New York Adopts a Statewide Integrated Approach to Domestic Violence
Monday, June 6, 2005 3:10 PM

New York has implemented a new approach to handling domestic violence cases in an effort to simplify the legal hurdles that face the families and victims of domestic abuse.

This new policy, which assigns one judge to each family, is expected to shift the balance of power away from the abuser and address concerns that victims often choose to drop charges and remain with a violent spouse rather than attempt to navigate a complex legal system. Often, domestic violence cases involve multiple proceedings in both criminal and civil court, including custody battles and divorce proceedings, facing multiple lawyers, judges and varying rules of evidence. By establishing the Integrated Domestic Violence Court, New York hopes to provide families an opportunity to "resolve numerous disputes in one place."

Some worry that, under the new system, a Judge may lose impartiality by specializing in domestic violence, or will choose to “bargain away criminal penalties for cooperation on the civil issues” from an abusive spouse. However, proponents note that a Judge’s greater familiarity with a particular case’s history will discourage leniency for repeat offenders and will increase compliance with court orders. In counties where offenders are less likely to encounter the same judge, the percentage of repeat domestic violence offences is typically around 20%. This year, in Erie County, New York, under the integrated system the percentage of repeat offences dropped to only 10%.

Beginning in 2001 in only three counties, the integrated approach is expected to become a state wide policy by the end of 2006 – making New York the first and only state in the United States to adopt a statewide integrated approach.

Compiled from: Terzieff, Juliette. "New York Courts Untangle Domestic Violence." Womens eNews. 06 June 2005