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Know the Laws: Pennsylvania

UPDATED May 25, 2017

Enforcing Your Out-Of-State Order in Pennsylvania

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If you are planning to move to Pennsylvania or are going to be in Pennsylvania for any reason, your out-of-state protection order may be enforceable.

General rules for out-of-state orders in Pennsylvania

back to topCan I get my protection order enforced in Pennsylvania? What are the requirements?

Yes.  Your protection order can be enforced in Pennsylvania 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 he actually showed up in court; just that he had the opportunity to do so.
    • In the case of temporary ex parte 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 topCan I have my out-of-state protection order changed, extended, or canceled in Pennsylvania?

No.  Only the state that issued your protection order can change, extend, or cancel the order.  You cannot have this done by a court in Pennsylvania.

To have your order changed, extended, or canceled, you will have to file a motion or petition in the court where the order was issued.  You may be able to request that you attend the court hearing by telephone rather than in person, so that you do not need to return to the state where the abuser is living.  To find out more information about how to modify an out-of-state restraining order, see the Restraining Orders page for the state where your order was issued.

If your order does expire while you are living in Pennsylvania, you may be able to get a new one issued in Pennsylvania but this may be difficult to do if no new incidents of abuse have occurred in Pennsylvania.  To find out more information on how to get a protective order in Pennsylvania, visit our Protection from Abuse Orders (PFA) page.

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back to topI was granted temporary custody with my out-of-state protection order. Will I still have temporary custody of my children in PA?

Yes.  As long as the child custody provision complies with certain federal laws,* Pennsylvania can enforce a temporary custody order that is a part of a protection order.

To have someone read over your order and tell you if it meets these standards, contact a lawyer in your area.  To find a lawyer in your area click here PA Finding a Lawyer.

* The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act (UCCJA) or the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), and the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act of 1980.

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Registering your out-of-state order in Pennsylvania

back to topWhat is the National Crime Information Center Registry? Who has access to it?

The National Crime Information Center Registry (NCIC) is a nationwide, electronic database used by law enforcement agencies in the U.S, Canada, and Puerto Rico.  It is managed by the FBI and state law enforcement officials.  If your protection order meets the national criteria, it will be entered into the NCIC.*

All law enforcement officials have access to it, but the information is encrypted so outsiders cannot access it.

* National Crime Information Center

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back to topHow do I register my protection order in Pennsylvania?

To register your protection order in Pennsylvania, you must get a certified copy* of your protection order from the court that issued it and then file it with the prothonotary in the county where you are living or staying.  There is no fee for registering your out-of-state order in Pennsylvania.

Once your order is registered, the prothonotary will give a copy of your order to the Pennsylvania State Police, and it will then be registered in the Pennsylvania State Police registry of protection orders.**

If you need help registering your protection order, you can contact a local domestic violence organization in Pennsylvania for assistance. You can find contact information for organizations in your area on our PA Where to Find Help page.

* Defined in 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 6102
** 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 6104(d)(1)-(2)

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back to topDo I have to register my protection order in Pennsylvania in order to get it enforced?

No.  Pennsylvania state law does not require you to file your out-of-state protection order in order to get it enforced.*  Pennsylvania gives full protection to an out-of-state protection order and will enforce it as if it were issued by a court in Pennsylvania.  Police officers in Pennsylvania are supposed to assume that your out-of-state protection order is real, unless a court says otherwise.**

* 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 6104(d)(3)
** 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 6105(h)

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back to topWill the abuser be notified if I register my out-of-state protection order?

Under the federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which applies to all U.S. states and territories, the court is not permitted to notify the abuser when a protective order has been registered or filed in a new state unless you specifically request that the abuser be notified.*  However, you may wish to confirm that the clerk is aware of this law before registering the order if your address is confidential.

However, remember that there may be a possibility that the abuser could somehow find out what state you have moved to.  It is important to continue to safety plan, even if you are no longer in the state where the abuser is living.  We have some safety planning tips to get you started on our Staying Safe page.  You can also contact a local domestic violence organization to get help in developing a personalized safety plan.  You will find contact information for organizations in your area on our PA State and Local Programs page.

* 18 USC § 2265(d)

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back to topWhat is the Pennsylvania State Police registry of protection orders?

The Pennsylvania State Police registry of protection orders is a statewide database that includes all temporary and final protection orders that were issued in Pennsylvania as well as any out-of-state orders that were filed in Pennsylvania.  Law enforcement officers and courts can access the registry at any time, but the information is not available to the public.

When your order is issued or filed, the prothonotary will send the information on the order (including the names of the parties, the expiration date of the order, and the specific protections given by the order) to the Pennsylvania State Police registry within 24 hours of the time it is issued or filed.  If your order is changed in any way, the prothonotary will send the changes into the registry, and when your order expires, it will be taken out of the registry.*

* 23 C.S. § 6105(e)

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back to topWhat if I don't register my protection order? Will it be more difficult to have it enforced?

If you don’t register your order, it should not be any more difficult to get your order enforced.  Neither federal law* nor state law** requires that you register your protection order in order to get it enforced.  Pennsylvania law says that police officers must enforce an out-of-state protective order as if it were issued in Pennsylvania, and that only a court can declare an out-of-state protective order to be invalid.***

If you are unsure about whether registering your order is the right decision for you, you may want to contact a local domestic violence organization in your area.  An advocate there can help you decide what the safest plan of action is for you in Pennsylvania.  To see a list of local domestic violence organizations in Pennsylvania, go to our PA State and Local Programs page.

* 18 U.S.C. § 2265(d)(2)
** 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 6104(d)(3) & (e)
*** 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 6105(h)

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back to topDoes it cost anything to register my protection order?

No.  There is no fee for registering your protection order in Pennsylvania.*

* 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 6104(d)(1)

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