Integrated Domestic Violence Court
Domestic violence victims face many barriers to safety and independence. Incomprehensible and complex court processes should not be among these barriers. Traditionally, victims had to face several judges in up to four different court rooms to have their criminal, family and matrimonial matters resolved. Integrated Domestic Violence Courts are “one family/one judge” courts that respond to the unique nature of domestic violence with one judge handling all criminal domestic violence cases and related family issues, such as custody, visitation, civil protection orders and matrimonial actions. Integrating criminal and civil response systems is the critical next step in improving victim safety and offender accountability.
Integrated Domestic Violence Courts hold offenders to a higher level of accountability by concentrating responsibility for defendant oversight in the hands of a single judge who can monitor compliance with court orders and program mandates. In addition, victims gain a greater voice in their cases and are better able to address critical family issues—such as safe visitation and timely support—that often impede safety and independence. Additionally, services to the victim are often on-site and coordinated.
There are over 40 integrated domestic violence courts operating in New York, including in Rensselaer, Westchester, Bronx, Rochester, Syracuse, Richmond, Queens, Tompkins, Erie, Franklin, and Suffolk counties. The Center has provided technical assistance in planning and implementing integrated domestic violence courts in New York, across the country and around the world. (Click here to learn more)
How They Work
Integrated domestic violence courts improve the handling of domestic violence cases through the following program elements:
One Family/One Judge: A single presiding judge is cross-trained to handle all matters—criminal and civil—relating to a family. In the past, a Family Court judge might never hear about an order of protection issued in Criminal Court, or a Criminal Court judge might never learn about relevant issues that arise in Family Court. By concentrating responsibility with a single judge, the court speeds decision-making, improves defendant accountability, enhances victim safety and eliminates the potential for conflicting judicial orders.
Defendant Monitoring: By bringing all aspects of a domestic violence case before a single judge, the court increases coordination among criminal justice and community-based social service agencies. In addition, through scheduling regular compliance dates, the court keeps close tabs on defendants and responds quickly to allegations of non-compliance.
Informed Decision-Making: By working with a wide spectrum of stakeholders—civil attorneys, law enforcement, probation, and parole—judges gain greater access to necessary information.
Greater Efficiency: By handling both criminal and civil matters in a single hearing, integrated domestic violence courts aim to reduce the number of court appearances for litigants. This speeds dispositions and streamlines the process for all participants.
Services for Victims: The courts work closely with community based victim advocates to coordinate services for victims such as crisis counseling, housing, and job training.
Partners include the New York State Unified Court System, county district attorneys, victim advocates, probation, law enforcement, civil attorneys, and the matrimonial bar.
The Center works with other jurisdictions across the country (including Alabama, Mississippi and Vermont), and around the world to improve their court response to domestic violence. Click here to learn more.