Jamie V. Ottaviano, Esq., is an attorney at O'Donnell, Weiss & Mattei, P.C., concentrating his practice in civil litigation, criminal defense, family law, estate planning, and estate administration. Jamie is a graduate of St. Pius X High School and the Hill School. Jamie earned his bachelor’s degree from Franklin & Marshall College and his law degree from Widener University School of Law. Jamie and his wife are the proud parents of two girls and reside in Berks County. Jamie is also is a proud board member of the Pottstown Area Police Athletic League and The Sunnybrook Foundation.

Phone: 610-323-2800
Fax: 610-323-2845

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The material in this publication was created as of the date set forth above and is based on laws, court decisions, administrative rulings and congressional materials that existed at that time, and should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinions on specific facts. The information in this publication is not intended to create, and the transmission and receipt of it does not constitute, a lawyer-client relationship.


What is Protection From Abuse?

Protection From Abuse, or “PFA” for short, is a civil order issued by a judge for the purposes of protecting the plaintiff (i.e., the abused party) by placing certain restrictions on the defendant (i.e., the abusing party). A PFA is analogous to a restraining order in that it orders the defendant to not have any contact with the plaintiff. A PFA can also contemplate evictions, firearm restrictions, and other remedies that may be called for. A PFA is governed by the Protection From Abuse Act, 23 Pa. C.S. § 6101 et seq.

Who can get a PFA?

A plaintiff may obtain a PFA against a defendant if both parties are “family or household members.” More specifically, a plaintiff can obtain a PFA against a defendant so long as they:

  • are or have been spouses;
  • live or have lived as spouses;
  • are parents;
  • are children, related by consanguinity or affinity;
  • are current or former sexual or intimate partners; or
  • have shared biological parenthood.

A plaintiff may also file on behalf of their minor children.

What incidents give rise to a PFA?

A plaintiff must allege and prove by a preponderance of evidence (it is more likely than not) that they were abused by the defendant. Abuse occurs by any of the following acts:

  • attempting to cause or intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causing bodily injury, serious bodily injury, rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, sexual assault, statutory sexual assault, aggravated indecent assault, indecent assault, or incest with or without a deadly weapon;
  • placing another in reasonable fear of imminent serious bodily injury;
  • the infliction of false imprisonment;
  • physically or sexually abusing minor children; or
  • knowingly engaging in a course of conduct or repeatedly committing acts toward another person, including following the person, without proper authority, under circumstances which place the person in reasonable fear of bodily injury.

How does a plaintiff file for a PFA?

Most counties have an office dedicated to PFAs in the courthouse. One must go in person and fill out the necessary paperwork, including the defendant’s information and a description of the abuse that occurred. The petition is then taken to a judge, who will make an ex parte (meaning, not in the presence of the opposing party) determination of whether the circumstances warrant a temporary PFA to be issued. Either way, a hearing date will be set within the following ten (10) business days, at which time the plaintiff must prove that the defendant abused him/her, and the defendant has the opportunity to challenge such evidence and present his/her own evidence. The judge will make a determination based on what is presented at the hearing.

If a PFA is urgently required outside of normal court/business hours, the plaintiff may call the police to ask which local magisterial district justice is on call and appear before him/her to request an emergency order.

How long does a PFA last?

An emergency order is valid until the next business day, at which time the plaintiff must pursue normal channels. A temporary PFA, if issued by the judge as described above, is valid until the hearing where the determination is made for the issuance of a final PFA. The final PFA, if granted, may last for a period of one (1) month to three (3) years, subject to judicial discretion. A PFA may be extended, modified, or terminated upon an appropriate petition by either party and following a hearing.

What types of relief are available through a PFA?

