American Judges Association


Date of this Version

July 2002


Published in Court Review: The Journal of the American Judges Association, 39:2 (2002), pp. 4-11. Copyright © 2002 National Center for State Courts. Used by permission. Online at


Domestic abuse is common. It includes emotional and psychological abuse as well as physical assaults. Children are harmed by it, even if they are not the direct victims of the physical violence.
Because domestic abuse is so prevalent and its effects are so far-reaching, court personnel must educate themselves to understand domestic violence and determine strategies for handling cases where it is present. Even if domestic violence is present but does not seem to have a direct impact on the case at hand, one should be aware of the power and control dynamics of domestic abuse to provide effective intervention in domestic violence cases.
Screening for domestic violence is important because it can provide information that can help courts make better decisions about the cases before them. Domestic violence is a critical fact in determining the process and the outcome in a domestic relations case. Without an understanding of domestic violence in general and knowledge about whether there is domestic violence in a particular case, the decision maker could erroneously be making orders that (1) increase danger to the victim and children, including the danger of lethality, and (2) reduce the resources available to the victim, thus increasing the likelihood that the violence and abuse will continue. Before the court orders mediation or other alternative processes, it should look into screening for domestic violence to ensure that the process of mediation can be effective, and not coercive or revictimizing.

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