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Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

Answer: Probation is an alternative to incarceration in which the offender is permitted to serve the entire sentence in the community, under the supervision of the Adult Probation / Parole Department (APPD).

Answer: Parole is an alternative to continued incarceration in which the offender is permitted to serve the remainder of the sentence in the community under APPD supervision.

Answer: 1401 Arch Street (the corner of Broad and Arch Streets) Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19107

Answer: Call Probation Information at 215-683-1000 (Give your name and date of birth)

Answer: Obligations imposed by the sentencing Judge which the offender must satisfy in order to complete their sentence.


  • Complying with APPD Rules & Regulations
  • Pay Economic Sanctions
  • Enter or attend Treatment
  • Obtain a GED
  • Submit to Drug Testing


  • Upon your release, report to APPD within 72 Hours.
    • If already on Probation or Parole – report to your PO at 1401 Arch St.
    • If you are not already assigned to a PO – report to the Probation Department Intake Unit, located in Room B-01 in the Criminal Justice Center (13th and Filbert Streets).


  • Discuss your employment goals and plans with your Probation Officer
  • Request assistance in preparing for your interview
  • Provide verification of the places you have contacted
  • Ask your PO to intervene with a prospective employer who may have concerns regarding you criminal record.


  • Provide regular verification of employment & work schedule
  • Advise Officer of any employment, or work schedule changes
  • If necessary, ask your PO for flexibility regarding your reporting time to allow for the minimal disruption of work hours.

Answer: Economic Sanctions are monetary obligations determined and ordered by the sentencing Judge.
They can include:

  • Fines/Costs
  • Restitution
  • Supervision Fees

Always pay Something, No matter how small

Economic Sanction payments can be made in person at:

Adult Probation/Parole Department
1401 Arch Street
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19102
Attn: Accounting Unit


Criminal Justice Center
1301 Filbert Street
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19107
Attn: Accounting Unit


  • You may not possess or carry a firearm or deadly weapon.
  • You may not travel outside of Philadelphia without permission from your PO.
  • Respond promptly to any summons to appear in Court.
  • Notify your officer within 72 hours if any of the following occur:
    • A new arrest
    • A change of address
    • A change of employment
  • You may be subject to random drug testing and home visits from your PO.
  • You may be subject to attend a Life Skills Training course
  • Answer: When you fail to comply with, or complete the obligations of Probation/Parole.

    Answer: If you are convicted for a crime committed while on Probation/Parole.

    Answer: A legal document allowing APPD to arrest and hold you in custody pending a violation hearing before the sentencing Judge.


    • If you are arrested for any of the crimes listed below, you will be detained and held in custody pending a hearing in front of your Judge.
      • Murder
      • Aggravated Assault
      • Rape
      • Robbery
      • Involuntary Deviant Sexual Intercourse
    • Your PO has the authority to lodge a warrant against you in response to any violation.


    • Ask your PO to explain the Warrant and Violation Hear ing Procedures.
    • If it has been determines that you have violated your Probation or Parole, he/she may schedule a violation hearing.
    • The APPD will advise you of the Violation Hearing date and time.


    • Follow the rules and regulations of Probation and Parole
    • Report to your PO as scheduled
    • Comply with or make good-faith efforts to complete your special conditions
    • Make payments on your economic sanctions
    • Maintain/seek gainful employment
    • Remain arrest free.

    Q. Can I pay bail online?
    A: ePay Bail ( ) can only be used when posting bail on Municipal Court Cases (Case Docket Number must begin with MC-51-CR) and there are no other court imposed restrictions. All major credit cards and debit cards are acceptable methods of payment. Payments are accepted 24 hours a day.

    Q. What do I do after I complete online payment of bail?
    A. After the completion of the ePay bail process, you MUST contact the Bail Acceptance Unit and advise the Bail Clerk that a bail has been posted. The office operates 24 hours and the phone numbers are (215) 683-7726/7727. If bail was posted for a defendant incarcerated at CFCF, the defendant may be picked up at the prison facility located at 7901 State Road, Philadelphia PA 19136. Please call the Records Room at CFCF Prison (215) 685-8434 to inquire into the estimated timeframe of processing paperwork and release.

    Q. What if I want to be the Surety of bail paid online?
    A. If you paid bail online and wish for the funds to be returned to you, you need to change the status from "Payer" to "Surety". To complete this activity you will have to appear in person at the basement of CJC located at 1301 Filbert Street, Philadelphia PA 19107. You will need to bring a valid government-issued identification card and a copy of the ePay bail receipt.

    Please be advised that the "Surety" is liable for the FULL AMOUNT of the bail if the defendant fails to appear for court and the bail is forfeited.

    Q. Where is bail posted?
    A: Cash bail can be posted 24 hours, seven days a week, including holidays, at the Criminal Justice Center, 1301 Filbert Street, Basement Level in the Payment Center. The phone numbers for any inquiries are (215) 683-7726/7727.
    Members of the public can also post bail online 24 hours a day via UJS portal at

    Q. What are the acceptable methods of payment for Bail?
    A. Bail Acceptance accepts the following methods of payment:

    1. Cash
    Cash bail can be posted in the name of the defendant or a third party surety.

    2. Credit/Debit cards
    All major credit cards and debit cards are accepted - except American Express. Credit card users must become the surety and the person posting the bail must have photo ID to match the name on the credit card.

    3. Certified bank checks
    Certified bank checks are accepted only from 9:00 a.m. through 4:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. The check must be made payable to the Office of Judicial Records.

    4. Real Estate
    Bail can also be posted by using real estate. An assessment of the property value, in conjunction with any liens and other judgments will determine if the property has enough equity to use as collateral. All real estate bail must cover 100% of the bail amount.

    Q. Will my loved one be released after payment of Bail?
    A. Payment of bail does not guarantee the release of a person. There may be outstanding warrants and/or detainers for other jurisdictions. If the defendant is incarcerated at the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility (CFCF), please call the CFCF Records Room to inquire into other holds/detainers and whether the defendant can be released upon bail payment. The Records Room at CFCF Prison operates 24 hours and the contact number is (215) 685-8434.

    Q. What if I made the payment, but do not wish to be the Surety of bail?
    A. By posting payment through ePay Bail, the system recognizes you only as a "Payer" for the defendant. You relinquish any right to make a claim for the return of the money under PA Rules of Criminal Procedure. You will not be held accountable for the defendant's actions in complying with the conditions of release. The defendant will be deemed the depositor of the money, and any money will be returned to the defendant, not to you.

    Q. Will I receive back the full bail payment?
    A. In all cases where cash bail is posted, the Office of Judicial Records shall retain 30% of the deposited amount, but in no case less than $10.00, or more than $1,500.00 as administrative cost. 20 days after the full and final disposition of the case (after time to appeal the case is over), the amount deposited, minus the retained amount, will be released to the defendant, or the surety, who has made the deposit.

    Q. When and where is bail refund obtained?
    A: As per State Rule 534, unless bail is revoked, a bail bond is valid until the full and final disposition of the case, including all avenues of appeal to the Supreme Court of PA. Refunds are mailed within 20 days after the full and final disposition of the case, which includes the expiration of the appeal period (30 days from sentencing date). Refund checks are printed and mailed to the surety at the last known address. Questions pertaining to bail refunds can be answered in the CJC, 1301 Filbert Street, Payment Center, Room B-02, Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. through 5:00p.m., or via phone at 215-683-7723/4.

