Domestic Violence

Who can I Turn to For Domestic Violence Help?

In a crisis situation, a call to the police is a good place to start. Many people complain that police do not take accusations of domestic violence seriously. That can be true in some circumstances, but on the whole, police are treating domestic violence situations more seriously, and police officers are receiving increased training on the subject. 

The local state attorney or district attorney also may be able to offer some help. An increasing number of hospitals, crisis intervention programs, domestic violence shelters, and social service agencies have programs to help victims of domestic violence. Agencies offering help in cases of domestic violence might be found on any search engine under “Domestic Violence Help,” “Human Services Organizations,” or “Crisis Intervention.” 

If one is working with an attorney in connection with a divorce, the attorney also should be able to initiate the appropriate legal proceedings. 

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CAN I SUE FOR DAMAGES RELATED TO DOMESTIC VIOLENCE?

In 1994 Congress enacted the Violence Against Women Act. The more formal title of the new law is the Civil Rights Remedies for Gender Motivated Violence Act. Prior to this statute, laws against domestic violence were almost exclusively at the state level. 

The Violence Against Women Act allows a person to sue for damages if another person “commits a crime of violence motivated by gender.” The new law is part of the federal government’s civil rights statute. If the crime of violence constitutes a felony against the person or the property of the victim, the victim can sue the assailant for both compensatory damages and punitive damages. 

Compensatory damages are designed to compensate the victim for the loss. The damages could include medical expenses, lost wages, pain, and suffering. Punitive damages are an added amount of damages not for the purpose of compensation but rather for the purpose of punishing the assailant and deterring future abusive conduct. Punitive damages, however, are still paid to the victim. 

STATE LAWS ON DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

In recent years, state legislatures and courts have been paying increasing attention to domestic violence. Many states have elaborate laws designed to protect individuals from domestic violence by their spouses, other family members, and people with whom the victim may have had a social relationship. 

A common remedy is for a court to issue an order of protection (also known as a protective order) that orders the alleged abuser to stop abusing or harassing someone else. In addition, the orders often will direct the abuser to stay away from the spouse, the spouse’s home, or place of work. If the person continues to abuse his or her spouse (or another person protected by the order), the abuser can be charged with a criminal violation of the order in addition to being charged with other offenses, such as assault and battery. Penalties include fines and incarceration. 

The domestic violence statutes in most states apply not only to physical attacks, but also to other types of conduct. Some examples of conduct that could be considered domestic violence: creating disturbance at a spouse’s place of work, placing harassing telephone calls, stalking, using surveillance, and making threats against a spouse or family member (even though the threat may not have been carried out). 

When do you obtain a Criminal Court Order of Protection?

If your relationship to the abuser does not allow you to file a petition in Family Court you must seek relief in the Criminal Court. The procedure for obtaining an order of protection in Criminal Court is completely different than in Family Court. In Criminal Court the District Attorney, based on an arrest must bring a criminal case against your abuser in order for you to obtain an order of protection. The order will be temporary and you will receive it in the mail. If your abuser is convicted of the criminal offense against you, the temporary order of protection can be made “permanent”. For more information about a Criminal Court order of protection contact the Westchester County Domestic Violence & Child Abuse Bureau, or Attorney’s Office at (914) 995-3000. 

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How Do You Obtain A Family Court Order Of Protection?

In order to receive an order of protection from the Family Court the abuser must either be someone you are married to or divorced from; the parent of your child(ren); related to you by blood, such as a child, parent or sibling; or someone who you are or have been in an intimate relationship with, regardless of whether you have lived with the abuser or whether the relationship is of a sexual nature. Initially the order that you obtain in Family Court is temporary and only becomes effective once the alleged abuser (“abuser”) is served with it. You cannot serve the order of protection yourself. The order of protection must be served by either the police or anyone other than you who is over the age of 18. 

