In late January the New York State Appellate Division, First Department, affirmed two orders protecting NYLAG clients, both victims of domestic violence. In its decisions, the First Department validated the Family Courts’ use of dispositional alternatives offered by Article 8 of the Family Court Act, including orders of protection, counseling, and anger management services. New York State law provides many such dispositional alternatives for courts seeking to assist families experiencing violence. (Others include probation, restitution, drug and alcohol counseling, and suspension of firearms licenses.) However, these alternatives appear to be underutilized, reflecting the paucity of trials on family offense cases, a lack of awareness on the part of practitioners, and the documented lack of resources in the Family Court. Both cases are notable for their implementation of the New York State Legislature’s finding that witnessing violence is harmful to children,  that children should therefore be included on orders of protection and that longer orders should be granted when children are at risk.

In Coumba F., the Appellate Division upheld a Bronx Family Court decision issuing a five-year Order of Protection on behalf of NYLAG’s client and her child – and put teeth in it by requiring the lower court to order that the respondent father attend anger management and domestic violence counseling, which must be completed within a strict six-month deadline.  To read the decision, please click here.

In Angela C., both the trial and appellate courts justified the maximum length order of protection on behalf of NYLAG’s client and her child based on three independent grounds: the respondent’s repeated conduct in sending harassing letters to Angela in violation of the prior order of protection; his criminal conviction of four counts of aggravated harassment; and his aggressive threatening conduct in court. To read the decision, please click here.

Commenting on the decisions, Kim Susser, Director of Matrimonial and Family Law at NYLAG, said, “These decisions are noteworthy and should be commended for aggressively protecting domestic violence victims and their children. The Family Courts, looking at cases involving repeated and serious violence took the law and ran with it, using the dispositional alternatives available, and the Appellate Division upheld their orders – in one notable instance even strengthening the lower court order.”