    Q. Can I request a bail refund without a receipt?
    A: Yes. Visit the Criminal Justice Center, 1301 Filbert Street, Payment Center, Basement, Window #1, Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. through 5:00 p.m. You will need the case number and the original form of identification used when bail was posted. We will process the request and forward it to the correct Office. Please be advised that all payments are mailed out and no payment is provided in person.

    Q. What is a Bail Piece?
    A. A certificate granted by a judge that allows the original Surety of a particular bail to have their name removed as the responsible party for future activities.

    Q. How can I obtain a Bail Piece?
    A. A surety can obtain a Bail Piece by filing a motion for "Bail Piece" at the Criminal Motions Counter, 2nd floor of the CJC. The fee is $12.50. A hearing will be scheduled, at which, the surety must present the defendant for the issuance of the Bail Piece.

    Note: The best way to successfully obtain a "Bail Piece" is when the defendant is in county custody for a bench warrant or involvement in another case.

    Q. Can bail money be refunded while a case is on appeal?
    A: When a case is on appeal to the Superior or Supreme Court, the surety may obtain a bail refund ONLY if the sentencing judge orders that the bail be refunded. If the judge continues the defendant's bail - pending the appeal decision - the bail money cannot be refunded.

    Q. What is considered full and final disposition for refund purpose?
    A. Full and final disposition means 30 days from the sentencing date - allowing for the expiration of the appeal time frame.

    Q. What is a Bench Warrant?
    A: A bench warrant is issued by a judge authorizing the arrest of a person who failed to appear for a court date or is in violation of contempt charges.

    Q. Where does a defendant go to surrender for a bench warrant?
    A: The Surrender Room is located in the Basement of the CJC, Room B-04. The person should surrender between the hours of 7:00 AM and 9:00 AM. After surrender, the defendant will be given a court hearing on the same day of surrender.

    Q. Where do I pay court fines, costs and restitution?
    A: Payments in person may be made at:

    1. The Payment Center (windows 2 and 3), CJC, 1301 Filbert Street, Basement, Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. Phone number is 215-683-7721.

    2. The Payment Center at 1401 Arch Street, 1st Floor, Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.

    3. The Payment Center (windows 4 and 5), CJC, 1301 Filbert Street, Basement, during non-business hours. Phone number is 215-683-7726/7727.
    Only exact cash payments are accepted.

    Q. Can I make payments online?
    A: Yes. The Pennsylvania's Unified Judicial System allows the public to securely make payments on cases and payment plans with outstanding balances in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania's Common Pleas and Magisterial District courts. Payments are accepted using Visa, MasterCard and Discover, as well as by ATM/Debit cards. Log onto

    Q. Where can I get a copy of my fines and cost balance?
    A: Fines and Cost questions can be addressed in person at the Payment Center, 1301 Filbert Street, Room B-02, or via phone at 215-683-7721.

    Q. How do I get into a payment plan?
    A. If you would like to enroll in a payment plan, or have monthly payments adjusted, please visit the Office of Court Compliance (OCC) at the Criminal Justice Center, 1301 Filbert Street, Basement level, Room B-04. Hours of operations are 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. A Payment Hearing will be scheduled before a Trial Commissioner who will make the adjustments based on your current situation.

    Q. Can the public and defendants see the addresses and phone numbers of complainants, witnesses, and jurors?
    A. No. The addresses and phone numbers of complainants, witnesses, and jurors are not public information. Only the names of jurors that are selected for the trial are public. The Arrest Report, Municipal Court Hearing List, and PARS Arrest Report are not public documents as they contain the addresses of the complainants and witnesses.

    Q. Can county custody information (prison location) of a defendant be provided at the CJC?
    A. Yes. Custody information can be provided at the Information Counter, 206 or 310 CJC. We cannot give the exact dates of confinement. Only the Prison Registrar (215-685-8434) can provide the exact dates.

    Q. Can the public (i.e. family, friends, and news reporters) review an active or disposed court file?
    A: Yes, the public can review the court record. The person must show identification (i.e. driver's license and fill out a request form). The person cannot view the following confidential documents: Presentence Investigation Report, Mental Health Evaluation, Jury information, Suppression Notes of Testimony, PARS Arrest Report, Pretrial Bail Guidelines, and the defendant's secure court history.

    Q. Where can the public review a disposed record?
    A: All requests are made at the Information Counters (206 or 310) in the CJC. Please bring a form of identification with you. Common Pleas Court (1988-present) and Municipal Court disposed files (1990-present) are housed in the CJC. Older files are stored off-site at the Record Storage Center. There is a waiting period for records in the off-site storage facility. Before a disposed record can be reviewed, restricted documents will be removed.

    Q. Where are certified copies of disposed cases obtained?
    A: Certified copies of disposed records are available at the Information Counter, Room 310, CJC for a fee of $12.50 per case. You may make non-certified copies of the court record at a cost of $0.50 per page. Notes of testimony can be reviewed, but they cannot be copied. If someone wants to order notes of testimony they need to contact the Court Reporters at 215-683-8000.

    Q. What is a Letter of Good Conduct and how do I obtain one?
    A. A "Letter of Good Conduct" is issued by the Police Department after a search is completed by the Police in their database. The "Letter of Good Conduct" is used to show that the person was never arrested as of the date of the search. To obtain a "Letter of Good Conduct", the person must go to Department of Records, Room 168 City Hall, 215-686-1488, and ask for a Letter of Good Conduct. There is a fee of $40.00. You are not required to have your fingerprints taken. The Department of Records will send the application to the Philadelphia Police Dept., Record Room, where a search will be conducted by name, address, date of birth, and other criteria. If there are no arrests, the Police Dept. will send a "Letter of Good Conduct" within 8 to 10 business days to the individual.

    Q. How do I obtain a Subpoena or a Subpoena Duces Tecum?
    A: You can obtain a Subpoena at the CJC, 1301 Filbert Street, Information Counter, Room 310 for a $2.00 fee.

    Q. How can I get a record expunged?
    A: You can file an Expungement Motion at the Motions Counter, Room 206 CJC. Phone number is 215-683-7518. There is a fee of $147.00. You may also file electronically here.

    Q. What records can be expunged?

    • Nonconvictions
      • verdict of not guilty
      • dismissal
      • withdrawal of charges
      • nolle prosequi
    • Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD)
    • Probation Without Verdict pursuant to the Controlled Substances Act
    • Summary offenses, provided the defendant has been free of arrest or prosecution for five (5) years following the conviction for that offense.

    Q. How can I claim property seized by the Police?
    A: You can file a Return of Property Petition at the Criminal Motions Unit, Room 206 CJC, for property taken from you by the Philadelphia Police. Phone number is 215 683-7518. The petition costs $12.50. You will receive a court date in the Court of Common Pleas. If the petition is granted, the petitioner takes a certified order, proper identification and proceeds to room 715 City Hall to retrieve the property.

