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Domestic Violence


Welcome | Domestic Violence Courts | Integrated Domestic Violence Courts | Training | Contact Info | Resources | Publications of Interest

 

Welcome

Domestic violence is a pattern of abusive behavior by an intimate partner where the abuser exerts power and control over the victim. Domestic violence does not have to be physical violence. It also includes mental, economic or sexual violence. Anyone can be a victim of domestic violence regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, faith or socio-economic background. Domestic violence also knows no age limits. Although the signs of abuse in older people can be similar to those seen in younger people, some signs may be unique to challenges that elders face. Examples include an intimate partner mismanaging their partner’s money, forging or altering legal documents, over or under medication and interfering with their care.

Domestic Violence in this country is pervasive. In fact, 1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. 15.5 million children in the United States live in families where domestic violence was perpetrated in the past year. 1,600 women were murdered by an abusive partner last year.

In New York State, in 2014, more than 280,000 calls were made to domestic violence and sexual assault hotlines, 202,000 orders of protection were entered in the Domestic Violence Registry, 29,000 assaults reported to police agencies outside of New York City were committed by intimate partners and 45% of female homicide victims aged 16 and older were killed by an intimate partner.

In recognition of the facts that domestic violence has a deleterious effect on the lives of so many New Yorkers, both children and adults, without regard to age, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or socio-economic background, and that the physical, emotional and psychological harm suffered by domestic violence victims negatively impacts on the communities where victims live and work, October has been proclaimed Domestic Violence Awareness Month by Governor Cuomo.

Our court system has created specialized courts to address domestic violence and related issues. There are 39 Domestic Violence (“DV”) courts and 42 Integrated Domestic Violence (“IDV”) courts in New York State, each staffed by a judge trained to handle the myriad issues that arise in these courts.

Hon. Deborah A. Kaplan has recently been appointed the Statewide Coordinating Judge for Family Violence Cases. In this capacity, she is working together with the administrative judges and judges who sit in DV and IDV courts, to refine practices and promote better and more consistent outcomes in matters involving family violence. Justice Kaplan’s office is also responsible for reviewing how the growing number of domestic violence cases involving older New Yorkers are handled, as well other types of cases, both civil and criminal, involving this population. She is charged with developing programs, protocols and training that will ensure that judges, their staff and all court personnel are aware of and responsive to the needs of older New Yorkers. Justice Kaplan’s office is further committed to providing DV and IDV judges and their staff training and updates on the relevant, applicable law, as well as on issues such as cultural competency and implicit bias.

 

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Domestic Violence Courts (DV)

New York State’s DV Courts adjudicate criminal offenses involving intimate partners. Essential features of DV Courts include: a dedicated judge; specially trained staff; resource coordination; on-site victim advocacy; enhanced monitoring of defendants; and collaboration with technical assistance teams.

New York’s DV Courts have been developed as part of the justice system’s coordinated response to domestic violence. Dedicated to enhancing victim safety and holding offenders accountable, DV Courts facilitate access to needed services, ensure intensive judicial monitoring and promote increased coordination among the court, community stakeholders and victim services providers.

Building on the first specialized court exclusively dedicated to handling domestic violence crimes, established in 1996 in Brooklyn, DV Courts have been instituted in both the local criminal courts and superior courts throughout New York State.

New York’s DV Courts are dedicated to enhancing victim safety and increasing offender accountability by facilitating victim access to needed services, providing judicial monitoring and promoting coordination among the justice system, community stakeholders and social service providers. DV Courts promote:

  • informed judicial decision-making based on comprehensive and current information;
  • justice and the protection of the due process rights of defendants;
  • victim safety and greater access to supportive services;
  • linkage to social services and other resources;
  • a coordinated response and collaboration among criminal justice agencies and community-based groups offering social services and assistance to domestic violence victims; and
  • increased confidence in the court system.

A study by the Center for Court Innovation concluded that New York’s DV Courts reduced recidivism among convicted offenders. See Amanda B. Cissner et. al., Testing the Effects of New York’s Domestic Violence Courts: A Statewide Impact Evaluation, Center for Court Innovation (2013), available at https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/242583.pdf. More than 336,000 cases were brought in DV Courts between 2000 and 2014.

 

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Integrated Domestic Violence Courts (IDV)

Prior to the creation of the IDV courts in this state, the various cases involving a family were heard in multiple courts before multiple judges, often in different buildings or parts of a county. The result was that those affected by domestic violence were left to navigate a complex court structure, which cost them time and money, led to confusion and jeopardized their safety.

The IDV courts were created so that one judge could hear multiple criminal, family and matrimonial disputes involving families where domestic violence is an underlying issue. Specifically, for a case to be eligible for IDV Court, a family must have a criminal domestic violence case as well as a family court case and/or a matrimonial case, where either - or both - the defendant and complaining witness in the criminal court case is also a party to the family or matrimonial case. The most common family court case types in IDV court are family offenses, custody or visitation and matrimonial actions. While misdemeanors represent the bulk of criminal cases in IDV court, IDV courts may take felony-level criminal cases as well.

Having a single judge hear multiple cases involving a family ensures consistency in judicial orders and allows the court to better respond to the unique needs of each family that appears before the court. The judges who preside in IDV courts are trained in multiple areas of law, criminal and civil, and in the unique nature of domestic violence. The judges incorporate ongoing judicial monitoring of offenders and also coordinate with victim advocates and community-based social services agencies, thereby reducing the burdens on victims and families and improving the dissemination of information to the litigants and service providers. Like the DV courts discussed above, IDV courts focus on victim safety and offender accountability.

From 2001 through 2014, more than 170,000 cases were brought in IDV Courts .

 

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Training

Judges who sit in DV and IDV courts attend training every year. Since the inception of the OFVC in 2015, the office has been committed to providing training to DV and IDV judges and their staff to update them on the relevant, applicable law, and on issues such as risk assessment, cultural competency and implicit bias, as well as health and wellness.

The 2016 Annual statewide Judicial Symposium on Domestic Violence was held on December 1-2, 2016 at New York Law School. The sessions included: Offender Accountability – Putting the Principle to Work in a DV/IDV Court; Building on a Trauma Informed Court System and the Use of ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences); Custody and Visitation Orders in Domestic Violence Cases; Elder Abuse and Capacity in Domestic Violence Courts; A Different Lens: A Photographer’s View and a Legal Perspective of Domestic Violence; and “Diving into Practice” breakout sessions.

In furtherance of the Elder Justice Initiative, the OFVC also held its first Judicial Symposium on the Financial Exploitation of Older Adults on May 1, 2017 at the Judicial Institute in White Plains. More than 140 judges and non-judicial staff from around the state, representing both civil and criminal courts were in attendance. The symposium featured national experts on financial exploitation, the aging brain, and financial capacity.

The Family Violence Task Force held its 2016 annual training on September 21 at the Judicial Institute in White Plains and on September 22 in Rochester. The one-day training was entitled, “Evidence, Ethics and Evaluating Risk in Domestic Violence Cases” and included the following sessions: Risk Assessment; Evidence in DV & Sexual Assault Cases; Violence Among LGBT People of Color; and Ethical Issues Facing Jurists in Domestic Violence Cases.

In addition, in April 2016, the OFVC produced a program called Firearms and Domestic Violence. This program was recorded and is now readily available for viewing by judges and court personnel. The program addressed, among other things, statutes governing firearms, including the NY SAFE Act and relevant federal statutes; Orders of Protection; the surrender and return of firearms and useful practice tips for judges.

The OFVC also organized a DV/IDV Regional Meeting for the 5th, 6th and 7th Judicial Districts in December 14, 2015 which included a discussion of the IDV Court Model by Hon. Esther Morgenstern – whose Kings County IDV Court serves as a National Mentor Court; The Role of the Resource Coordinator; The Role of Stakeholders, and a session entitled Operations & Teamwork: Model Protocols for the Court Clerk, Resource Coordinator, Judge and Stakeholder. Also included in the program was an interactive, educational training exercise designed for learning about domestic violence. Essentially, this exercise gives the participants some insight into the day-to-day reality for women who are the victims of domestic violence. A training for the 3rd District was held on April 12, 2016, and included, in addition to the sessions mentioned above, a presentation on the consequences of immigration law in domestic violence cases and the role of technology in DV and IDV courts. A training for the 4th District will also be held in the near future.

The office of the Statewide Coordinating Judge for Family Violence Cases held its 2015 statewide Judicial Symposium on November 19 and 20th. The sessions included: Trauma, Mental Health and High Conflict Separation; Domestic Abuse in Later Life; Fairness and Bias in Domestic Violence Cases and Balancing a Life on the Scales of Justice: Health and Well-being in the 21st Century. There were also facilitated breakout sessions where judges from around the state discussed best practices for DV and IDV judges.

In 2015, the Family Violence Task Force held a one day training on September 16th at the New York State Judicial Institute entitled, “Understanding the Ties that Bind: Judicial Responses to Domestic and Sexual Violence.” The courses offered were: The Power of Language in Domestic and Sexual Violence Proceedings; Trauma and Domestic Violence; Implementation of State and Federal Firearms Laws; and Ethical Issues Facing Jurists in Domestic Violence Cases.

To keep up to date on all of our OFVC training seminars, please visit http://www.nycourts.gov/courts/family-violence/idv/training.shtml

 

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Contact Info

For further information on Domestic Violence Courts or Integrated Domestic Violence Courts, or if you would like to schedule a court visit, please contact the Office of Hon. Deborah A. Kaplan, Statewide Coordinating Judge for Family Violence Cases at 646-386-5540.

 

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Resources

Domestic Violence Forms and Petitions

Family Offense Forms and Petitions

Court Help DIY Forms – Uncontested Divorce, Custody/Visitation, Child Support, Guardianship and More

NYC Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence
The NYC Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence (OCDV) collaborates closely with government and nonprofit agencies that assist domestic violence victims and operates the New York City Family Justice Centers in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens, with a Family Justice Center opening in Staten Island in spring of 2016. These one-stop domestic violence service centers provide vital social service, civil legal and criminal justice assistance under one roof.

NYC Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence CARE Program
(Creating Awareness about Relationship Equality)

New York City Family Justice Centers

Sanctuary for Families

Sanctuary for Families DVIEP services for NYCHA residents
If you live in housing administered by the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), you are eligible for services through the Sanctuary for Families Domestic Violence Intervention, Education & Prevention (DVIEP) Program (including victim of domestic violence emergency transfers). You can call during daytime business hours to request services, or leave a message.

Safe Horizon

Connect NYC

Violence Intervention Program, Inc.

New York State office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence

New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence

Training Institute on Strangulation Prevention

Resources on Teen Dating Violence

UCS Domestic Violence Policy

Wellspring, DV victim services in Saratoga County

Seven Dancers Coalition

Domestic Violence and Strangulation Guide

Judge Kaplan moderates CLE video: Firearms and Domestic Violence (court users only)

Bench Guide - The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction in Cases Involving Allegations of Domestic Abuse | Appendices
– A New York Bench Guide for Federal and State Court Judges

The Legal Project

Legal Services of the Hudson Valley

 

 

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Publications of Interest

Domestic Violence, Developing Brains, and the Lifespan – New Knowledge from Neuroscience
By Lynn Hecht Schafran, The Judge’s Journal, Vol. 53, No. 3

Courthouse Dogs Foundation uses trained facility dogs to provide emotional support in court
Fall 2015 / Winter 2016 issue of Sooner Lawyer, a publication of the University of Oklahoma College of Law

 

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Office of the Statewide Coordinating Judge for Family Violence Cases