How Does a Protection from Abuse (PFA) Form Work?
The plaintiff, the person claiming to have been abused, goes to the Clerk’s Office. The defendant, the person who they allege has abused them, often doesn’t even know that this action is contemplated, in the works sort of a thing. They fill out the complaint. They submit it to the Clerk’s Office, and a judge right then – sometimes it takes a little while, but right then reviews it.
If the complaint alleges abuse as defined under the statute, the court is empowered to enter what’s called an ex parte order, which is an order that the defendant, the person accused of committing the abuse, doesn’t even know exists at that point. It often prohibits them from returning home, prohibits them from contacting their spouse, ex-spouse, mother or father of their children, and their children. It has a very powerful effect that often has continuing implications in a subsequent family case. The person who’s accused of committing the abuse – once they’re served with the order and the complaint, they’re prohibited from contact, seeing their children, whatever the court ordered, and usually that’s what it is, until they have their final hearing.
Final hearings are scheduled usually no later than three weeks out, so they move quite quickly. Since the defendant didn’t get a chance to have any input in whether the Temporary Order issues or not, they have the right to move the hearing up and challenge the Temporary Order under the statute on two days’ notice to the other side. That’s the protecting their right to be heard. Since they haven’t had the opportunity to be heard, they’re allowed to get into the court relatively quickly.
Practically speaking, it’s hard to get a hearing on two days’ notice, although the clerks and the courts are very willing to let you have your hearing on the next available PFA date. Often, it’s a little more than two days but not a whole lot after that. That can make a case move even more quickly than they already do.