A Family Court Audit: To Identify Institutional Practices and To Develop Recommendations
Development of a Framework for Identifying and Explicating the Context of Domestic Violence in Custody Cases and its Implications for Custody Determinations
BWJP and its project partner, Praxis International, are expanding recent multidisciplinary efforts to more effectively protect the safety and wellbeing of children and their parents in the family court system by crafting a more practical framework for identifying, understanding and accounting for the contexts and implications of domestic violence in custody arrangements and parenting plans.
BWJP and Praxis staff have formed a National Workgroup with representatives from the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) and the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC). In consultation with leading researchers and practitioners, they have begun to examine the institutional processes by which family courts commonly reach and/or facilitate crucial parenting decisions, including the use of auxiliary advisors such as custody evaluators, guardians ad litem and court appointed special advocates. The intent is to identify the ways in which current institutional practices produce both problematic and helpful results for children and their parents. The goal of this analysis, which draws heavily from the Praxis Audit Process, is to develop concrete recommendations for producing safer, healthier outcomes for children and their battered and battering parents.
The first meeting of the National Workgroup was held in November to lay the groundwork for this two-year, OVW-funded project. The National Workgroup will meet again in May to begin exploring the role of auxiliary advisors, the mechanics of the work that they perform, the reports that they produce, the ways in which the institution receives, interprets and acts on those reports, and the safety implications that flow from those complex institutional processes. Canadian sociologist, Dr. Dorothy Smith, a world renowned expert in institutional ethnography, will facilitate the May meeting.