Custody and Visitation in Civil Protection Orders: Guiding Principles and Suggested Practices for Courts and Communities

August 2, 2017

The board of directors of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges voted to adopt the principles and practices in this guide at their July 2017 meeting.

Despite the fact that the majority of state civil protection order statutes confer legal authority upon judicial officers to include custody, visitation, and other child-related relief in civil protection orders (CPOs), judges often do not exercise that authority. These guiding principles and suggested practices are intended to assist communities’ efforts to address this disparity. They are the product of a collaborative effort involving the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ), the Battered Women’s Justice Project (BWJP), the Center for Court Innovation (CCI), and a group of national experts, including judges, attorneys, and advocates.

This guide is intended as a resource for professionals from any discipline who seek to enhance the ability of their civil protection order system to address victims’ safety and other needs related to their children. The overall focus of the guiding principles and suggested practices described below is on custody and visitation relief provided in CPOs, although some of the guidance necessarily touches upon custody and visitation in long-term family law cases outside of the CPO context, as well as the relationship between CPOs and orders issued in such long-term cases. Professionals seeking guidance on long-term custody decision-making in a variety of contexts should consult the resources developed by NCJFCJ, BWJP, and other organizations. 

In the last section of this guide, we provide ideas for how to put the principles and practices into action in your community. In addition, to facilitate assessment of current practices and processes and the identification of new strategies, we have developed a Checklist for Judicial Action that summarizes the material in this guide in an easy-to-use format.

If you have any questions or would like to receive technical assistance or training on application of the principles and practices, please contact NCJFCJ at (800) 527-3223.