Despite the fact that the majority of state civil protection order (CPO) statutes confer legal authority upon judicial officers to include custody, visitation, and other child-related relief in CPOs, judges often do not exercise that authority. Court-issued CPOs provide domestic violence victims with important options while influencing batterers to stop the abuse. An integrated and consistent protection order system that coordinates issuing, serving, and enforcing court orders promotes victim safety and helps save lives.
The NCJFCJ seeks to increase the capacity of communities, courts, judges, and related professionals to enhance victim safety and offender accountability through effective protection order practices. The NCJFCJ recognizes that an effective civil protection order system relies upon the interplay and interdependence of each profession’s work – judges, law enforcement, prosecutors, advocates, civil attorneys, and others.
To promote best practices and improve outcomes for victims of domestic violence, the NCJFCJ published and adopted as policy Civil Protection Orders: A Guide for Improving Practice (CPO Guide), which was adopted by the NCJFCJ Board of Trustees in July 2011. The CPO Guide articulates best practices based on the principles of safety, autonomy, accessibility, competence, reliability, collaboration, culture and diversity, and community engagement.
The NCJFCJ works within a network of other national organizations to promote improved civil protection order practice, and it offers technical assistance to courts, judges, and other professionals to address challenges and emerging needs identified by those who are involved in the issuance, service, and enforcement of protection orders. In addition, the NCJFCJ conducts webinars and workshops on topics concerning protection orders, including custody and visitation, victim autonomy, compliance review, and firearms surrender, all based on the principles, practices, and strategies outlined in the CPO Guide.
The NCJFCJ also provides on-site multi-disciplinary training based on interactive curricula designed to help communities assist victims through the creation of a unified, cohesive, and reliable response. The participatory workshop model for this curriculum brings together the various professionals needed to implement system change and improvement through coordinated community responses.
The NCJFCJ periodically hosts roundtables and other structured discussions with judges and justice system professionals to explore challenging issues involving the protection order process and to identify possible strategies for addressing those issues. These discussions often lead to the development of new materials or resources for judges, court staff, and other professionals. For example, during 2017 the NCJFCJ adopted as policy, the principles and practices in Custody and Visitation in Civil Protection Orders: Guiding Principles and Suggested Practices for Courts and Communities, the outgrowth of a roundtable on the topic held in 2016.
Together, the NCJFCJ’s technical assistance, training, and resource development offer courts and communities the opportunity to enhance their ability to safeguard victims of domestic violence, provide for children’s safety and well-being through the use of child-related relief in civil protection orders, and hold abusers accountable.
Civil protection orders are a valuable tool for victims of domestic violence only if they are issued, served, and enforced within an integrated and consistent system response. Research suggests that protection orders make a meaningful difference in victim safety, fear levels, and cost savings. Based on positive feedback from communities and individuals who have received technical assistance and have participated in CPO Guide workshops, the NCJFCJ will continue to offer its tailored training and technical assistance and provide leadership on the implementation of best practices around the country. The NCJFCJ’s training and technical assistance on best practices promote effective and sustainable systemic change resulting in improved outcomes for victims seeking civil protection orders.
Judges who are well educated on and engaged in best practices can effectively administer justice to protect victims of domestic violence and their children. Judges and other professionals associated with the issuance, service, and enforcement of CPOs better understand and appreciate the differing roles of the various professionals involved in the process and work collaboratively to improve it. Judges continue to take leadership roles in their communities to coordinate responses to serve victims of domestic violence better.