Domestic abuse courts: report

This report examines the effectiveness of Integrated Domestic Abuse Courts (IDACs) that use a ‘One Family, One Judge’ model.


1. Literature database searches were conducted by the research intern and Scottish Government Library service in May 2018 using the following search criteria: "Integrated domestic violence court", "Integrated domestic abuse court" "Court interface" and "Domestic violence". Search sites were academic sources, primarily SpringerLink, Taylor & Francis Online and JStor, and Scottish Government Library resources Idox and KandE. Articles were selected based on title and abstract screening. Bibliography available on request.

2. This definition is based on that of the Ontario IDVC and New York IDVC, which were deemed most relevant, see and

3. For example, mental health, youth offending, or substance abuse were categorised as equal 'community justice' issues and heard by a single judge.

4. Interview with Rachel Birnbaum 05/07/18

5. Birnbaum, R. and Saini, M. (2016) 'Canada's First Integrated Domestic Violence Court: Examining Family and Criminal Court Outcomes at the Toronto I.D.V.C.' Journal of Family Violence, p. 630

6. Hester, M., Pearce, J., Westmarland, N., (2008) 'Early evaluation of the Integrated Domestic Violence Court, Croydon' Ministry of Justice Research Series 18/08 available at, p.6

7. Burton, M. (2018) 'Specialist domestic violence courts for child arrangement cases:safer courtrooms and safer outcomes?' Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law 40:4, p.539

8. Robinson, A. L., (2007) 'Improving the Civil-Criminal Interface for Victims of Domestic Violence' The Howard Journal Vol 46 No 4. September 2007 ISSN 0265-5527, p. 357

9. Burton (2018) p. 533

10. ibid., p. 538

11. ibid. p. 539; Hester et al. (2008) pp.31-2

12. Burton (2018) p.540

13. Interview with Rachel Birnbaum 05/07/18; Birnbaum R., Bala N., and Jaffe, P. (2014) 'Establishing Canada's First Integrated Domestic Violence Court: Exploring Process, Outcomes, and Lessons Learned', Canadian Journal of Family Law 117 32:6, pp. 621-631; Birnbaum, R., Saini, M., and Bala, N., (2017) 'Canada's First Integrated Domestic Violence Court: Examining Family and Criminal Court Outcomes at the Toronto I.D.V.C', Journal of Family Violence 32: 621

14. Siegel, B.D. (2011) 'Ontario's Integrated Domestic Violence Court Safeguards Women's Rights' Blog post, Huffington Post available at:

15. Vermont Centre for Justice Research (2011) 'Bennington County Integrated Domestic Violence Docket Project: Outcome Evaluation' available at:; Vermont Centre for Justice Research (2013) 'Bennington County Integrated Domestic Violence Docket Project: Outcome Evaluation Final Report' available at:

16. ibid.

17. Office of the Statewide Coordinating Judge for Family Violence Cases (2016d) ' Integrated Domestic Violence Courts: Overview' accessed 02/07/18; Peterson, R (2014) 'Criminal Case Processing in Brooklyn's Integrated Domestic Violence Court' Domestic Violence Report, 19:4, p. 55

18. Picard-Fritsche (2011) 'Litigant Perspectives in an Integrated Domestic Violence Court The Case of Yonkers, New York Match 2007 - March 2008' available at:, p. 4

19. ibid.

20. Ibid., pp. 5-6

21. Parkinson P., (2016) Specialist Prosecution Units and Courts: A Review of the Literature. Report for the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, Sydney, p. 6

22. Sloan, F., Gifford, E., Eldred., L., Acquah, K., and Blevins, C. (2013) 'Do specialty courts achieve better outcomes for children in foster care than general courts?' Evaluation Review 37, p.4

23. Interview with Rachel Birnbaum 05/07/18

24. Leventhal, J. M., Angiolillo, D. D., D'Emic, M. J. (2014),'The Trials, Tribulations, and Rewards of Being the First' Judges' Journal Spring 2014, 53: 2

25. Hester et al. (2008) p.5

26. Robinson (2007) p.357

27. Hester et al. (2008) pp.1-2

28. Birnbaum et al. (2014) p.123; Jaffe, P. Crooks, C., and Poisson, S., (2003) 'Common Misconceptions in Addressing Domestic Violence in Custody Disputes' Juvenile and Family Court Journal 57; Jaffe, P., Crooks, C., and Bala, N., (2008) 'Domestic Violence and Child Custody Disputes: The Need for a New Framework for the Family Court' in Ursel, T., and LeMaistre. eds, What's law got to do with it? The Law, Specialized Courts and Domestic Violence in Canada, Toronto: Cormorant Books; Maytal, A., (2008) 'Specialized Domestic Violence Courts: Are They Worth the Trouble in Massachusetts?' BU Public International Law Journal; Tsai, B. "The Trend Toward Specialized Domestic Violence Courts: Improvements on an Effective Innovation" (2000) 68:4 Fordham L Rev 1285. cf. Birnbaum et al. 2014: 123

