PPT - Florida Courts

Protecting Children Exposed to
Domestic Violence
Teresa Drake, J.D.,
Director, The Source Program,
Visiting Legal Skills Professor,
Associate Director, Center on
Children and Families,
Levin College of Law;
Affiliate Professor, Center for
Women’s Studies and Gender
Research, UF College of Liberal Arts
and Sciences
[email protected]
Fla Stat 741.2902
• Legislative Intent with respect to
judiciary's role
– (2) It is the intent of the
Legislature, with respect to
injunctions for protection against
domestic violence issued pursuant
to s. 741.30, that the court shall:
• (e) Consider supervised visitation,
withholding visitation, or other
arrangements for visitation that will
best protect the child and petitioner
from harm.
Fla Stat 741.30
• (6)(a)Upon notice and hearing, when it
appears to the court that the petitioner is
either the victim of domestic violence as
defined by s. 741.28 or has reasonable cause
to believe he or she is in imminent danger of
becoming a victim of domestic violence, the
court may grant such relief as the court
deems proper, including an injunction:
– (3) On the same basis as provided in chapter 61,
providing the petitioner with 100 percent of the
time-sharing in a temporary parenting plan that
remains in effect until the order expires or an
order is entered by a court of competent
jurisdiction in a pending or subsequent civil action
or proceeding affecting the placement of, access
to, parental time with, adoption of, or parental
rights and responsibilities for the minor child.
Power & Control Wheel
Children and DV
• In 43% of households where DV
occurs, at least one child under the
age of 12 lives in the home
• Although many parents believe they
can hide DV from children, research
suggests that 80% - 90% of these
children are aware of the violence
• Sleeping infant study!
Examples of Child Exposure
Hearing threats of physical harm
Feeling tension building in home prior to assault
Being hit/threatened while in mother’s arms
Hearing/seeing assault on their mother
Being denied care because mother is injured or depressed
Being forced to watch/participate in violence against their mother
Seeing aftermath of violent incident
Having their relationship with their non-violent parent undermined
Being taken hostage to force mother to return home
Being forced to relay messages, spy on, or monitor the mother
Experiencing the loss of a parent due to murder/suicide.
The Most Dangerous Time
• The most dangerous time for a
battered woman is when she
finally decides to leave
• As many as 75% of DV calls
made to police and 73% of the
emergency room DV visits
occur during or immediately
following separation
• Of women killed by their
abusers, 70% are killed during
the process of trying to leave.
Children Witnessing DV
• In approximately 19% of femicides, children are also killed
• In 71% of cases a child either witnesses the femicide or is the
first to find body.
Children Affected by
Children Affected by
Brain Development
• Brain development and
growth is profoundly “front
loaded” such that by age
four, a child’s brain is 90% of
adult size
• The fastest “spurt” begins in
the last trimester and is at
least 83% postnatal,
continuing to about 18-24
months of age.
Brain Development
• During this great ‘brain” growth between -9 – 4 years of
life, a child’s rapidly developing brain organizes to reflect
the child’s environment
• Neurons, neural systems and the brain change in a “usedependent” way
• Physical connections between neurons (synaptic
connection) increase and strengthen through repetition,
or wither through disuse…Cells that fire together, survive
together, and wire together.
What If Our Environment is Unsafe?
Responses Affected
• In a state of fear we retrieve information
from the world differently than when
we feel calm
• In a state of calm, we use more complex
parts of the brain (neocortex) to process
and act on information
• As perceived threat level goes up, less
thoughtful and more reactive responses
surface; actions are governed by
emotional and reactive thinking styles
(limbic and diencephalon).
Base-line Stress Levels Affected
• Flight or flight: hyperarousal response, may display
defiance, resistance or aggression. Often display
hypervigilance, anxiety, panic or increased heart rate.
More common in older children, males and
circumstances where trauma involved witnessing or
playing an active role.
• Freeze: dissociative response, may involve
avoidance, withdrawing from the outside world. Child
may be compliant (even robotic), display rhythmic
self-soothing such as rocking. Most common in
young children, females and during traumatic events
characterized by pain or inability to escape.
Fight, Fright or Freeze: Stuck On
Trauma is Intergenerational
P, Suicide
IPV victim
Drug use
Drug use
Creating a Context for Children’s Healing
• A sense of physical and emotional safety in
current surroundings
• Structure, limits and predictability
• A strong bond with the nurturing, non-violent
parent is one of the best predictors of a child’s
ability to recover from trauma
– The child must feel that the parent can protect them
– The child must recover his/her respect and/or
confidence in the parent
– The child must feel that the surrounding social
environment supports them bring close to that
Context for Children’s Healing, con’t
• Not to feel responsible for taking care of adults
• Contact with the battering parent if it can occur
with adequate protection for the child’s physical
and emotional safety
• A strong bond to siblings.
