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.
Training for advocates
The team created a series of trainings for advocates on how to support their clients in family court. The presentation and materials, which can be shared with the clients, provide a detailed overview of family court and its procedures as well as state law on custody and parenting time.
Multidisciplinary Custody Training
Hennepin hosted a one-day training for all family court professionals, including judges, attorneys, mediators and early neutral evaluators, guardians ad litem, child welfare workers, and others. It featured a keynote by Peter Jaffe, an internationally recognized expert on domestic violence, and focused work sessions on how best to approach custody cases involving domestic violence.