If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, Women’s Center & Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh’s Legal Advocacy Department provides free and confidential support to help navigate the complexities of the legal system. Our program includes a wide range of services such as court accompaniment, filing legal documents, safety planning, explanation of available options, and direct advocacy as the case progresses through the legal system.
You do not have to be alone when you go to court. Call our Legal Advocates at 412-355-7400 and we will be there to help you through this challenging time.
Last year: WC&S Legal Advocates provided 3,797 adult victims of intimate partner violence with legal advocacy and helped obtain 1,327 Protection from Abuse Orders.
Understanding Legal Rights for Victims of Abuse
You may be able to obtain immediate, court-mandated protection through a civil Protection from Abuse (PFA) Order, regardless of whether criminal charges are filed against your abuser. The PFA order can do any or all of the following:
- Order the abuser to stop the violent or abusive behavior and refrain from harassing, contacting, or stalking you
- Exclude the abuser from your residence
- Grant temporary custody of your minor children to you
- Order the abuser to turn over weapons to the police
You can obtain a PFA Order at 440 Ross Street, Room 3030, Monday through Friday – between 8:30 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. The process may take several hours, so we recommend showing up as early as possible.
Filing a Civil Protection from Abuse Order
When you are ready to file a PFA, make sure you have the following documents with you:
- Driver’s license or passport
Once you complete a PFA petition, you will need to appear at a court hearing before the judge. The abuser and subject of the PFA may or may not be present at this hearing. If you have young children that need supervision, the Family Court will provide a free and secure children’s playroom on site.
If you are facing financial or other limitations, you can also file for a Temporary PFA without the payment of any fees. Our Legal Advocates can provide you with information regarding the availability of free legal representation, if necessary.
All Family Court proceedings take place at the Allegheny County Family & Juvenile Court, located at 440 Ross Street, Room 3030 in Downtown Pittsburgh.
The Court’s PFA Unit staff and domestic violence program advocates will also be available to assist and support you in filing a PFA petition. If you are unable to safely wait for a hearing in Family Court on a weekday between 8:30 a.m. and 11:00 a.m., Emergency PFA Orders are available. You can obtain one at either:
- Magisterial District Judge’s Office in your community on any afternoon that the office is open
- Allegheny County Night Court (412-350-3240), 660 First Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15219 on weekdays after 3:00 p.m., and 24-hours a day on weekends and holidays.
What to Do If You have a PFA Order That Is Being Violated
Immediately call 911 and request police support. Local law enforcement may be able to arrest the defendant for violating the PFA Order.
If the police do not arrest the defendant immediately, you can take a copy of your PFA Order to either your local District Judge’s office or to Night Court and file a Complaint for Indirect Criminal Contempt for Violation of a PFA Order. An arrest warrant may then be issued so that the defendant may be arrested.
If your abuser is in the Allegheny County Jail and you would like to be notified of their release, please call The Center for Victims 24-hour Helpline at 412-392-8582.
Women’s Center & Shelter also offers specialized Legal representation to victims of domestic violence through the Civil Law Project, where such representation will provide justice, autonomy, restoration, and safety.