Protecting, Restoring, Improving: Incorporating Therapeutic Jurisprudence and Restorative Justice Concepts into Civil Domestic Violence Cases

This Essay calls attention to various deficiencies underlying the civil protection order process. It argues that the parties in the above scenarios would have benefited from a more holistic and less adversarial approach to their disputes. Specifically, this Essay advocates for an alternative approach to protection order proceedings that draws on two legal theories, therapeutic jurisprudenceand restorative justice. This approach better addresses litigants’ needs by acknowledging that complex relationships permeate domestic violence incidents. Such an approach could alleviate systemic issues currently facing family courts and have a lasting, positive impact on entire communities. This Essay uses the Pennsylvania Protection from Abuse Act and the Philadelphia Family Court Division as a template to highlight the shortcomings of current family court systems. It then offers a solution to supplement and improve upon current civil protection order proceedings.

Part I of this Essay sets forth the current civil response to domestic violence cases, including Pennsylvania’s Protection from Abuse Act. Part II provides an overview of both therapeutic jurisprudence and restorative justice and their relationship to one another. Part III outlines the main arguments against therapeutic jurisprudence and restorative justice as alternative responses to domestic violence. Part IV tackles those criticisms and argues that both theories can successfully coexist within the current paradigm. It highlights the parallel goals of the current system and the two approaches and explores their potential inclusion in existing statutes, such as Pennsylvania’s Protection from Abuse Act. The Essay concludes by discussing how the case studies of Petitioner One and Two could benefit from therapeutic jurisprudence and restorative justice principles.

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