    Q. How can a defendant update or change their personal information?
    A: You can file a petition to change information (i.e. date of birth, name, and social security number). A hearing will be scheduled by the Motions Unit. There is a fee of $12.50


    Q. How do I obtain a Private Detective License?
    A: You can obtain information from The Office of Judicial Records, room 310 CJC at 215 683-7700 /7701 /7702. Completed petitions can be filed at the Motions Unit, room 206 CJC. After a petition is filed for a Private Detective License, a background investigation is conducted by the District Attorney's Office prior to the court hearing.

    Q. How can I appeal my sentence from Municipal Court to the Court of Common Pleas Court?
    A. You have 30 days to appeal from the date of your sentence. You may file your appeal in person at the Motions Unit (215-683-7518), Room 206, in the CJC. You may also file the appeal electronically here. There is no fee to file an appeal from Municipal to Common Pleas Court.

    Q. How do I file an appeal from a Traffic Court sentence to the Court of Common Pleas?
    A. You must file the appeal at Traffic Court within 30 days of your sentence. The filing fee is $35.00 per police stop. You will be given a court date to appear in Traffic Court Courtroom D, 800 Spring Garden Street for your appeal hearing. The filing fee is non-refundable.

    Q. Where are appeals from criminal cases filed for the Superior, Commonwealth, and Supreme Courts?
    A. These appeals are filed at the Appeals Unit, Room 206 CJC, Philadelphia, PA 19107. Phone number is 215-683-7525. Filing fee is $40.00 for the Office of Judicial Records and $90.25 for the respective appellate court. Two checks are required at time of filing, unless the attorney is court-appointed. You may also file the appeal electronically here.

    Q. Upon DUI conviction with a license suspension when does my suspension begin?
    A. Your license suspension only begins once your license is surrendered to PENNDOT or any state police barracks.

    Q. What if I never had a driver's license and was convicted of a DUI with a license suspension?
    A. Contact PENNDOT for further instructions.

    Q. What is required before I can request a license restoration on a DUI case?
    A. Before the Office of Judicial Records - Criminal Division can notify PENNDOT the following requirements must be satisfied if ordered:

    • Completion of all court-ordered conditions/programs
    • Obtain a current Restoration Requirement Letter from PENNDOT
      • Proof of completion of prison term (Act 151) - if applicable
      • Proof of completion of drug/alcohol treatment program (Act 122)
        • This is not the same as Alcohol Highway Safety School

    * All other requirements can be satisfied by PENNDOT

    Q. Where and how do I go about restoring my driver's license?
    A. Bring the above information to the Office of Judicial Records - Criminal Division 1301 Filbert Street room 402, Philadelphia PA 19107. Once the information has been processed, an electronic submission will be provided to PENNDOT for license restoration.

    The Office of Judicial Records - Criminal Division does not handle license suspension cases related to failure to take a breathalyzer or for moving violations.

    Q. If I appeal my DUI conviction, will PENNDOT be notified to remove the suspension?
    A. The Office of Judicial Records - Criminal Division will notify PENNDOT of DUI convictions that have been appealed.

    Q. Where can I obtain the court date and courtroom for my next court hearing?
    A. On the second floor of the CJC at the Information Counter; phone number is 215 683-7004 /7005 /7006. The public web portal is also available at

    Q. How do I reschedule a court date for a summary case?
    A: Call the Summary Unit (215-683-7287) or go to the Information Counter, 2nd floor in the CJC.

    Philadelphia District Attorney's Office:
    3 South Penn Square, Philadelphia, PA 19107, 215 686-8000.

    Defender Association of Philadelphia:
    1441 Samson Street, Philadelphia, PA, 19102, 215 568-3190.
    CJC Office, 1301 Filbert Street, Room 407.

    Jenkins Law Library:
    833 Chestnut Street, Suite 1220, 215 574-7900. Hours are 9:00 am to 6:00 pm.

    Small Claims Court:
    1339 Chestnut Street, Phila., PA 19107. Phone number is 215 686-2901.

    Private Criminal Complaint:
    The person must go to Municipal Court, 1425 Arch Street, 4th floor. Phone number is 215 686-9863 for filing fees and other information.

    Parking Authority:
    913 Filbert Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107, 215-561-3636.

    Marriage License:
    Room 413, City Hall. The phone number is 215-686-2233.

    Judicial Complaints:
    PA Judicial Conduct Board, 301 Chestnut Street, Suite 403, Harrisburg, PA 17101, 215 234-7911 or 1 800 525-8261.

    Office of Court Reporters:
    100 S Broad St, Land Title Bldg., 2nd Floor, 215-683-8000.

    U.S. Immigration Office:
    1600 Callowhill St, Phila., Pa. 19130, 215-656-7140

    Answer: A custody order is a written order signed by a judge. It defines the amount of time each party will spend with the child (physical custody) and how major decisions are made about the child (legal custody).

    Note: People who file for custody and people they file against are called "parties." Each is a "party."

    Physical custody - There are several types:

    • Shared - More than one party is allowed to take physical custody of the child, and each of them has significant periods of time with the child.
    • Primary - A party spends the majority (more than half) of the time with the child. The other party may get partial or supervised custody.
    • Partial - A party spends less than a majority of time with the child.
    • Supervised - Custodial time during which an agency or adult named by the court monitors interaction between a party and the child.
    • Sole - One party has physical custody all of the time.

    Legal custody - There are two types:

    • Shared - More than one party has the right to make major decisions for the child.
    • Sole - One party makes all major decisions for the child.

    Answer: Jurisdiction - Generally, a child must have lived in Philadelphia for at least 6 months before the court will hear your case. Exceptions: if the child is under 6 months old, or for certain emergencies such as abandonment or abuse of the child or the child's parent or sibling.

    Standing – Who may file for custody?

    • A parent of the child may file for any form of physical or legal custody.
    • Someone who has acted in loco parentis to a child may file for any type of physical or legal custody. You have acted in loco parentis if the child is not your legal child, but you have acted as a parent and taken on the responsibilities of parenthood for a period of time with the consent of a parent or other legal custodian or under court order.
    • A grandparent of the child who is NOT in loco parentis to the child may file for any form of physical or legal custody, IF:
      • A parent of the child allowed the grandparent to form a relationship with the child OR the court ordered that the grandparent and child be permitted to form a relationship; AND
      • The grandparent is willing to take responsibility for the child; AND
      • When one of the following conditions is met:
        • The dependency court has determined that the child is "dependent" under PA's child abuse and neglect law; OR
        • The court determines that the child is substantially at risk due to parental abuse, neglect, drug or alcohol abuse or incapacity; OR
        • The child has lived with the grandparent for at least 12 consecutive months (not counting brief absences) and is removed from the home by the parents. In this case, the grandparent must file for custody within six months after the removal of the child from the home.
    • Grandparents and great-grandparents may also file for partial physical custody or supervised physical custody in the following situations:
      • The parent of the child has died OR
      • The parents of the child have been separated for at least six months or have started divorce proceedings OR
      • The child has lived with the grandparent for at least 12 consecutive months (not counting brief absences) and is removed from the home by the parents. In this case, the grandparent must file for custody within six months after the removal of the child from the home.

    Answer: Where do I go?

    • If you prepare your own petition, file it with the Clerk of Court of Family Court on the 11th floor of the courthouse at 1501 Arch Street, Philadelphia, PA. All custody forms with instructions are on the Philadelphia Bar Association's website at
    • If you need help preparing your custody petition, go to the Intake Unit of Philadelphia Family Court. It is on the 8th floor of the courthouse at 1501 Arch Street, Philadelphia, PA. Staff will help you prepare your petition. Bring important papers and information such as previous custody orders, protection from abuse orders, the opposing party's address, and social security numbers for all parties.