29. Bala N., and Kehoe, K., (2013) Concurrent Legal Proceedings in Cases of Family Violence: The Child Protection Perspective, Ottawa: Department of Justice Canada; Birnbaum et al. (2014) p. 129; Lawton, Z. (2017) 'One Court, One Judge: An Integrated Court System for New Zealand Families Affected by Violence' p. 25 available at: accessed 30/04/18; accessed 30/04/19; Lee, L (2015) 'Problem-Solving Courts for Taiwan Family Courts: Current Preface and Future Prospects in Domestic Violence' A dissertation submitted in partial satisfaction of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Juridical Science In the School of Law of the University of California, p. 51 available at: accessed 25/04/18

30. Barnett A. E. (2014) 'Contact at all costs?: domestic violence child contact and the practices of the family courts and professionals' A thesis submitted for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Brunel law School. Brunel University available at:; Birnbaum et al. (2014) p. 123; Fitz-Gibbon, K. (2015) 'The Peter Mitchell Churchill Fellowship to examine innovative legal responses to intimate homicide in the UK, USA and Canada' Churchill Fellowship Report, p. 27; available at; Lee 2015: 51

31. Birnbaum et al. (2014) p. 131; Lawton (2017); Lee (2015); Leventhal et al. 2014

32. Hester et al. (2008); Lawton (2017) p. 25

33. Birnbaum et al. (2014) p.131

34. This also refers to a disconnect between the court and community services.

35. Ling (2015) p. 51

36. Birnbaum et al. (2014) p.123; Jaffe et al. (2008); Maytal (2008)

37. Interview with David Suntag 06/07/18

38. ibid.

39. Birnbaum et al. (2014); Brooks, O., Burman, M., Lombard, N., McIvor, G., Stevenson-Hastings L., and Kyle, D., (with assistance from Alix Thomazi) (2014) 'Violence against women: effective interventions and practices with perpetrators: A literature review' Report No. 05/2014 Violence against women: effective interventions with perpetrators Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research, available at accessed 01/05/18; Casey and Rottman 2005; Centre for Justice Innovation (2016) 'Problem-solving Courts: An Evidence Review', available at: accessed 27/04/18; Florida State Senate (2006) 'Implementation of the Unified Family Court' Interim project report available at:; Koshan, J. (2014) 'Investigating Integrated Domestic Violence Courts: Lessons from New York' Osgoode Hall Law Journal 51: 3, pp. 989-1036; Lawton (2017); Lee (2015); Mazur, R. and Aldrich, L. (2003) 'What makes a Domestic Violence Court Work? Lessons from New York' Judges' Journal 42(2); Ontario Ontario Court of Justice (2018) 'Integrated Domestic Violence Court - Overview' accessed 25/04/18; Ontario Women's Justice Network (OWJN) (2016) 'Toronto Integrated Domestic Violence Court' August 23rd 2016, accessed 25/04/18; Schwarz, C., (2005) 'Unified Family Courts: A Saving Grace for Victims of Domestic Violence Living in Nations with Fragmented Court Systems' Family Court Review 42; Vermont Center for Justice Research (VCFJR) (2013) 'Bennington County Integrated Domestic Violence Docket Project: Process Evaluation Final Report' February 2013, available at accessed 25/04/18

40. Casey, P. M., and Rottman, D., B., (2005) 'Problem-Solving Courts: Models and Trends' The Justice System Journal 26:1, 35; Florida State Senate (2006); Koshan (2014); Mazur and Aldrich (2003); Ontario Court of Justice (2018); OWJN (2016); Peterson (2014); VCFJR (2013)

41. Florida State Senate (2006); Lee (2015) Leventhal et al. (2014); Ontario Court of Justice (2018)

42. Koshan (2014); Lee (2015); Mazur and Aldirch (2003); Peterson (2014)

43. Casey and Rottman (2005); Florida Courts (2017) Florida Courts 2016-2017 Annual Report' available at; Mazur and Aldrich (2003); Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence (OPDV) (2006) 'New York State's Response to Domestic Violence: Systems and Services Making a Difference'

44. Interview with David Suntag 06/07/18

45. ibid.

46. Hester et al. (2008): iii; Vallely, C., Robinson, A., Burton, M., and Tregidga, J., (2005) 'Evaluation of Domestic Violence Pilot Sites at Caerphilly (Gwent) and Croydon 204/05, Final Report' London: Crown Prosecution Service, p. 4, available at accessed 27/04/18; Interviews with Birnbaum 5/7/18; David Suntag 6/7/18

47. Some New York models may hear trials.

48. Birnbaum et al. (2014) p.131; Lee (2015) p.51

49. Menerrich et al. (2005)

50. Lawton (2017)

51. Beck, K. (2017) 'One court, One Judge - an integrated court system for New Zealand families affected by violence' Letter addressed to Zoe Lawton, New Zealand Law Society, p. 3 available online at accessed 14/05/18

52. Birnbaum et al. (2014) p. 157

53. Hester et al. (2008) p.29

54. Vallely et al. (2006) p.76

55. Interview with David Suntag 06/07/18

56. ibid.

