The public health emergency created by the COVID-19 pandemic has challenged courts and communities in unprecedented ways. Of particular concern are the sometimes insurmountable obstacles that many victims of domestic violence and their children encounter in attempting to escape the abuse and achieve safety through the legal system. Courts throughout the country have risen to the occasion, quickly developing and implementing processes for safe, remote access to civil protection orders (CPOs). Yet, the struggle to adapt to the new circumstances continues, and ensuring that victims can obtain protection orders that meet their safety and other needs remains a difficult and continually evolving challenge.
The guidance is intended to assist judicial officers and courts as they design creative and effective solutions to the problems imposed by the COVID-19 emergency. In addition to describing how judicial officers can assume a leadership role in promoting a collaborative response to the pandemic, this document provides examples of concrete strategies that courts and communities can implement to maximize the accessibility and effectiveness of the CPO system despite the impediments.