Step 1: Get the petition at the courthouse.
You can file your petition for a protection from abuse order with the Court of Common Pleas in the county where you live (permanently or temporarily), where you work, in any county where the abuser can be served (i.e., where s/he lives or works), or in the county where the abuse took place. However, if you are going to be asking the judge to remove the abuser from the home you share, you MUST file the petition in the county where your home is located.1 (To find the courthouse in the county where you plan to file, see our PA Courthouse Locations page.) Remember to bring some form of identification (a driver's license or a picture I.D.) with you to court. You may also want to call the courthouse in advance (if you can) to see if there are certain times that petitions are presented to the judge. If you come after the scheduled time-slots, your petition may be referred to a magisterial judge for an emergency order and then you would have to return to courthouse the next day to file for the temporary PFA order.2
At the courthouse, the prothonotary will provide you with the forms that you need to file. The prothonotary may assist you with filing the papers but will not be able to give you legal advice. You will also find links to online forms at our PA Download Court Forms page.
Also, you may be able to get help through one of the domestic violence organizations listed on our PA Advocates and Shelters page.
Note: You will not be charged any fee for filing a PFA petition.3
If you need to file for an order immediately and the county courthouse is closed, call your local police department or 911 to see which magisterial district judge is on-call. S/he may be able to grant you an emergency order that will last until the next business day when you must go to the prothonotary to file for a protection from abuse order.4
1 Pa.R.C.P. 1901.1(a)-(b)
2Lehigh County Court of Common Pleas, FAQs.
3 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 6106(b)
4 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 6110(a)-(b)