    What does it cost?

    • It costs $102.38 to file for custody.
    • It costs an extra $42.68 to file for emergency custody.
    • Fees are different (or none) for other filings.

    What if I cannot afford the filing fee? You may ask to be excused from paying the fee by filing a petition to proceed In Forma Pauperis (IFP). Ask for and fill out an IFP Petition. If you are on public assistance, medical assistance or SSI, bring your public assistance photo ID or proof that you receive these benefits. If you are not on public assistance, medical assistance or SSI, bring proof of income.

    What if I have an urgent situation? There are 2 ways to try to speed up your custody hearing:

    • Emergency Petition – This is used for cases that must be addressed the same day, such as those involving extreme danger to the child. To file a Petition for Emergency Relief, you must have already filed one of the following petitions at an earlier time: Complaint for Custody, Petition to Modify, or a Petition for Contempt. A master will decide that day whether to grant your emergency petition. If you get emergency custody, the court will schedule a hearing in the very near future to hear testimony and receive evidence from both parties.
    • Expedited Petition – If there is a matter that needs immediate court attention but is not an emergency, you may file a petition for an expedited hearing. Time-sensitive situations for which you may obtain an expedited hearing include when you believe the other party has been charged with a crime and is a risk to the child’s safety, the child needs urgent medical or educational attention, you are being denied access to the child, or the other party has changed the terms of the custody arrangement without your agreement. In these situations, a master will decide whether to schedule an expedited hearing. You may only file expedited petitions on Monday, or if the court is closed on Monday, on Tuesday. You must also file one of the following petitions: Complaint for Custody, Petition to Modify, or Petition for Contempt.

    What happens after I file? You and the opposing party will receive a notice by mail with a hearing date and must appear in court on that date. If you have filed an emergency petition, you will be told that day how to proceed. Be sure to follow the instructions.

    Answer: A judge or master, after holding a hearing, decides the custody arrangement based on what is in the best interest of the child. The court is required to consider all relevant factors. It must give more consideration to factors which affect the safety of the child. The law lists many factors to consider:

    1. Which party is more likely to encourage and permit frequent and continuing contact between the child and the other party.
    2. Abuse, past and present, by a party or member of a party's household. Is there a continued risk of harm to the child or an abused party? Which party can better protect and supervise the child?
    3. What each party does to parent the child.
    4. The need for stability and continuity in the child's education, family life and community life.
    5. The availability of extended family.
    6. The child's relationships with sisters and brothers.
    7. The preference of the child. The court must determine if the child carefully thought about his/her preference. The court must also assess the child's maturity and judgment.
    8. Attempts of a parent to turn the child against the other parent, except in cases of domestic violence where reasonable safety measures are necessary to protect the child from harm.
    9. Which party is more likely to maintain a loving, stable, consistent and nurturing relationship with the child adequate for the child's emotional needs.
    10. Which party is more likely to attend to the daily physical, emotional, developmental, educational and special needs of the child.
    11. How close the parties’ homes are to one another.
    12. Each party's availability to care for the child or ability to arrange appropriate child-care.
    13. The level of conflict between the parties and the willingness and ability of the parties to cooperate with one another. A party's effort to protect a child from abuse by another party is not evidence of unwillingness or inability to cooperate with that party.
    14. The history of drug or alcohol abuse of a party or member of a party's household.
    15. The mental and physical condition of a party or member of a party's household.
    16. Any other relevant factor.

    What about criminal charges and convictions? The court must also consider certain criminal charges and convictions, mostly relating to violent crimes, including domestic abuse, but also including DUI and drug-related offenses. If you learn that the other party is facing certain criminal charges and poses a risk to the child, you may file a motion for temporary custody or, if there is an existing custody order, a motion to modify custody, and the court must hold a hearing in an expeditious manner (quickly). If a party or a member of a party’s household has certain criminal charges or convictions, the court MUST take several steps, including evaluations and possibly counseling.

    To obtain evidence of a criminal charge or conviction in Pennsylvania, go to and follow the instructions carefully. Print the information you find and take it to court. If you do not have internet access, you may ask the judge to check this website for evidence of a criminal charge or conviction.

    Parenting Plans – When the parties do not agree on custody, the court may require each party to submit a parenting plan to help it make a decision. The plan must include a detailed description of how the parties will be involved in making decisions about the child and a schedule of when the child will live with each party. Your plan must be presented to the court in a special format. There are limits to how plans may be used in court. See Parenting Plan brochure for more detailed information.


    Testimony – Each party may present their side and ask questions of the other side. You may prepare a list of your main points as well as questions that you want to ask the other party and bring that list to court with you.

    Evidence – You may bring school or medical records or other important papers or photographs. You have the right to see everything that the other side wants to show the court. Make two copies of whatever you plan on giving to the court — the judge or master gets the original, the other side gets a copy and you keep a copy.

    Witnesses – You may want to bring witnesses to testify on your behalf. Witnesses must present a subpoena to be admitted into the court. Ask any court employee at 1501 Arch Street to get a subpoena. Blue subpoenas are for "friendly" witnesses; Red subpoenas are for witnesses who may not want to testify and may be enforced by court order. Give your witnesses the subpoena before the hearing date and have them show it to the security guard upon entering the courthouse.

    You may want to prepare and bring with you a list of questions to ask your witnesses and any witnesses the other party brings. Remember:

    • Witnesses may only testify to events they have actually seen.
    • If your witness can’t come to court, you may ask the judge to permit your witness to testify by telephone. You should try to ask by letter before the hearing date. Letters or affidavits from witnesses will not be accepted without the witness present.

    Tests and evaluations – If you have concerns about the other party’s substance abuse, mental health, or home safety you may ask the court to order the following services:

    • Drug test
    • Mental Health Evaluation
    • Home Investigation

    Be prepared to tell the court why it should issue any of these orders.


    Custody cases are handled in several different ways, depending on many factors. At different points in your case, you may

    • meet with a conference officer to see if you can reach an agreement;
    • meet with a mediator, if there has not been domestic violence and there is no open DHS case for your family;
    • meet with a master to see if you can agree;
    • have a hearing before a master; or
    • have a hearing before a judge.

    Before your case is complete, you will have done one or more of these things.

    Remember: An agreement made at court cannot become a court order until both parties and a judge sign it. Make sure you understand and agree with any agreement that you are asked to sign. Do NOT sign until you understand it fully and agree with it.

    Answer: If a master or judge makes a decision in your case after a hearing, you have the right to appeal that decision. Read your order carefully to make sure that you do not miss any deadlines for appeal if you believe the decision is wrong.

    • If you disagree with a master's proposed order after a hearing, you may file exceptions within 20 days after you receive the written recommendation. In your exceptions, you must explain in writing why you think the master’s proposal is wrong. Make sure the court receives your exceptions within 20 days. After you file, you will have a hearing before a judge. You must explain to the judge what the master did wrong.
    • If you disagree with a judge’s order, you may file a request for reconsideration. You may wish to talk to an attorney if you want to file such a request. You may also file an appeal with the Superior Court of Pennsylvania within 30 days of the date of the court order. Appeals are very complicated. If possible, you should talk to an attorney if you want to appeal to Superior Court. Remember, filing a request for reconsideration does not extend the 30 day time period for appealing to Superior Court.