Batterer’s Manipulations After Separation:
Disrupting Healing
• Children can be used as primary weapon to:
– Pressure partner to reunify
• Sending messages through children
• Parentification of children
• Neglecting/abusing children
– Retaliate
Threatening to obtain “custody of children”
Blaming/Undermining relationship with non-violent parent
Spying, Cyberstalking through children
Pet abuse
Sabotaging children’s relationships with therapists, medical personnel,
child care
• Isolating children from support/peers
• Neglecting/Abusing children.
Back to Injunction: The Chain of Events
• Petitioner (80-85% of domestic violence
survivors are women) files for injunction for
protection with children
• Temporary injunction is granted; petitioner
is given 100% timesharing
• Respondent is served and all that is seen is
• Respondent loses control and blames
survivor for denying his rights to his children
• ….Chaos…..escalation….danger.
How Can We Minimize the Danger
• Demystify/Empower/De-escalate:
Brochure or handout that is served on
Respondent with temporary order or order
setting hearing:
– Explains that the temporary order is
– Tell Respondent he/she will get the
opportunity to present evidence before
Judge makes a final decision
– Warns about consequence of violations
– Assures Respondent that timesharing
will be addressed by the Judge at the
final hearing and prepares the
Respondent for the possibility of
Petitioner Safety
• Brochure/handout given to the
Petitioner when she/he applies for
injunction and at the final hearing:
– Describes court proceedings,
including mediation and her/his
ability to opt out
– Outlines safety plan in home,
community and courthouse
– Explains reporting violations
– Lists community resources.
In the Courtroom
• Have a good working relationship between bailiffs,
mediation staff, victim advocates (Fla. Stat.
741.30(6)(a)(6)) in which safety is the top priority
• http://www.flcourts.org/core/fileparse.php/273/urlt/201
• Explain the parameters in which you will use mediation
and/or dv victim advocates in the courtroom.
When to Address Time-sharing
• If parties are married
• If paternity has been established by a circuit
• If neither, then Respondents can be guided to
resources that can assist them to open a
family law case
• The responsibility of initiating a family law
case should not be on the shoulders of the
Determining Time Sharing: Mediation
• Fla. Stat. 44.102(2)(c) In circuits in which a family mediation
program has been established and upon a court finding of a
dispute, (the Court) shall refer to mediation all or part of custody,
visitation, or other parental responsibility issues as defined in s.
61.13. Upon motion or request of a party, a court shall not refer any
case to mediation if it finds there has been a history of domestic
violence that would compromise the mediation process…however,
if the petitioner knowingly agrees to the process and the scope is
narrowly defined…
• …and if there is a victim advocate (Fla. Stat. 741.30(7))
• Cases should be referred after a final injunction has been ordered
and the judge has determined that timesharing will be supervised
or unsupervised.
Mediation, con’t
• Mediators must have specialized training in domestic violence mediations
(contact Circuit 8, Beverly Graper, [email protected]):
• Mediators review all files before court and are present in courtroom
• All mediations are conducted caucus style
• All mediators:
Understand the dynamics of power and control
Aware of the effects of dv on children
Understand survivor trauma behavior
Familiar with supervised visitation center options and safe public pass-off
Familiar with Family Wizard and other such services
Uses template for “tight” high-conflict parenting plans
Keenly aware of information, verbal or non-verbal, that is passed from one
party to the other
Have safety support to transport both themselves and petitioner to
mediation suite
Understand that any threat to mediator by Respondent is outside
Assistance in Determining Time Sharing
• Supervised Visitation
• Supervised Visits with
neutral third party
• Safe public pass-off
locations (strict
– Publix
– Sheriff’s office
– Banks.
Child Support
• Best Practices Model on
Child Support in Domestic
Violence Cases.
Judicial Resources
• National Council of Juvenile and Family Court
Judges www.ncjfcj.org
• National Center for State Courts
• National Online Resource Center for Violence
Against Women www.vawnet.org
• Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence
Thank You
Teresa Drake, J.D.
Intimate Partner Violence
Assistance Clinic
University of Florida
Levin College of Law
[email protected]
This project was supported by Grant No.: 2009-WL-AX-0006 awarded
by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of
Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations
expressed in this publication/program/exhibition are those of the
author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department
of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.

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