57. Part of the motivation for this is the high rate of litigants without legal representation in US and Canadian courts, which causes significant delays to the process.

58. Birnbaum et al. (2014) p.157

59. Mazur and Aldrich (2003)

60. VCFJR (2013) p.1

61. Vallely et al. (2004) p.9

62. Interview with David Suntag 06/07/18

63. MacDowell, E. L., (2011) 'When Courts Collide: Integrated Domestic Violence Courts and Court Pluralism' Scholarly Works, Paper 682, p. 113, available at:

64. ibid.

65. Transferability is particularly difficult with regard to legal prejudice due to differences in the human rights contexts of comparison jurisdictions.

66. Burton (2018) p.539; Hester et al. (2008)

67. Burton (2018) p.540

68. ibid.

69. Burton (2018);

70. Birnbaum et al. (2014) p. 157

71. ibid.

72. ibid.

73. Koshan (2014) p.1024, footnote 199

74. Rempel, M. and Katz, S. (2011) 'The Impact of Integrated Domestic Violence Courts on Case Outcomes: Results for Nine New York State Courts' Center for Court Innovation available at accessed 26/04/18

75. Koshan (2014)

76. except when it relates to establishing criminal responsibility

77. Birnbaum et al. (2014) p.146; Interview with Rachel Birnbaum 05/07/18

78. see for example Birnbaum et al. (2014); Centre for Justice Innovation (2016); Cissner, A. B., Picard-Fritsche, S., and Rempel, M., (2014) 'New York State's Integrated Domestic Violence Court Model: Results From Four Recent Studies'. Domestic Violence Report, 19: 4, pp. 51-63.; Lawton (2017); Lee (2015); Parkinson (2016); Peterson (2014)

79. Reliable baseline equivalence is rarely established

80. Cissner, A. B., Labriola, M., Rempel, M. (2013) 'Testing the effects of New York's domestic violence courts: A statewide impact evaluation' New York: Center for Court Innovation, p. 2 available at:; It should also be noted when considering jurisdictions within the USA (namely Vermont and New York), justice is devolved to states to the extent that they can be considered as entirely separate jurisdictions. IDVCs operate at the equivalent level of summary procedure. The law, legal processes and judicial authority vary between states to the extent that there are very few commonalities. Thus, it must be noted that Vermont and New York cannot be considered any more comparable than, for example, Canada and England, due to the level of variance.

81. Birnbaum et al. (2014); (2017)

82. Centre for Justice Innovation (2016) p. 13

83. The statement in this report, for example, is footnoted as follows: "We have looked at this model in operation in the USA and have also reviewed the lessons learnt from its poor implementation in a pilot in Croydon in 2007" with no recognition of the limitations of this comparisons nor the studies themselves.

84. Interview with David Suntag 06/07/18

85. Recidivism is mentioned in Picarde-Fritshce et al. (2011) p.5 in "Table 1.1. The Integrated Domestic Violence Court Model: Hypothesized Impacts and Benefits".

86. see Cissner et al. (2014); Coll, K.M., and Stewart, R. (2007) 'Ada county family violence court grant project: comprehensive evaluation report' Ada county family violence grant project: Comprehensive evaluation report available at:; Mennerich, A., Rempel, M., Farole, D. J., and Kralstein, D. (2005). The potential cost-effectiveness of trial court restructuring in New York State. John Roman: Urban Institute; Peterson 2014 Picard-Fritsche et al. (2011); Rempel and Katz (2011); Schluetter, M., Wicklund, P., Adler, R., Owen, J., and Halvorsen, T., (2011) 'Bennington County integrated domestic violence project: outcome evaluation final report' Northfield Falls: The Vermont Centre for Justice Research.

87. Birnbaum et al. (2017), this 2017 study found that participation in the IDAC increased the involvement of fathers and there was a higher rate of co-parenting orders granted in IDACs compared to the traditional civil system. Improving fathers' access is inconsistent with the aim of some feminist critics of the judicial system.

88. Birnbaum et al. (2017)

89. Hester et al. (2008)

90. More appearances overall, but especially in relation to civil court matters in the IDVC.

91. Transfer time to the court delayed proceedings for around 6 weeks which may explain the delay.

92. In a comparison of New York Courts, 2 of 3 studies evidenced that case processing takes longer in IDVC than traditional 2-court process, the third study showed no impact.

93. Conviction rates in the IDVC were higher but the evidenced differences were not statistically significant.

94. For all (domestic and non-domestic) crimes

95. For domestic crimes only.

96. Peterson (2014) highlights that the higher rates of recidivism may be attributed to victims' increased awareness of risk.

97. In relation to breaches of protective orders only.

98. Decrease in number of mothers who had sole custody; increase in joint decision-making between parents.



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