Resources

The four sites engaged in a variety of activities and developed resources to improve outcomes for domestic violence survivors and their children. Some were unique to a particular site, such as Hennepin's pilot court and Multnomah's procedural fairness efforts, and several, such as training and help for self-represented survivors, occurred across all four sites, though often implemented differently. Below is a list of the activities and resources developed by the sites, with descriptions as well as materials and tools where available. If you have any questions or would like more information about any of these activities, please contact our team and we'll be happy to help.


Community Outreach

Community Outreach

Multnomah County has taken steps to increase the visibility of the Family Court Enhancement Project by making presentations about their activities and experiences at national and regional conferences. These materials provide an overview of the site’s work on the project. ...

Help for Self-Represented Litigants

Help for Self-Represented Litigants

Like courts across the country, Cook County experiences a high percentage of self-represented litigants, which presents unique challenges when domestic violence is present. The site developed materials to help victims and respondents better understand the process and their options. Also, the help desk did not have any bilingual staff. Cook County is a highly diverse community, and a significant portion of the court’s litigants have limited English proficiency. To meet this need, the court hired a bilingual help desk staff person to assist non-English speakers. ...

Help with Parenting Time in Protection Orders

Help with Parenting Time in Protection Orders

Cook County’s Domestic Violence Division is not a family court accustomed to making custody determinations, but instead a high-volume court hearing protection orders and domestic violence criminal matters. Finding time in busy court calendars to address all of the details involved in creating a parenting plan so that safe, effective child-related relief can be included in protection orders was therefore a challenge. Two innovations proved to be immensely helpful: a newly created position called the expediter, which operates in many ways as a domestic violence-informed mediator, and a supervised visitation liaison. ...

Help for Self-Represented Litigants

Help for Self-Represented Litigants

Delaware developed a “core document” with information to help self-represented victims in protection from abuse (PFA) orders and custody matters. In addition to the core document, the site created one-page infographics, visually interesting and intuitive charts to address key questions that frequently arise in such cases, such as what a PFA order can do, differences between types of PFA orders, different aspects of custody, and how to tell whether Delaware has jurisdiction over child custody. ...

Training

Training

One challenge identified by Multnomah County was to improve the capacity of the court and court-related professionals to make informed recommendations and decisions regarding parenting time and custody in cases with domestic violence. Training for all family court practitioners was therefore a key activity. Programs were targeted for judges, court staff, custody evaluators, mediators, attorneys, advocates, therapists, and others, both as individual groups and in multidisciplinary presentations. Evaluations immediately following the programs were favorable, and anecdotal evidence indicates that participants are using the information from the trainings in their work. Additional data on the programs’ utility will be gathered in the next several months. Materials from several of the programs are below. ...

Domestic violence screening

Domestic violence screening

The team realized that domestic violence was going undetected in many cases. A subcommittee was tasked with finding and developing screening tools for court-related professionals. Early feedback on the first tool, specifically for attorneys, has been favorable, with attorneys reporting an increased awareness and detection of domestic violence in their cases. Also, tools for other professionals, notably custody evaluators and mediators, will be forthcoming soon. ...

Help for self-represented litigants

Help for self-represented litigants

A primary challenge identified during the planning phase of the project was that survivors lacked the information needed to make informed choices and lacked necessary support to seek... ...

Data Collection

Data Collection

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. ...

Training

Training

A key challenge identified by the Hennepin County team was inconsistency among all family court practitioners in identifying domestic violence, assessing it adequately once identified, and properly accounting for it in parenting plans. Another challenge was survivors’ lack of information needed to access available relief. As part of the efforts to address these challenges, the team developed a training program for all family court practitioners: judicial officers, guardians ad litem, mediators and early neutral evaluators, custody evaluators, self-help center staff, advocates, and attorneys. Several trainings in multiple formats were conducted to reach as many people as possible. A central piece to the practitioners’ training was the SAFeR Framework (formerly the Custody Framework) developed by the Battered Women’s Justice Project (BWJP), which provides a useful analytical and decision-making tool in custody cases involving domestic violence. Training on the Framework was provided in multiple formats to multiple audiences, including a training for attorneys and advocates, a training for new judges, and a multidisciplinary webinar. BWJP is constantly updating the training materials, so for more information or to request assistance with a training in your community, please see their website or use the Contact link above. ...

Data Collection

Data Collection

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. ...

Self-represented litigant materials

Self-represented litigant materials

Most litigants in family court, in Hennepin County as in the rest of the country, do not have lawyers and instead represent themselves. The team identified litigants’ lack of information and understanding about family court procedures as one of the challenges for the project. To help address this gap, Hennepin County created a series of materials designed to help litigants understand court processes and present their cases in the best way possible. ...

Domestic violence pilot court

Domestic violence pilot court

One challenge for Hennepin County was an inconsistency in the inclusion of child-related relief in orders for protection. After gathering information about the issue, the team developed a domestic violence pilot court, specifically for cases in which such relief is requested. The materials here include sample pilot court calendars, the pilot protocol, an overview of the activity used for training judicial officers and staff, and a sample order. The pilot court proved to be successful and has since expanded its docket. ...

Training

Training

Challenges identified by Delaware included the failure to identify domestic violence unless a protection order or criminal case was mentioned in the court file, as well as confusion about how to address it effectively once it was identified. Several training sessions of judges and court-related professionals gave these practitioners a better understanding of domestic violence and tools to identify and account for it in custody and protection orders. Please contact any one of the FCEP partners for more information or to inquire about a training in your community. ...

Comprehensive data collection

Comprehensive data collection

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: ...

Judicial survey instruments

Judicial survey instruments

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. ...

Data collection form

Data collection form

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. ...

Help desk screening/triage process

Help desk screening/triage process

To improve the availability of child-related relief in protection orders, identification of cases where the parties share children is necessary. By using its already existing help desk, the team developed a screening questionnaire that identified when concerns regarding children were present and referred the survivor to appropriate resources. Also, an alert card was created, to be provided to the survivor, when the parties had shared children; this alert card notifies any others helping the survivor with the protection order process to be aware of child-related issues and the possibility that a request for child-related relief may be needed and appropriate. ...

Court access for Native Americans

Court access for Native Americans

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. ...

Procedural fairness

Procedural fairness

Early data indicated that litigants with cases involving domestic violence did not feel respected or understood and did not believe they were treated fairly in many instances. A list of recommendations to improve litigants’ court experience was developed. These included easy tips that can be easily incorporated using existing resources in every day court interactions as well as more involved policy recommendations. Of course, the ultimate arbiter of whether these efforts have been successful is the survivors themselves, so the site developed an annual survey and comment cards to provide ongoing feedback about how the court is doing and where additional improvements might be needed. ...

Judicial Training

Judicial Training

Part of the challenge for Cook County’s Domestic Violence Division, which is not a family court accustomed to making custody determinations, was a hesitance to include child-related relief in protection orders because of an unfamiliarity with the applicable legal standards and a perceived lack of understanding about how to create appropriate orders that effectively addressed the domestic violence in the case and protected survivors and children while permitting parenting time for the respondent. A judicial training was held to introduce a framework for analyzing these issues, with practical scenarios to allow participants to apply the framework to a set of facts. Also, the judges were provided with information about judicial duties regarding neutrality when considering a settlement proposal that raises safety concerns. To request similar information or a training in your community, please use the Contact link above. ...