What is the Alabama Protection From Abuse Act? How Does It Work?

Authored By: Legal Services Alabama


The Protection from Abuse Act (PFA) is a law providing court protection for a woman and her children when the woman's husband, partner, or father of her children has physically abused her or threatened her.

Like a divorce, it is brought in the Domestic Relations section of the court. As with any case you file in court, you may need to think about timing and other strategy issues. It is best to talk to a shelter advocate or an attorney before you file a Protection From Abuse petition. It is important that you understand it is not a divorce. If you are married, it will not end your marriage. In that sense, it is more like a legal separation.

Using the PFA, you may be able to get a temporary protection order the day you file in court.

The court should set your case for a hearing within two (2) weeks. The sheriff will serve your abuser with a copy of the petition for protection and the temporary order. Your abuser will learn about the hearing and get a chance to appear at the hearing.

At the hearing, the court will decide issues about the children (custody, child support and visitation.)

In addition to continuing the temporary protection order, the court can also rule on who can live in the home if you were living together. It can also give you possession of a car, custody of your children, and/or child support. After you file the case and get your temporary order, you should speak with your shelter worker or lawyer more about what will happen at the hearing.

The initial temporary protection order will be good for only 14 days.

The court can extend the order or change it. The final PFA order issued after the hearing will be good only for one (1) year unless the court orders a different length of time. During this year it is a court order and just as effective and enforceable as any other order of court. In addition, if your husband violates the order, the police can arrest him.

There is no filing fee to file a PFA petition with the court.

If you are in immediate danger you should call 911 or the police.

  • If you need a safe place for you and/or your children to go you can call the Alabama Statewide Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-650-6522 for the shelter nearest you. Help is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
  • If you do not live in Alabama, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). If you are deaf, call the TTY number, 1-800-787-3224.
  • You can get a list of shelters in Alabama from the Alabama Coalition Against Domestic Violence at ACADV: List of Member Shelters.


AlabamaLegalHelp.org offers legal information, not legal advice. We try hard to make sure this website accurately explains your rights and options. However, the site does not apply the law to your personal facts. For this sort of legal advice, you should call a lawyer. To apply for free legal services in Alabama, call the Legal Services Alabama office that is closest to where you live OR call Toll-Free 1-866-456-4995. You can also Apply Online.

Last Review and Update: Nov 18, 2019
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