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Delaware Docket Newsletter
Summer 2014

Family Court Launches Enhancement Project Initiative

On April 3 and 4, 2014, in an ongoing effort to improve systems and processes, the Family Court of Delaware launched an Enhancement Project focusing on issues related to domestic violence in partnership with the Battered Women's Justice Project, the National Institute of Justice, the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ), and the U.S. Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women (OVW). The Family Court welcomed to the launch event its local partners in the project, including the Attorney General's Office, law enforcement, advocacy groups, representatives of the legal community, and research partner, Dr. Ruth Fleury-Steiner of the University of Delaware.

The Honorable Chandlee Johnson Kuhn, Chief Judge of the Family Court, noted:

"The Family Court is very excited to be a part of this project. The Delaware domestic violence prevention community is dedicated to the cause and passionate about our opportunity to impact the lives of victims and their families. We have a lot of work ahead of us, but I'm sure that, with assistance from NCJFCJ and OVW, we can make a positive impact."

The goal of Family Court's project is to improve the court's response to custody cases involving domestic violence so that resulting parenting and co-parenting arrangements protect the emotional and physical well-being of victimized parents and their children. Delaware was one of four sites chosen through a competitive selection process for the national project due to the unique combination of the enthusiasm of the people involved, the robust nature of the current programs, and the geographical qualities of the State.

There are several obstacles that the Court faces when confronted with domestic violence, including institutional barriers, limited resources, the effects of biases, and the difficulties with understanding and accounting for domestic violence in decision-making. The project will thoroughly evaluate the State's weaknesses in the areas of domestic violence as it relates to custody and visitation, while strengthening existing protections and working on best practices and reasonable solutions to the issues within the system. Progress toward these goals will then be measured by data collection that is geared toward identification of which changes or programs have the greatest efficacy and where resources could be diverted to better serve victims of domestic violence and the public interest.

Through a collaborative effort, a diverse group of stakeholders identified areas of need and discussed the implementation of reasonable solutions to the problems endemic to the current model of domestic violence management. Though the project is still in its infancy, those involved are focused on improving services for victims of domestic violence.

A smaller group of stakeholders will be tasked with the ongoing work on the project. This team is comprised of Chief Judge Chandlee Johnson Kuhn; Judge Alan Cooper; Commissioner Louann Vari; Court Administrator Leann Summa; Addie Asay, Director of Legal Affairs; Mary Crabbe, Director of Case Management, all from Family Court; Andrew Gosner, Gosner & Gosner; James McGiffin, Delaware Community Legal Aid Society; Janine Howard O'Rangers, Delaware Volunteer Legal Services; Carol Post, Delaware Coalition Against Domestic Violence; Mariann Kenville-Moore, Delaware Coalition Against Domestic Violence; Ellie Torres, Domestic Violence Coordinating Council; Blanche Creech, Peoples Place 2; Tim Brandau, Child, Inc.; and Dr. Ruth Fleury-Steiner, the University of Delaware.