Superior Court Launches Family Domestic Violence Court
Allen Superior Court’s Family Relations Division has launched a new problem-solving court designed to provide support, recovery, and services to survivors and perpetrators of domestic violence and their families.
The newly launched Family Domestic Violence Court began accepting families into the program on March 13, 2023. Staff began meeting to establish programming and consider individual cases in February.
“Domestic violence is the genesis of many abuse and neglect cases that wind up in family court,” said Judge Lori K. Morgan, who oversees the newly created court. “But this is not a criminal proceeding – that occurs elsewhere. The mission of our Family Domestic Violence Court is to reduce the risk of violence by empowering survivors and assisting those who have engaged in acts of domestic violence by providing resources to achieve a safe and healthy family.”
In 2022, 472 CHINS (Children In Need Of Services) cases were filed in Allen Superior Court. Each of those cases involved allegations of abuse and/or neglect against one or more of a child’s parents or guardians.
Family Domestic Violence Court will serve parents, guardians, custodians, and children when an act of domestic violence is a contributing reason why those families have entered the CHINS system. Allegations can include domestic violence between the mother and father, or from a parent to a child.
A CHINS case is filed by the Department of Child Services (DCS). A family can be referred into Domestic Violence Court during the initial hearing in the CHINS case, by legal counsel, a DCS case manager, the child’s GAL/CASA or the Court. The program is voluntary, so participants must also be willing to take part. While the parties are participating in the Family Domestic Violence Court, a CHINS case will not proceed to termination of parental rights.
To participate in Family Domestic Violence Court, a participant must acknowledge current or past domestic violence or mental health needs and not be a current participant in another problem-solving court. The Family Domestic Violence Court’s supervising Judge must also approve their involvement in the program.
Throughout the program, which can last between eight and 24 months, participants will benefit from a variety of therapeutic support resources to deal with domestic violence, substance abuse and mental health issues. In addition, families will receive help with other potential contributing factors, including those relating to housing, employment, education and lack of a positive support system.
All Domestic Violence Court cases will be heard by Judge Morgan.
“In family court, our goal is always to reunify families in healthy ways,” Judge Morgan added. “That is not always possible, especially in cases involving domestic violence. What we can do is provide the right treatment, in the right way at the right time to give families, survivors and perpetrators of domestic violence their best possible future.”
Problem Solving Courts have gained momentum in Indiana because of their goal of addressing the root causes of criminal behavior. By addressing those causes, fewer defendants re-offend, reducing the demand on public resources and giving people the tools to resume productive and positive lives.
Allen Superior Court’s Family Domestic Violence Court joins more than 200 other domestic violence courts across the nation. It will be the eighth problem-solving court in Allen County. The Indiana Supreme Court awarded the program with provisional certification on Feb. 23, 2023.
Partners in the Family Domestic Violence Court include the Department of Child Services, Allen County Office of GAL/CASA, Allen County Public Defender’s Office, Allen County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, Amani Family Services, Boys and Girls Club of Fort Wayne, Bowen Center, Center for Non-Violence, Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Phoenix Associates, Quality Counseling, SCAN, Women’s Fund, and YWCA.
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