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Know the Laws: Pennsylvania

UPDATED May 25, 2017

Moving to Another State with Your Protection from Abuse Order

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If you are moving out of state or are going to be out of the state for any reason, your protection from abuse order can still be enforceable.

General rules

back to topCan I get my PFA from Pennsylvania enforced in another state?

Yes.  If you have a valid Pennsylvania protection from abuse order (PFA) that meets federal standards, it can be enforced in another state.  The Violence Against Women Act, which is a federal law, states that all valid PFA orders granted in the United States receive "full faith and credit" in all state and tribal courts within the US, including US territories.*  See How do I know if my PFA is good under federal law? to find out if your PFA qualifies.

Each state must enforce out-of-state PFA orders in the same way it enforces its own orders, so if the abuser violates your out-of-state PFA, s/he will be punished according to the laws of whatever state you are in when the order is violated.  This is what is meant by "full faith and credit."**

* 18 U.S.C. § 2265(a)
** 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 6104(a)

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back to topHow do I know if my PFA is good under federal law?

A protection from abuse order (PFA) is good anywhere in the United States as long as:

  • It was issued to prevent violent or threatening acts, harassing behavior, sexual violence, or it was issued to prevent another person from coming near you or contacting you.*
  • The court that issued the order had jurisdiction over the people and case.  (In other words, the court had the authority to hear the case.)
  • The abuser received notice of the order and had an opportunity to go to court to tell his/her side of the story.  It doesn’t matter if s/he actually showed up in court; just that s/he had the opportunity to do so.
    • In the case of ex parte temporary and emergency orders, the abuser must receive notice and have an opportunity to go to court to tell his/her side of the story at a hearing that is scheduled within a "reasonable time" after the order is issued.**
Note: For information on enforcing a military protective order (MPO) off the military installation, or enforcing a civil protection order (CPO) on a military installation, please see our Military Protective Orders page.

*18 U.S.C. § 2266(5)(A)
** 18 U.S.C. § 2265(a)-(b)

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back to topI have an ex-parte temporary order. Can it be enforced in another state?

Yes.   An ex parte temporary order can be enforced in other states as long as it meets the requirements listed in How do I know if my PFA is good under federal law?*

Note: The state where you are going generally cannot extend your ex parte temporary order or issue you a permanent order when the temporary one expires.  If you need to extend your temporary order, you will have to contact the state that issued the order and arrange to be at the hearing in person or by telephone (if that is an option offered by the court).  However, you may be able to reapply for one in the new state that you are moving to if you meet the requirements for getting a protective order in that state – but, if you apply for one in a new state, the abuser would know what state you are living in, which may put you in danger.

* 18 U.S.C. § 2265(b)(2)


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Getting your protection from abuse order enforced in another state

back to topHow do I get my PFA enforced in another state?

Federal law does not require you to take any special steps to get your protection from abuse order (PFA) enforced in another state.

Many states do have laws or regulations (rules) about registering or filing of out-of-state orders, which can make enforcement easier, but a valid PFA is enforceable regardless of whether it has been registered or filed in the new state.*  Rules differ from state to state, so it may be helpful to find out what the rules are in your new state.  You can contact a local domestic violence organization for more information by visiting our State and Local Programs page and entering your new state in the drop-down menu.

* 18 U.S.C. § 2265(d)(2)

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back to topDo I need anything special to get my PFA enforced in another state?

In some states, you will need a certified copy of your PFA.  A certified copy says that it is a "true and correct" copy; it is signed and initialed by the prothonotary that gave you the order, and usually has some kind of court stamp on it.  In Pennsylvania, a certified copy may be a paper copy of the original order endorsed by the prothonotary or an electronic copy with a digital signature of the judge or prothonotary.  A raised seal is not required for it to be a certified copy.*

At the time your PFA was ordered, you should have received 3 copies of it, but those copies were most likely not certified.  In order to get a certified copy, call or go to the court that gave you the order and ask the prothonotary’s office for a certified copy.  According to the law, you are not supposed to be charged anything for certified copies of the PFA.**

Note: It is generally a good idea to keep a copy of the order with you at all times.  You may also want to leave copies of the order at your work place, at your home, at the children's school or daycare, in your car, with a sympathetic neighbor, and so on.  You may want to give a copy to the security guard or person at the front desk where you live and/or work along with a photo of the abuser.  You may also want to give a copy of the order to anyone who is named in and protected by the order.

* 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 6102
** 23 Pa,C.S.A. § 6104(d)(3)

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back to topCan I get someone to help me? Do I need a lawyer?

You do not need a lawyer to get your PFA enforced in another state.

However, you may want to get help from a local domestic violence advocate or attorney in the state that you move to.  A domestic violence advocate can let you know what the advantages and disadvantages are for registering your PFA in that state, and help you through the process if you decide to do so.

To find a domestic violence advocate or an attorney in the state you are moving to, see our State and Local Programs and Finding a Lawyer pages.

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back to topDo I need to tell the court in Pennsylvania if I move?

Yes, if you won't be getting mail at your old address.  The court that gave you your protection from abuse order (PFA) needs to have an up-to-date address for you at all times.  That's because they will communicate with you only by mail if anything happens to your protective order.  For example, if the abuser asks the court to dismiss the order, or if your order is changed in any way, the court will send you a letter letting you know.   If you will not be receiving mail at your old address, you must provide the court with a new address where you can receive mail.  If you are a participant in PA’s address confidentiality program, you must tell the Office of the Victim Advocate about your change of address within 5 days of the change.*

If you provide your new address to the court, you can request that it be kept confidential.  If you do so, it will be kept in a confidential part of your file, and the court will order law enforcement agencies, human service agencies, and school districts not to give out the information.**

However, your new address may be released to court officials in your new state, or to law enforcement officials in either Pennsylvania or your new state. If you feel unsafe giving the court your new address, you can use the address of a friend you trust or a P.O. Box instead.

* 23 Pa.C.S.A. §§ 6705(b)(6); 6706(a)(2)
** 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 6112

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Enforcing custody provisions in another state

back to topI was granted temporary custody with my PFA. Can I take my kids out of the state?

Maybe.  It may depend on the exact wording of the custody provision in your PFA.  You may have to first seek the permission of the court before leaving.  If the abuser was granted visitation rights with your children, then you may have to have the order changed, or show the court that there is a fair and realistic alternative to the current visitation schedule.

To read more about custody laws in Pennsylvania see our PA Custody Info page.

If you are unsure about whether or not you can take your kids out of the state, it is important to talk to a domestic violence advocate or lawyer who understands domestic violence and custody laws, and can help you make the safest decision for you and your children.  You can find contact information for local domestic violence organizations and legal assistance in the Pennsylvania area on our PA Where to Find Help page.

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back to topI was granted temporary custody with my PFA. Will another state enforce this custody order?

Yes.  Custody, visitation, and child support provisions that are included in a PFA can be enforced across state lines.  Federal law requires courts and law enforcement officials in other states to enforce these provisions.*

* 18 U.S.C. § 2266

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