Data Collection

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The court gathered information from survivors and professionals to identify needs and gaps that should be addressed by the project. Surveys and roundtables were used to inform the site’s selection and development of activities and resources.

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Data Collection

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Challenges identified by the project team included a lack of accurate identification of domestic violence by family court practitioners and survivors’ lack of understanding and information regarding family court procedures, available relief, and governing law. Another challenge concerned the inconsistency in court orders around the intersection of domestic violence and custody, both in the inclusion of child-related relief in protection orders and in properly accounting for domestic violence in divorce and custody cases. To better assess these gaps and their impact, the site conducted several roundtables with different practitioner groups as well as survivors, and the bench and family law bar were surveyed to gather more data about the scope of these issues and to inform the development of possible solutions.

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Comprehensive data collection

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The Delaware team decided to gather as much information as possible about the court’s current operations, to determine where changes were most needed and how best to improve the court’s handling of custody cases involving domestic violence. This information was used to formulate a comprehensive list of recommendations for the court. A variety of strategies were used:

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Judicial survey instruments

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Cook County differs from the other FCEP sites in that the court participating in the project is not a family court but a domestic violence court, so its focus in the project is improving the availability of child-related relief in protection order cases. One challenge identified early in the project was disagreement among practitioners, including judges, about the appropriateness of child-related relief in protection orders. To determine the scope of this disagreement, the judges were surveyed in an effort to find common ground for a shared understanding of the purpose and utility of child-related relief in protection orders.

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Data collection form

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One challenge identified by the team was a gap in the data available about what relief was requested and provided in protection orders, including child-related relief. To fill this gap and build evidence regarding what services and resources are most needed and helpful, the team created a data collection form and database to track litigants’ experience of the court.

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Court access for Native Americans

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Native Americans experience domestic violence at higher rates than any other group in the United States, yet the Hennepin County team found that very few accessed the relief available from orders for protection in family court or tribal court. To meet this need, the team created two positions, a Native Liaison and a Community Outreach Specialist, to build a relationship between the court and the Native population and to provide information about what family court can do to help. Below are some of the materials that were developed as well as job descriptions of the two positions.

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