    Answer: If a party violates a custody order, you may file a petition for contempt and the court will schedule a hearing to decide whether the other party is in contempt and whether to issue sanctions, such as a fine or imprisonment, or to temporarily change the terms of the order until a full hearing is held on a petition to modify. A form and instructions are available on the Philadelphia Bar Association's website.

    Answer: The custody law requires parents who want to relocate to take a number of steps. These steps begin with notice to the other party at least 60 days prior to the planned relocation. In limited circumstances, the party who plans to move may be permitted to give notice to the other party later than 60 days before the move, but at least 10 days prior to the move. The steps follow a required order and must have a particular structure. There are strict timelines for the entire process.



    Answer: A child support order is a written order signed by a judge stating a specific amount of money to be paid at specific times for the care of a child. It may also include information about who is responsible for health insurance for the child. If you receive public assistance benefits, you may be required to file for child support. See the brochure Domestic Violence and TANF Support Requirements.

    Answer: In order to obtain child support, you must show that the child lives primarily with you. This requirement is called standing. You do not need a custody order to file for support.

    You must also show that the Philadelphia court is the proper court to hear your case. This requirement is called jurisdiction. You may show jurisdiction in one of two ways: 1) you live in Philadelphia; or 2) the person from whom you are seeking child support lives or regularly works in Philadelphia.

    Where: The Intake Unit of Philadelphia Family Court, on the 8th floor of 1501 Arch Street, Philadelphia, PA. Court personnel will assist you in preparing your petition.

    What to bring when filing:

    • Name and address of the person against whom you are filing;
    • Name and birth date(s) of the child(ren);
    • Social Security Numbers for everyone involved in the case;
    • Tax Return with W-2
    • Current order, if there is one;
    • Documentation of child care expenses, school tuition, and extracurricular expenses.

    Cost: It costs $35.50 to file.
    If you cannot pay the filing fee, you may ask to be excused from paying the fee by filing a petition to proceed In Forma Pauperis (IFP). Ask for and fill out an IFP Petition. If you are on public assistance or SSI, bring your public assistance photo ID or proof that you receive SSI.

    Answer: You and the person from whom you are seeking support (the opposing party) will be sent a Notice to Appear in Court on a specific date for a pre-trial conference with a Hearing Officer.

    Answer: State regulations provide a formula, known as the “Support Guidelines,” that courts use to calculate the amount of support to be paid. These guidelines instruct courts to look at the combined income of the mother and father and the number of children for whom support is sought. The goal is to ensure that each child receives the same amount of support that they would if the parents lived together. Once that amount is determined, the parties’ individual incomes are compared to the Guideline amount to determine the percentage of support for which each party is responsible.

    Answer: In general, when determining income for the Guidelines, the Court looks at the actual income of a party as well as that party’s earning capacity (potential to earn money based on work experience and education). The Court will also consider whether the person who must pay support is also paying child support for other children. Public benefits, such as TANF or SSI, are not considered income for the purposes of the Guidelines.

    Answer: You should bring the original and 2 copies of:

    • proof of your income for the last six months;
    • last year’s tax return;
    • a completed income and expense report (included with your Notice to Appear).

    Answer: If paternity has not been established, the Hearing Officer will ask for an acknowledgment of paternity or order genetic testing, as appropriate. Once paternity has been established, the Hearing Officer will examine income information from both parties and set the amount of support to be paid based on the support guidelines. If the parties agree to the amount of support, it becomes an Order of the Court and is signed by a Judge. If the parties do not agree, the Guideline amount becomes a Temporary Order and the case is referred to a Support Master for a hearing.

    Answer: At this hearing, the parties will have a chance to explain why they agree or disagree with the amount of support set by the Hearing Officer. The Support Guidelines are assumed to be correct. Therefore, if you disagree with the amount of support, you must show a reason why they are not correct such as: special circumstances of the child, earning capacity not met, additional income available. The Master will file a report regarding his/her decision along with a proposed order. If there are no objections, the Master’s report becomes final.

    Answer: If you do not agree with the master's proposed support order, you may file exceptions within 20 days after you receive the written recommendation. In your exceptions, you must explain in writing why you think the master’s proposal is wrong.

    The exceptions must be filed in person or received by mail within the 20 days and will not be accepted by fax. After the exceptions are filed, there will be a hearing before a judge. You will need to explain to the judge what the master did wrong. The judge will issue a final order.

    If you disagree with the judge’s order, you may file an appeal in Superior Court within 30 days of the date of the court order. Appeals are very complicated. You may want to talk to an attorney if you decide to appeal to Superior Court.

    Answer: Child Support payments are collected and enforced by the State through PASCDU. This agency receives payments from the people who owe support and then distributes these payments to you. Most new child support orders require wage attachment unless a reason can be shown why wage attachment should not be done.

    If you are having problems with your Child Support, you can go to the Establishment and Enforcement office of Family Court located at 1501 Arch Street, 12th Floor.

    If you have a support order and the other party is not obeying the order, you can file a contempt petition. There is no charge for a contempt petition.

    Answer: Orders are reviewed automatically once every 3 years. You may, however, request a review before that time if your circumstances have changed. If you wish to request a review or change the order, you must file a support modification petition.

    The process for modifying support is similar to the initial filing. At the hearing on the modification, you must show that there has been a significant change in circumstances and that the change was not voluntary.



    Answer: Divorce is a legal procedure that ends a marriage and changes the legal relationship between former spouses. Living apart from your husband or wife does not legally end a marriage. .

    Answer: There are 2 kinds of divorce: no-fault divorce and fault-based divorce. Most people in Pennsylvania obtain a no-fault divorce because it is easier and cheaper and you may not have to appear before a judge or go to court other than to file the papers needed for the divorce. There are 2 kinds of no-fault divorce:

    1. If both parties agree to the divorce, they can obtain a no-fault divorce. After one party files for the divorce and 90 days has passed after the complaint is served on the other spouse, each party may file an Affidavit of Consent to divorce. You may also work out any property issues you have by agreeing on how you will deal with marital property in a Property Settlement Agreement. The court rules require you to file a series of legal papers to complete the divorce. This is the fastest way to divorce in Pennsylvania, but it requires both parties to work together.
    2. Unilateral (also known as “irretrievable breakdown”) no-fault divorce is available if one of the spouses will not agree to the divorce but the parties have been living separate and apart (defined by the statute as "complete cessation of any and all cohabitation, whether living in the same residence or not") for at least 1 year if the date of separation was on or after December 5, 2016, or at least 2 years for earlier dates of separation and the marriage is irretrievably broken. You may file for the divorce before you have lived separate and apart for the applicable waiting period, but you cannot get the divorce until the waiting period is over. There may be disagreement between you and your spouse about when you started living separate and apart. It is important to try to get some legal advice on this issue.

    Answer: You may file for divorce in Philadelphia County if you or your spouse lived in Pennsylvania for the 6 months immediately before the filing of the divorce complaint, and either party currently resides in Philadelphia or you agree to divorce in Philadelphia. There is no required length of residency in the county where the divorce complaint is filed. In Philadelphia, a divorce complaint is filed with the Clerk of Family Court at 1501 Arch Street, Philadelphia, PA.

