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House of Representatives
Session of 2021 - 2022 Regular Session


Posted: January 25, 2021 01:52 PM
From: Representative Tarah Toohil
To: All House members
Subject: PFA Provision Pertaining to Abuse of Minor Children
I intend to introduce legislation that would allow courts to order greater protections for abused children under the Protection From Abuse Act.

Under current law, a court may temporarily modify a custody order to halt the abuse of minor children. However, some courts have been reluctant to modify an existing custody order through a PFA proceeding believing they need to engage in a full blown custody hearing. Under 23 PaCS Chapter 53, the custody statute, a court is required to review 16 separate factors.

My legislation would make it clear that the existing standard in the Protection From Abuse Act -- that the defendant either has abused the minor children or poses a risk of abuse -- is the standard which applies to the temporary modification of a custody order. Hence, a best interest of the child analysis is not required in this situation and instead the focus is on the protection of the child. My legislation provides clarity for courts and will result in expedited and necessary provisions to be included in a PFA order when a child has been abused by the defendant or is at risk of such abuse. Finally, if a court issues a PFA order but declines the plaintiff's request for modification of custody, the court must state on the record why relief was not granted.

I firmly believe that this bill will eliminate ambiguity as it relates to custody provisions included in PFA orders and will better protect victims of domestic violence and their minor children. Thank you for your consideration.

Rep. Toohil HB2363 (session 2019-2020)

Introduced as HB294