Depending on the circumstances, a PFA may include any of the following provisions:

  • directing the defendant to refrain from abusing the plaintiff or minor children;
  • evicting the defendant of granting possession of a residence or household to the plaintiff;
  • awarding temporary custody of or establishing temporary visitation rights with regard to minor children;
  • directing the defendant to pay financial support to those persons the defendant has a duty to support;
  • prohibiting the defendant from having any contact with the plaintiff or minor children, including, but not limited to, restraining the defendant from entering the place of employment or business or school of the plaintiff or minor children and from harassing the plaintiff or plaintiff’s relatives or minor children;
  • ordering the defendant to relinquish to the sheriff his/her weapons, firearms, ammunition, and firearms licenses, and prohibiting the defendant from acquiring or possessing any of the same;
  • directing the defendant to pay the plaintiff for reasonable losses suffered as a result of the abuse;
  • directing the defendant to refrain from stalking or harassing the plaintiff and other designated persons; and/or
  • granting any other appropriate relief sought by the plaintiff.

What happens if someone violates a PFA?

Violating a PFA is a criminal offense. In essence, it is a violation against not the plaintiff, but against the court, who issued the order. Therefore, the criminal offense would be indirect criminal contempt, and like any crime, the police may investigate the accusation and take appropriate action as they see fit. Alternatively, the aggrieved party may attempt to file for a contempt hearing before a judge. The sentence for violating a PFA may include a fine ranging from $300 to $1000 and/or imprisonment or supervised probation for a maximum of six (6) months.

If you would care to discuss the above in detail, please call me at 610-323-2800 or email me at jottaviano@owmlaw.com. Also, please watch OWM's January 2014 Legal Talk program regarding Protection From Abuse on our website here.


O’Donnell, Weiss, & Mattei, P.C. is pleased and proud to congratulate Ryan A. Costello, Esq., for his election as Chairman of the Board of Commissioners of Chester County, and James C. Kovaleski for his election as President of the Phoenixville Borough Council. Please see the articles from The Inquirer and The Mercury for more information.


David A. Megay, Esq. speaking at SCORE Business Planning Seminar on 4/21/14 at 7:00 p.m., New York Plaza Building, Basement, 244 East High Street, Pottstown, PA (contact SCORE at 610-327-2673).

David A. Megay, Esq., speaking at Chester County Night School Seminars at Owen J. Roberts High School, Pottstown, PA, on 3/26/14 entitled "Ask the Lawyer: Starting Your Own Business" and on 4/30/14 entitled "Ask the Lawyer: Buying and Selling Real Estate in PA" (contact Chester County Night School at 610-692-1964 or online at www.chestercountynightschool.org).

James C. Kovaleski, Esq., and Rebecca A. Hobbs, Esq., speaking at Shannondell at Valley Forge Seminar at 11:00 a.m. on 1/22/14 entitled "How Legal Documents and Planning Can Prepare One for Life and Death" (contact Shannondell at Valley Forge at 1-800-669-2318).

Kathleen M. Martin, Esq., speaking at Chester County Night School Seminars at Owen J. Roberts High School, Pottstown, PA, on 4/9/14 entitled "Elder Law Issues" and on 4/30/14 entitled "Beyond the Simple Will," and at West Chester B. Reed Henderson High School, West Chester, PA on 4/16/14 entitled "Elder Law Issues"(contact Chester County Night School at 610-692-1964 or online at www.chestercountynightschool.org).

Kathleen M. Martin, Esq., co-planner and presenter of Pennsylvania Bar Institute's “What Every Attorney Needs to Know About Alzheimer's Disease” on 3/12/14 in Mechanicsburg, PA, and on 3/19/14 in Philadelphia, PA (contact PBI at 1-800-247-4724).

Watch Legal Talk, brought to you by OWM, on PCTV, Tuesdays at 8:30 on Channel 28, and Thursdays at 9:30 p.m. on Channel 98, or on our website here.

Read Legal Ease every first and third Sunday in the Pottstown Mercury.

O'Donnell,Weiss & Mattei, P.C.

41 E. High Street
Pottstown, PA 19464
Fax: 610-323-2845

347 Bridge Street, Suite 200
Phoenixville, PA 19460
Fax: 610-917-9348