    Answer: The filing fee is $333.73 (plus $40.25 for each additional non-custody count plus $75.45 for a cutsody count). You may pay with a money order. Personal checks and cash are not accepted.

    If you cannot pay the filing fee, you may ask to be excused from paying the fee by filing a petition to proceed In Forma Pauperis (IFP). Ask for and fill out an IFP Petition. If you are on public assistance or SSI, bring your public assistance photo ID or proof receipt of SSI.

    Answer: “Marital property” refers to almost everything that either spouse gets during the marriage, regardless of whose name the asset is titled in. Such assets would include a house (again, regardless of whose name is on the deed or mortgage), pensions, stocks and bonds, furniture, automobiles, bank accounts, debts, etc. “Marital property” also includes increases in value during the marriage of: (1) any property owned by a spouse before the marriage and/or (2) any asset or property a spouse inherits or receives by gift during the marriage. The law provides guidance regarding the “equitable distribution” of marital property. Equitable distribution means “fair.” It does not necessarily mean 50-50 distribution of marital property.

    Fairness” is determined by examining several factors:

    • Length of marriage;
    • Any prior marriage of either party;
    • Age, health, station, amount and sources of income, vocational skills, employability, estate, liabilities and needs of each of the parties;
    • The contribution by one party to the education, training or increased earning power of the other party;
    • The opportunity to acquire assets and income in the future;
    • The sources of income for both parties;
    • The contribution of each party in the acquisition, preservation, depreciation or appreciation of marital property, including the contribution of a party as homemaker;
    • The value of any property set apart to each party;
    • The standard of living of the parties established during the marriage;
    • The economic circumstances of each party; and
    • Whether the party will be serving as the custodian of any dependent minor children.

    Note that “fault” behavior (e.g., adultery) is not considered in determining fairness in property distribution.

    Answer: Two kinds of financial support for the spouse can be awarded in a divorce:

    • Alimony Pendente Lite (APL) is a form of support that is only awarded for the period after a divorce complaint has been filed and ends when the divorce is granted. Its purpose is to allow the spouse with less financial resources than the other to pursue and/or defend against the divorce action and maintain his or her standard of living during this period.
    • Alimony is a form of financial support paid by one spouse to the other after the divorce is final. The law allows the court to order alimony for as long as it is needed based on the following factors:
      • Relative earnings and earning capacities of the parties;
      • Ages and physical, mental and emotional conditions of parties;
      • Sources of income of both parties, including:
      • Expectancies and inheritances of both parties, and
      • Length of the marriage.
      • Contribution by one party to the education, training, or increased earning power of the other party;
      • Extent to which earning power, expenses, or financial obligations of a party will be affected by reason of serving as custodian of minor child;
      • Standard of living of the parties established during the marriage;
      • Relative education of the parties and time necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party seeking alimony to find appropriate employment;
      • Relative assets and liabilities of parties;
      • Property brought to the marriage by either party;
      • Contribution of a spouse as a homemaker;
      • Relative needs of the parties;
      • Marital misconduct of either party during the marriage, but not after the date of final separation (except abuse of one party by the other);
      • Federal, state and local ramifications of alimony;
      • Whether the party seeking alimony lacks sufficient property to provide for the party’s reasonable needs;
      • Capability for self-support through appropriate employment.

    Answer: Legal assistance may be available from:




    Answer: Paternity is a legal determination of fatherhood. A father who is not married to the mother of the child(ren) is not the father for legal purposes unless:

    • Both parents have signed an Acknowledgment of Paternity, or
    • A Domestic Relations court has entered an order that establishes the legal father of the child.

    Until paternity is determined, the man alleged to be the father is called the "putative father."


    • At the time of birth, the hospital will give unmarried parents a voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity (Form PA-CS 611) to complete and sign. A man who has signed a voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity may revoke it within 60 days after it is filed with the Division of Vital Statistics of the Pennsylvania Department of Health. After the 60 days has passed, a man may remove his name from the birth certificate only by a court order app roving the removal of his name on the grounds that the father signed the Acknowledgment under fraud and/or duress.
    • After leaving the hospital, if both parties wish to file a voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity as to the identity of the father, it will be necessary to contact the Department of Human Services, Bureau of Child Support Enforcement at 800-932-0211, for forms and instructions. The Department of Human Services will notify Vital Records that an Acknowledgment of Paternity has been filed. The Division of Vital Records will then add the father’s name to the child’s birth record. At that time, the Division of Vital Records will issue a certified copy listing both parents’ names at no charge.
    • If a man claiming to be the father of a child files a voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity with the Department of Human Services and the mother of the child fails or refuses to join in the acknowledgement of paternity, the Department of Human Services shall index it as a claim of paternity. The filing and indexing of a claim of paternity shall not confer upon the putative father any rights as to the child.

    Answer: A court order establishing paternity will be necessary if:

    • The mother wants the court to:
      • order the payment of child support, or
      • determine her custodial rights of the children or the father’s right to see the child(ren).
    • The father wants to spend time with the child(ren) and the mother denies that he is the father and won't allow him any time with the child(ren).
    • The child seeks eligibility for benefits that are only available through a father, such as medical insurance, Social Security benefits, Veteran's benefits, Worker’s Compensation death benefits, or inheritance.

    Answer: If there is no signed Acknowledgment of Paternity, paternity may be established in any of the following proceedings:

    • Complaint for Child Support: After a complaint for child support is filed by the mother against a putative father, a conference will be scheduled and the conference officer will ask about paternity at the conference. The parties have the right to voluntarily sign an Acknowledgment of Paternity at the conference. If the putative father denies he is the father, the parties will be given an appointment to appear at the courthouse for genetic testing
    • Complaint for Custody: Paternity may also be examined in a custody case.
      • If a father files for custody and visitation but was not married to the mother at the time the child was born, he must first file an Acknowledgment of Paternity with the court. At the first hearing, the mother will be given an opportunity to agree or dispute the man’s paternity. If the mother disagrees, the man claiming to be the father will be directed to file a Complaint to Establish Paternity and For Genetic Testing.
      • If a mother files for custody, the person she names as the father will be asked to sign an Acknowledgment of Paternity. If he refuses, the court will award custody to the mother.
    • Complaint to Establish Paternity and For Genetic Testing: If you are not seeking child support or custody, but want an order for other reasons, file a Complaint to Establish Paternity.


    • Both parents and the child(ren) must appear at court at a scheduled time for testing. Testing is done in the lab on the 9th floor of Philadelphia Family Court, 1501 Arch Street, Philadelphia PA. The lab takes a picture of each person tested and swabs the lining of the inner cheek to collect cells for testing.
    • If testing is done in connection with the support action and the testing proves that the man is the father, the court may require that he pay for the test. The cost is $30.00 per person. If the test shows that the man is not the father and therefore not responsible for child support, there is no cost.
    • If the testing is done in a custody case or in a Complaint to Establish Paternity and for Genetic Testing, the costs shall be paid by the party requesting the test.

    Answer: You may get genetic testing done privately. However, the results of the test will not determine your legal responsibilities with the child(ren). Private test results will probably not be admissible in court, because the testing was not court supervised.


