of the emergency (ex parte) order listed above. In addition, a judge can order the abuser to:
Under federal law, the abuser likely cannot have or buy a gun while a permanent PFA order is in place against him/her. To read more, please see our Federal Gun Laws page.
* Ala. Code § 30-5-7(b)
** Ala. Code § 30-5-7(c)
A petition for a protection from abuse order may be filed in any of the following counties: