Battered Women * Custody * Law

What to Do When Domestic Violence is Present


HOW TO FIND/CONTACT A LOCAL DOMESTIC VIOLENCE PROGRAM

  • National Domestic Violence Hotline
  • State Coalitions
    • Start with the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (www.ncadv.org). Use their links to get to your state. From the state domestic violence coalition's website, look around to find a listing of local programs. This link may be under "programs," or "members." Just look on that website -- or call them to find a local program.
    • Also look on the state coalition's website to see if they have a legal program. Legal programs are often funded under a Legal Assistance to Victims grant, so you might look for those terms.
  • Phone books
    • Domestic Violence
    • Family Violence
    • Crisis Intervention
  • Call 411 (or call 211, if your community has this service)
  • Law enforcement

CHARACTERISTICS OF LOCAL DOMESTIC VIOLENCE PROGRAMS

  • Small programs / rural programs
    • Often under-funded
    • Possibly bare-bones services
      • Shelter
      • Advocacy
    • May nor may not have ability to provide interpretation, but may have access to a language line
  • Large programs / urban programs
    • Most will have a shelter program, or can refer for this
    • May have a transitional living program (one year of supported housing and other services)
    • May have lawyers on staff
      • May not be able to represent everyone, but may have developed legal guides for those representing themselves
      • May have a provision for providing brief services including case review without taking on representation
      • May be able to represent clients on specific matters (not taking on all possible cases that may come up)
    • Will probably have staff members who speak a language in addition to English, if not will likely have access to a language line

ADVOCACY FROM A LOCAL DOMESTIC VIOLENCE PROGRAM

  • Should be able to help file an emergency protective order
  • Should be able to help file a longer term protective order
  • Can provide information about requirements for both kinds of protective orders including:
    • The length of time for which protective orders are generally granted
    • Under what conditions children are included on protective orders
    • Whether visitation and custody are addressed in protective orders
  • May have "pro se" packets for those representing themselves without an attorney
  • May have a pro bono program established for free legal representation
  • Likely will know local attorneys who are experienced in these cases
  • May have knowledge of local legal habits/procedures
  • May be able to advise on how to successfully approach the court
    • Some courts may not allow custody cases to proceed without an attorney of record; some courts are more welcoming of parties representing themselves
    • May be able to advise about local court rules and practices (whether court records are easily accessible -- so you can model your filings after those seen in other cases; whether children are generally allowed to testify)
    • May be able to give anecdotal information on the success of certain motions, filing complaints against judges, attorneys, etc.
    • May have a list of attorneys who are willing to take pro bono or reduced fee domestic violence cases
  • May be able to recommend guardians ad litem, parenting coordinators, etc., in a custody case, if you have a choice in these matters
  • May be able to connect you with other local people who have been parties in similar cases -- for support and for sharing of information
  • May be able to make active referrals to other legal aid programs or law school legal clinics -- be sure to let them know if you are in any of the following groups, as there may be special assistance in your community for these groups:
    • Sexual assault survivor
    • Over 50
    • Native American
    • Disabled
    • Recovering from alcohol or substance abuse
    • Formerly incarcerated
    • Gay, lesbian or transgender