    • The parties can agree to accept the tests without a hearing. If they do and the results show that the man is not the father, then any petition for support or custody rights will be dismissed.
    • Test results showing a 99% or greater probability of paternity creates a presumption of paternity that can be rebutted only by clear and convincing evidence that the test results are not reliable.
    • In support cases, if the putative father fails to show for testing after having received notice of the testing schedule, the court may enter an order of paternity by default.
    • In support cases, an order establishing paternity may also include an order for payment of support.

    Answer: You may file:

    • A Complaint for Genetic Testing, or
    • A Motion to Set Aside a Prior Adjudication of Paternity
    • An Appeal to Superior Court of Pennsylvania

    Answer: From a combined list of registered Philadelphia voters and adult licensed drivers, the required number of jurors for a particular day are randomly selected by computer and summoned to appear for jury duty.

    Answer: If a person serves for one or two days, they need not serve again for a period of one year. If service is for three or more days, the exemption period is three years.

    Answer: For a lost summons, call 215 683-7170 and either follow the prompts to request a new summons or press "4" and then "0" to speak to a customer representative. Representatives are available Monday-Friday 8:30 AM to 3:30 PM.

    Answer: As mentioned earlier, selection is a random process. As such, there is always the chance that a person may never be called while another may be called several times. It is truly the "luck of the draw". However, if your name appears one way on the voter list and another way on your driver's license, your chances of being called increase. The court is not permitted to make changes to these lists.

    Answer: You will be required to serve as a juror for one day or if selected to sit on a trial, you will be required to serve for the length of that trial.

    Answer: Yes. Jurors are paid $9.00 per day for the first three days of jury service and $25.00 per day for every day thereafter. You will receive a check at the end of your jury service.

    Answer: Under Pennsylvania law, an employer is not required to pay persons during their period of jury service. However, an employer may not fire you or otherwise harm you for responding to a summons.

    Answer: If you have not already completed and returned your questionnaire by mail or online, you must do so. In the REMARKS section, you may state the reason you are unable to attend on your appointed date and then give us a date when you can. Only if your questionnaire has been completed and returned, can you request a postponement by using Option #2 of the automated phone system.

    Postponements can be done online after completing the questionnaire. Jurors may select a new date of their choice, with some limitations. Hardship request cannot be done online and must be done by mail.

    Answer: If not medical and/or physical, it would be lost of job wages, childcare issues and care giver for an ill parent(s). If any of the above is present, some form of verification must accompany the questionnaire. Additional questions may be directed to a Jury Selection Representative at (215) 683-7170

    Answer: Full name, mailing address, date of birth and questionnaire/summons Participant # if known.

    Answer: If you are excused through the juror call in voice response system, you will be handled as though you reported for duty, which means you will not be required to serve again for at least 12 months.

    Answer: The number of jurors needed by the court changes daily. The Jury Commission installed an interactive voice response system in May, 2002 that allows the Commission to excuse jurors that are not needed. You call in the night before to learn if you will be needed for duty the next day. The selection is random.

    Answer: You should bring the summons portion of the questionnaire with you. Also, you may bring something to read during waiting periods.

    Answer: You may be required to appear in court and you could be held in contempt and fined. However, by making jury service as flexible as possible, we hope to avoid using this power.

    Answer: Casual attire should be worn as long as it is in keeping with the dignity of court proceedings. Ties are not required. Slacks, sport shirts, and casual dresses are all appropriate.

    A: You may bring your laptop, I-Pod, tablet computer, and your cellular telephone to the Jury Assembly Room on the day of your service. However, all electronic devices are to be turned off in the courtrooms unless otherwise instructed by court staff.

    Answer: The court encourages citizens to take advantage of public transportation.
    Visit the SEPTA website for information on how to arrive at The Juanita Kidd Stout Center for Criminal Justice via public transportation.
    Visit the Philadelphia Parking Authority Parking Locator website to search for the location of the closest parking lots in the area of The Juanita Kidd Stout Center for Criminal Justice.

    Answer: Contact the Jury Commission, Payroll Department, 215-683-7193.

    The First Judicial District is working on a Transcript Ordering System (“TOS”) which will allow requestors to electronically transmit their requests through the District’s website similar to the Electronic Filing Systems implemented by the District. Until the TOS is implemented, all requestors must submit the request by email ( as proved below.

    A completed Request for Transcript form requesting notes of testimony of a hearing or trial must be emailed to the following email address: . If you do not have access to electronic mail, you may FAX the Request for Transcript form to 215-683-8005. Include on the form the exact date of the hearing, the name of the presiding judge, the name of the case and/or defendant's name, and your phone number. We cannot assist you without the above information.

    The Office of Court Reporter Administration will contact you and will provide the deposit amount that you must pay before the Court Reporter will be directed to commence transcribing the proceedings you have requested. Please note that as required by the Court Reporter Rules, you will be asked to pay, as a deposit, 95% of the estimated cost of the transcript. After you have paid the required deposit and the Court Reporter has completed the transcript, you will be asked to pay the balance due before the transcript is delivered to you. Unless otherwise requested, we will provide electronic delivery of the transcript upon receipt of full payment.

    Click here to download the Transcript Order Form

    The Court Reporter and Interpreter Division instituted the Digital Recording Program in 2003 in response to a general shortage of highly-qualified stenographic court reporters. As of March of 2008, the Digital Recording Program employed three administrative staff members, (Supervisor, Transcript Coordinator & Digital Technology Specialist) as well as a staff of 11 full-time and 13 part-time Digital Recording Technicians (DRTs). The DRTs monitor the recording of court proceedings through the use of FTR Gold Recording software. Additionally, Digital Recording Technicians create detailed log notes that are utilized by the digital recording transcriptionists to ensure accurate transcription of audio files.

    To order a transcript, complete a Request for Transcript form and check the "Check if Digital Recording" box on the Request for Transcript form . Until the Transcript Ordering System has been implemented, fax the form to 215-683-8005. The Office of Court Reporter Administration will contact you and will provide the deposit amount that you must pay before the Court Reporter will be directed to commence transcribing the proceedings you have requested. Please note that as required by the Court Reporter Rules, you will be asked to pay, as a deposit, 95% of the estimated cost of the transcript. After you have paid the required deposit and the Court Reporter has completed the transcript, you will be asked to pay the balance due before the transcript is delivered to you. Unless otherwise requested, we will provide electronic delivery of the transcript upon receipt of full payment.

    Answer: State law defines abuse as:

    • Attempting or causing physical injury
    • Placing another in fear of bodily injury
    • Sexual assault
    • False Imprisonment
    • Stalking

    Answer: The law permits a court to issue a Protection From Abuse Order (PFA) directing the defendant to:

    • Not abuse, threaten, harass or stalk
    • Stay away from the victim’s residence, even if it also the abuser's residence
    • Stay away from the victim, including at school or work
    • Turn over weapons to the police

    The order can also include:

    • Temporary child custody
    • Temporary child support
    • Payments to the victim for losses
    • Plaintiff’s counsel fees

    Answer: A PFA can be issued for up to 36 months. The PFA can sometimes be extended for additional time after a petition is filed and a hearing held as described above (for example, if there has been additional abuse after the order was entered).

