Domestic Violence Courts

What are Domestic Violence Courts?

Domestic violence courts represent a broad range of specialized approaches to handling intimate partner violence in family, juvenile, general civil, and criminal proceedings. In May 2000, the Judicial Council released Domestic Violence Courts: A Descriptive Study, in response to California Family Code section 6390 mandating that the council conduct a descriptive study of domestic violence courts in the state. In this report, the term "domestic violence court" refers to those courts that assign judicial officers to hear a special domestic violence calendar, regardless of whether the judicial officers hear those cases exclusively or as part of a mixed assignment. The major features of domestic violence courts can be grouped as (1) case assignment, (2) screening for related cases, (3) intake units and case processing, (4) service provision, and (5) monitoring. The study elaborates on each of these areas.

In handling domestic violence matters, courts may combine their civil and criminal domestic violence cases on one calendar, or they might hear the cases on different calendars. Some courts assign all their domestic violence cases to one judicial officer; others reserve one day a week for hearings on domestic violence cases conducted by judges who handle mixed caseloads.

Although domestic violence courts are similar to other collaborative justice courts in many ways, it is important to note that there may be significant differences. For example, in domestic matters, victim safety is a particularly serious concern. Assessing the effectiveness of various approaches to addressing victim safety and perpetrator accountability poses significant challenges for courts and court-connected services. An article in the Administrative Office of the Courts' Journal of the Center for Families, Children & the Courts, entitled "Domestic Violence: Components and Considerations,"  addresses these issues in greater detail.

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Domestic violence legal information for California, including a guide to safety planning

Domestic Violence Courts: A Descriptive Study (May 2000)
Judicial Council of California, Administrative Office of the Courts

"Domestic Violence: Components and Considerations" (2000) Vol. 2
Journal of the Center for Families, Children & the Courts

Creating a Domestic Violence Court: Guidelines and Best Practices (2002), 
Emily Sack, J.D.