Protect Children of Domestic Violence

Children often witness acts of domestic violence and experience trauma, as a result of exposure to violence in the home. In addition, they suffer direct economic impacts. Partners seeks to secure custody and safe visitation arrangements and to address systemic barriers to securing and collecting child support.

Child Support is Critical to Ensure the Safety of Children of Domestic Violence

When victims depend financially on their abuser, they need financial resources to support themselves and their children to avoid returning to the abuser. Although the restraining order hearings should be held within ten days of the issuance of the temporary restraining order, in practice, that intervening time often extends weeks or months, even before the pandemic. The family judge may resolve applications for child support weeks or months after the restraining order hearing. Too often victims must choose between the need to pay for food and shelter and the desire to safely leave the relationship. Partners’ work to minimize the adverse effects of the delays includes the following:

adult holds hand of a child
  • We urge the judiciary to consider emergent relief and interim financial relief in all cases.
  • We seek financial support on behalf of our clients, including bringing motions to enforce and defend child support orders.
  • We shine a light on the connection between physical safety and financial independence and advocate for an expansion of funding to support survivors living in poverty.

The Interests of Children of Unmarried Parents are Just as Important as the Interests of Children of Divorcing Parents

Two separate tracks exist in court for handling family law matters, one for married couples seeking to dissolve their marriage and address child custody issues (FM docket) and one for unmarried couples addressing child custody issues (non-dissolution docket). In general, unmarried parents have fewer economic resources and are less likely to be able to afford an attorney. Too often child custody issues are handled differently depending on which docket the case falls under. The best interests of children of unmarried couples deserve the same careful consideration as those for married couples and procedural rules on both dockets must use complex case management and plenary hearings to resolve child custody cases concerning a disputed issue of material fact.

For more information, check out our Amici Brief in the matter of W.M. v. D.G. (Appellate Division).

In a published decision, the Appellate Court held that judges should not automatically handle FD custody cases summarily. Instead, given the credible claim of psychological parenting, the court should have permitted cross-examination and appointed counsel for the minor to ensure consideration of the child’s best interests. For more information, view the final decision in W.M. v. D.G. (Appellate Division).