On the same day that you receive the temporary order of protection you will get a future court date. On that date, both you and the abuser will have to go to court to appear before the judge. The abuser may either opt to admit to the allegations in the petition and consent to abide by the order or deny the allegations. If the abuser admits to the allegations in the petition and consents to abide by the order, the order will become “permanent” (meaning that the order will last for a fixed amount of time, usually one or three years). If the abuser denies the allegations a date will be set for a “fact finding hearing”, which resembles a trial. If after the fact finding hearing the court finds that the abuser did indeed commit the allegations in the petition, your order of protection will become “permanent” (meaning that the order will last for a fixed amount of time, usually one or three years). If after the fact finding hearing the court finds that the abuser did not commit the allegations, the case will be dismissed and the temporary order of protection will end. If the abuser is served and fails to appear in court the judge will either adjourn the case and schedule another time for the abuser to appear or will grant your petition in the abuser’s absence. 

What is an Order of Protection?

An order of protection is an order issued by the Family Court, Criminal Court or Supreme Court that orders an abuser to stop committing offenses against you. You can also request an order of protection on behalf of your children which would protect both them and you from the abuser. 

For information on serving order of protection visit www.undisputedlegal.com.  Open Monday – Friday 8am-8pm.  “When you want it done right the first time” contact undisputedlegal.com

What is a Domestic Incident Report?

A Domestic Incident Report is a form that the New York State police use to record information about a domestic incident. The report contains information about the parties involved and the date, time and place of the incident. Also included in the report are the police officers’ observations and a summary of the incident. There is also a space in the form for the victim to write a brief statement about the incident. The DIR is a multi-part form, which allows both the police officers and the victim to retain a copy. If the incident is a serious domestic violence felony, police are required to make an arrest. 

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FILING FOR AN ORDER OF PROTECTION IN FAMILY COURT.

You must go to the Help Center (“Petition Room”) between 8:30-5:00 Mon.- Fri. After you tell the clerk at the front desk you are there, you will be given forms to fill out, including one to write down the incidents of violence. When your name is called, you will see a clerk who will write the petition based on the information you gave on the form.

There are no filing fees in Family Court.

What Should I Put on My Petition for an order of protection?

Write down as many details as possible. In order to obtain an order of protection you must state that a “family offense” occurred. Many actions are family offenses, such as when a person verbally, physically, emotionally, or sexually abuses you, or threatens to hurt you. Describe when each incident occurred, where it occurred, what happened, whether you were injured (bruises, cuts), and whether weapons were used. It is best to include the most recent incident, the first incident and the worst incident. If there was verbal abuse, tell the clerk the exact words the respondent used. Tell the clerk if there is criminal court involvement and if there were earlier orders of protection. Before you sign the petition, read it carefully and tell the petition clerk if anything important has been left out. Make sure the petition is accurate and fully states what you want to tell the Judge.

Who Can File For An Order of Protection in Family Court?

You can file a petition in Family Court for an order of protection if

1) you are related to the respondent by blood or marriage;

2) you are or were legally married to the respondent; 

3) you have a child with the respondent; or 

4) you are or were in an intimate relationship with the respondent.

Factors the court may consider in determining whether a relationship is an “intimate relationship” include but are not limited to: the nature or type of relationship, regardless of whether the relationship is sexual in nature; the frequency of interaction between the persons; and the duration of the relationship. Neither a casual acquaintance nor ordinary fraternization between two individuals in business or social contexts shall be deemed to constitute an “intimate relationship”. 

Domestic Violence Affects Us All

Domestic violence is a pattern of abusive behavior by an intimate partner where the abuser exerts power and control over the victim. Domestic violence does not have to be physical violence. It also includes mental, economic or sexual violence. Anyone can be a victim of domestic violence regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, faith or socio-economic background. Domestic violence also knows no age limits. Although the signs of abuse in older people can be similar to those seen in younger people, some signs may be unique to challenges that elders face. 

Domestic Violence in this country is pervasive. In fact, 1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. 15.5 million children in the United States live in families where domestic violence was perpetrated in the past year. 1,600 women were murdered by an abusive partner last year.