How 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.1 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 Advocates and Shelters page and entering your new state in the drop-down menu.
1 18 U.S.C. § 2265(d)(2)
Do 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.1
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.2
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.
1 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 6102
2 23 Pa,C.S.A. § 6104(d)(3)
Can 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.
Do 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.1
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.2
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.
1 23 Pa.C.S.A. §§ 6705(b)(6); 6706(a)(2)
2 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 6112