Domestic violence may be present in divorce proceedings and cannot be ignored. This section contains basic information and other resources that can help you understand the legal issues involved and your rights if you are a victim of domestic violence and are seeking a divorce in New York State. I have also included references to organizations that provide support, protection, and assistance to individuals who suffer domestic violence.
New York State defines domestic violence (DV) as:
“A pattern of coercive tactics, which can include physical, psychological, sexual, economic and emotional abuse, perpetrated by one person against an adult intimate partner, with the goal of establishing and maintaining power and control over the victim.”
Domestic violence is a crime that affects the lives of men, women, and children from all backgrounds and circumstances. If someone has been a victim of abuse, or has been threatened with abuse, she/he can ask the court for an order of protection to prevent contact with the person who threatened harm, or who actually committed the harm.
The most frequently asked questions related to domestic violence include the following:
What is an order of protection?
An order of protection is issued by the court to limit the behavior of someone who harms or threatens to harm another person. It is used to address various types of safety issues, including, but not limited to, situations involving domestic violence. Family courts, criminal courts, and Supreme courts can all issue orders of protection. Information and hotline numbers for addressing situations involving domestic violence are included below.
An order of protection may direct the offending person not to injure, threaten or harass you, your family, or any other person(s) listed in the order. It may include, but is not limited to, directing him/her to:
- stay away from you and your children
- move out of your home
- follow custody orders
- pay child support
- restrict access to firearms
A Family Court order of protection is issued as part of a civil proceeding. Its purpose is to stop violence within a family, or within an intimate relationship, and provide protection for those individuals affected. A person applying for an order of protection may request that their address and other contact information remain confidential and not be shared with the offender.
To obtain an order of protection in the Family Court, your relationship to the other person must fall into one of the following categories:
- Current or former spouse
- Someone with whom you have a child in common
- A family member to whom you are related by blood or marriage
- Someone with whom you have or have had an “intimate relationship.” An intimate relationship does not have to be a sexual relationship. A relationship may be considered intimate depending on factors such as how often you see each other, whether you are members of the same household or how long you have known each other. After a petition is filed, the court will decide if it is an intimate relationship.
To start a proceeding in Family Court, you need to file a Family Offense Petition. The person filing the petition is called the “petitioner,” and the person the petition is filed against is called the “respondent.” You can contact the Family Court in your county for help completing and filing the petition. You may also wish to speak with an attorney or domestic violence advocate before filing. Many jurisdictions have domestic violence advocates available in the courthouse.
A criminal court order of protection is issued as a condition of a defendant’s release and/or bail in a criminal case to protect the alleged victim of a crime. A criminal court order of protection may only be issued against a person who has been charged with a crime.
Criminal cases are prosecuted by the District Attorney. The District Attorney may request an order of protection for the victim or complaining witness. The judge decides whether to issue the order of protection and what terms and conditions will be included in the order.
A criminal case usually begins with a person’s arrest. The person charged with a crime is called a “defendant.” The victim of abuse is called the “complaining witness.” There does not need to be a relationship between the complaining witness and the defendant.
A Supreme Court order of protection can be issued as part of an ongoing divorce proceeding.
If you have an ongoing divorce case and would like to request an order of protection, you may do so by making a written request by Motion or Order to Show Cause; or you may make an oral request at a court appearance. If you are represented by an attorney, your attorney may make the written or oral request for you. The judge decides whether to issue the order of protection and what terms and conditions will be included in the order.
What can you do if someone violates an order of protection?
It is a crime to violate a temporary or final order of protection. If the subject of the order of protection does not obey the order, then you can contact the police. The police can arrest the individual for violating the order of protection. The individual does not have to threaten or commit violence to violate the order. If the individual comes into contact with you, contrary to a term of the order, then they are in violation of the order. You also have the right to file a violation of the order in the court that issued the order.
How can I find a court near me?
For additional information and assistance, contact your local court.
Where can I get immediate help?
A person in a dangerous emergency situation requiring immediate intervention should call 911 for assistance.
You can call any of these numbers – day or night. The hotline operators can answer your specific questions and direct you to further resources.
- NYC Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project
212-714-1141 (24-hour English and Spanish Hotline)
- NYS Domestic and Sexual Violence Hotline Numbers:
In NYC: 1-800-621-HOPE (4673) or dial 311
For further help and information regarding what to do in a situation of domestic violence:
- go to the Help page of the NYS Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence
- NYS Coalition Against Domestic Violence (CADV)(maintains list of available resources by county)
- National Office on Violence Against Women
Are there any domestic violence resources near where I live?
To find specific resources in your location, you can visit the web site of The New York State Coalition against Domestic Violence to view a directory of domestic violence resources listed by county.
What is the Integrated Domestic Violence Court?
Integrated Domestic Violence (IDV) Courts help families by bringing different case types—criminal, family and matrimonial (divorce)—together to be heard by one judge. This court uses the “one family – one judge” approach for cases that involve domestic violence within a family. The judge decides which cases are appropriate for the IDV Court.
For more information regarding this court type, go to the IDV Court web site