(a) General rule.–When:
(1) in counties with less than four judges, the court is unavailable:
(i) from the close of business at the end of each day to the resumption of business the next morning;
(ii) from the end of the business week to the beginning of the business week; and
(iii) during the business day by reason of duties outside the county, illness or vacation;
(2) in counties with at least four judges, the court is unavailable:
(i) from the close of business at the end of each day to the resumption of business the next morning; and
(ii) from the end of the business week to the beginning of the business week;
a petition may be filed before a hearing officer who may grant relief in accordance with section 6108(a)(1), (2) and (6) or (1) and (6) (relating to relief) if the hearing officer deems it necessary to protect the plaintiff or minor children from abuse upon good cause shown in an ex parte proceeding. Immediate and present danger of abuse to the plaintiff or minor children shall constitute good cause for the purposes of this subsection.
(b) Expiration of order.–An order issued under subsection (a) shall expire at the end of the next business day the court deems itself available. The court shall schedule hearings on protection orders entered by hearing officers under subsection (a) and shall review and continue in effect protection orders that are necessary to protect the plaintiff or minor children from abuse until the hearing, at which time the plaintiff may seek a temporary order from the court.
(c) Certification of order to court.–An emergency order issued under this section and any documentation in support thereof shall be immediately certified to the court. The certification to the court shall have the effect of commencing proceedings under section 6106 (relating to commencement of proceedings) and invoking the other provisions of this chapter. If it is not already alleged in a petition for an emergency order, the plaintiff shall file a verified statement setting forth the abuse of defendant at least five days prior to the hearing. Service of the verified statement shall be made subject to section 6106.
(d) Instructions regarding the commencement of proceedings.–Upon issuance of an emergency order, the hearing officer shall provide the plaintiff instructions regarding the commencement of proceedings in the court of common pleas at the beginning of the next business day and regarding the procedures for initiating a contempt charge should the defendant violate the emergency order. The hearing officer shall also advise the plaintiff of the existence of programs for victims of domestic violence in the county or in nearby counties and inform the plaintiff of the availability of legal assistance without cost if the plaintiff is unable to pay for them.
(e) Master for emergency relief.–The president judge of a court of common pleas of a judicial district may, with the approval of the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts, provide for the selection and appointment of a master for emergency relief on a full-time or part-time basis. The number of masters for emergency relief shall be fixed by the president judge with the approval of the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts. The compensation of a master for emergency relief shall be fixed and paid by the county.
(July 9, 1992, P.L.400, No.87, eff. 60 days; Oct. 6, 1994, P.L.574, No.85, eff. 60 days; Nov. 10, 2005, P.L.335, No.66, eff. 180 days)
2005 Amendment. Act 66 added subsec. (e).
1994 Amendment. Act 85 amended subsecs. (a) and (b).