The purpose of a Protection From Abuse Order to to prevent the harm from one to a specified group of invididuals.
By Attorney Alyssa Knisely, PFA Attorney, Harrisburg, PA
The purpose of the Protection From Abuse Act is to prevent domestic violence and, concomitantly, to promote the security of the home by protecting victims of domestic violence from the perpetrators of such abuse. It was designed to provide immediate protection against physical abuse, to react to early signs of abuse, and to prevent more serious abuse from occurring. Stated differently, the purpose and goals of the Act are to provide spouses, household members, intimate partners, and children with immediate temporary protection from abuse.
However, the the Protection From Abuse Act does not require that the abuser reside in the same household with his or her victim. The Protection From Abuse Act was not designed to provide a procedure for determining other issues, such as custody of the children. Moreover, the Act is not, nor was meant to be, a statute penalizing past criminal conduct or past violent behavior; it does not seek to determine criminal culpability. Thus, the primary goal of the Act is not retrospective punishment but advance prevention of physical and sexual abuse.
Too often in my practice, I find that a party will utilize the PFA process for an unintended purpose. That is, perhaps to obtain sole and exclusive possession of the residence, primary physical custody, support, or gain a "leg up" in a divorce proceeding. There is a mechanism to deal with these types of filings, known as a "bad faith PFA," which I've previously dealt with in a prior article. (See link). This is problematic for those who suffer actual abuse because it undermines the validity and strength of their claims.