Integrated Domestic Violence Courts

July 11, 2016
Louis Sternberg

New York IDV.  Integrated Domestic Violence Court in New York

Streamlining the Judiciary- The Rise of Integrated Domestic Violence Courts

Domestic violence is not a crime that fits neatly into our current judicial system. It often requires several visits to various courtrooms where victims are forced to relive the distressing details of the violence they experienced at the hands of their abusers, all in an effort to provide the latest presiding judge with the facts of their case. But why should a victim have to expose themselves to the trauma of having to retell their story multiple times, to different judges, at different proceedings that are all seemingly related?

In New York, the Unified Court System addressed this question through the implementation of specialized, problem-solving courts, known as the Integrated Domestic Violence Court (IDV).  These courts were establishes pursuant to 22 NYCRR 141.

The goal of IDV courts is to reduce the number of court appearances for litigants and streamline the process for all the parties involved. In IDV courts, one judge handles all criminal domestic violence cases, as well as related family law matters, such as custody, visitation, orders of protection and divorce.

Through the use of the “one family/one judge” model, the Integrated Domestic Violence Courts can respond more efficiently to the unique challenges of domestic violence. The presiding judge is cross-trained to handle all matters relating to the family in an effort to improve the safety of the victim and the accountability of the offender. This model helps make the decision-making process faster and reduces the potential for conflicting judicial orders. IDV courts also promotes increased monitoring of defendants to ensure compliance. Since the case is being handled by one judge, any allegations on non-compliance can be addressed quickly.  IDV parts are also staffed with a “resource coordinator” to assist the Court and litigants by acting as a liaison to various agencies and providing referrals to appropriate treatment programs.

Currently, there are over forty integrated domestic violence courts operating in New York, including Rensselaer, Westchester, Bronx, Rochester, Syracuse, Richmond, Queens, Tompkins, Erie, Franklin, and Suffolk counties.

What is an IDV case in New York?

To be eligible for IDV court, a family must have a criminal domestic violence case pending, as well as a family court case, matrimonial case, or both. In addition, at least one defendant and one complaining witness to the criminal case must also be a party to the family or divorce case. Eligibility for IDV courts are identified using the Integrated Domestic Violence Application, which complies the information in case management system that is used to track cases transferred to IDV courts throughout the state of New York.

The New York State Unified Court System initiated the IDV Court model in 2001 as part of a strategic response to the complexities and challenges presented by domestic violence cases. Prior to the establishment of IDV Courts, cases involving the same family could be dispersed across several courtrooms, including criminal courts for domestic violence offenses, family courts for orders of protection, custody, and visitation issues, and matrimonial courts for divorce proceedings. This fragmentation often resulted in inconsistent rulings, repetitive presentation of cases, and a taxing experience for the victims involved.

The rationale behind the formation of the IDV Courts was to provide a more holistic, informed, and sensitive approach to handling domestic violence cases. By consolidating cases under the jurisdiction of one judge, the court could offer a comprehensive understanding of the family dynamics at play, leading to more coherent and effective judicial decisions.

IDV courts do more than merely address the legal components of domestic violence. The courts use a rehabilitative approach by working closely with community based victim advocates to coordinate services such as crisis counseling, housing, and job training for victims. At the end of the day, IDV courts provide a more consistent responses to domestic violence. Their enactment provides relief for domestic violence victims trying to put an end to the cycle of violence and spares them from having to re-live their nightmare one more time.

Suffolk County first opened an IDV Court in 2002.