    Answer: A PFA Order is available to anyone abused by a:

    • Current or former spouse
    • Parent
    • Child
    • Current or former sexual or intimate partner, including same sex partners, such as a boyfriend/girlfriend or father/mother of your children
    • Others related by blood or marriage

    Answer: Monday through Friday, between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., a petition for a PFA can be filed free of charge in the Domestic Violence Intake Unit on the 8th floor of Family Court at 1501 Arch Street, Philadelphia.

    The Unit will provide assistance in preparing and filing the necessary papers to those who do not have legal representation. Language interpretation services are available at the filing unit and at the hearing. To request an interpreter for your hearing, fill out the Interpreter Request Form at the filing unit.

    You should go as early as possible and be prepared to wait your turn. Information is available by telephone 24 hours a day at 215-686-3511.

    Answer: In an emergency, when the Family Court is closed, a request for an emergency PFA order can be made at the Criminal Justice Center, Room B-03 at 1301 Filbert Street, Philadelphia, PA (215-683-7280).

    No fee is required to file. If the petition is approved, a master will issue an emergency order which will last only until 5 p.m. on the next day that Family Court is open, by which time the Family Court may issue a temporary order.

    Anyone who receives an emergency PFA order when Family Court is closed should call Family Court on the next business day at 215-686-3514 to receive instructions for obtaining a copy of the temporary order if one has been issued. If you are denied an emergency order, you may go to the Domestic Violence Intake Unit on the 8th floor of Family Court at 1501 Arch Street, Philadelphia Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. for assistance.

    Answer: A PFA action may be filed in Philadelphia County if it is the county in which:

    • the plaintiff lives or is employed, or
    • the defendant may be served, or
    • the abuse occurred.

    If possession of the residence to the exclusion of the defendant is requested, the action must be filed in the county where the residence is located.

    Answer: Soon after the petition is filed, a judge will review it and determine whether a temporary order should be issued. A hearing will be held within 10 days to determine whether to grant a final PFA.

    The Temporary Order, Petition, and Notice to Appear must be given to the defendant (this is called “service”). The petitioner may serve it or have a responsible adult serve it, including the police. We suggest you ask the police to serve it for you. Go to the hearing even if the defendant has not been served with the papers.

    Answer: The judge will listen to both parties and decide whether to issue a final order. The parties will also be given an opportunity to reach an agreement on the order.


    • You can hire an attorney to represent you.
    • A domestic violence counselor may assist you.
    • You will be expected to testify about the facts in your petition.
    • You can bring written evidence, such as medical records or photos of injuries.
    • You can bring eyewitnesses to alleged incidents of abuse to testify.
    • Witnesses must present a subpoena to be admitted to the court. Ask any domestic violence counselor or court employee at 1501 Arch Street where to get a subpoena. Give your witness the subpoena before the date of the hearing and tell him or her to show it to the security guard upon entering the courthouse. You may want to prepare and bring with you a list of questions to ask your witnesses.

    Answer: It is a crime to violate a PFA. The police should be called immediately. The District Attorney is responsible for prosecuting anyone who is arrested for violating a PFA. You may also file a petition for contempt on the 8th floor of Family Court at 1501 Arch Street, Philadelphia. After the petition is filed, a hearing will be scheduled within ten days. If a judge finds the defendant guilty of violating the PFA, the defendant can be sentenced to prison for up to 6 months and/or fined up to $1000.


    1-866-SAFE 014

    Legal representation may be available from:

    • SENIORLAW CENTER: 215-988-1244

    Other Important Numbers:

    • WOMEN IN TRANSITION: 215-426-8610 Counseling
    • CONGRESO DE LATINOS UNIDOS 215-291-8742; 1-800-575-0028
    • KOREAN WOMEN’S CENTER: 215-869-5703
    • WOMEN’S LAW PROJECT 215-928-9801 Telephone Counseling


    Q. Where can bail be paid?
    A: Bail can be paid at the Bail Acceptance Office, Room B-03 of the Criminal Justice Center, 1301 Filbert Street. The office is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, including holidays. Payments can be made either in cash or with a valid credit or debit card. On selected occasions, a bank issued cashiers check can be accepted, however conditions apply and the hours of acceptance are limited when using a cashiers check.

    Bail can also be posted at the Philadelphia Prison, Curran-Fromhold Institution. Hours of operation are Monday to Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. at this site.
    All individuals posting bail must provide a valid form of identification to the cashier. Questions should be referred to the Bail Acceptance Office at 215-683-7727.

    Q. Do I get my bail money back?
    A. Most of the bail money is refunded, provided there were no failures to appear for court or other release violations. Seventy percent of the bail deposit is available for refund thirty-one days after the final disposition of the case. The person named on the original bail deposit receipt must provide valid identification at the Clerk of Quarter Sessions/Bail Refund Office, Room B-03 of the Stout Center for Criminal Justice, 1301 Filbert Street. The office is open Monday through Fridays, 8:30am to 4:30pm, Phone: 215-683-7723.

    Q. When should I call the Pretrial Service Division?
    A. All arrested individuals are required to phone the Pretrial office within 24 hours of your release after arrest. The contact/check-in phone number is 215-686-7421. This is an automated system, where your call will be recorded and is operational around the clock. You must provide your police identification number/PID when prompted. You are also required to call the Notification Unit at 215 683-3710 if you change your address or have questions about your court date. If you are on a supervised release you must report to 1401 Arch Street, 5th floor on your assigned Orientation Date and you must contact your assigned Pretrial Officer when required, or, call the Supervision Unit at 215-683-3750 if you have any questions. The Supervision Units are open Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

    Q. What type of case does Pretrial Service Division appoint counsel for?
    A. Adult criminal cases within the county of Philadelphia (does not include summary citations, matters of child custody, support, or protection from abuse petitions.) The appointment of counsel interviews are conducted at the Pretrial Service Division main office, 1401 Arch Street, 5th Floor, Monday through Friday, between 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. Questions should be referred to 215-683-3710.

    Q. If I am on house arrest and an emergency situation occurs, who should I call?
    A. You should call your assigned Pretrial Officer (Pretrial Cases) or Probation Officer (Post-trial matters) during traditional office hours, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.--Monday through Friday. During evenings, weekends, and holidays, you should contact the House Arrest Monitoring Unit at 215-568-0191. This must be for a true emergency. You must provide the name of your Pretrial/Probation Officer, and specific information such as hospital address, doctor's name, etc.

    Q. What happens if I fail to appear in court?
    A. You will be subject to immediate arrest on a bench warrant. If you were released on cash bail you could lose your deposit and be responsible for payment of the full bail amount. You can lessen or avoid these sanctions if you promptly surrender for a bench warrant hearing, at 7:30 a.m., Monday through Friday, Room B-04 The Juanita Kidd Stout Center for Criminal Justice, 1301 Filbert Street. Questions should be referred to the Warrant Unit at 215-683-3723.

    Q. What if I have a question about a Bench Warrant?
    A. The Warrant Unit functions 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. All questions concerning a bench warrant or tips regarding individuals wanted on a bench warrant should be referred to the Warrant Unit at 215-683-3723. All tip information will be strictly confidential.

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    Business Hours

    • Monday-Friday: 8am to 5pm
    • Saturday: Closed
    • Sunday: Closed