Navigating Family Court can be difficult and confusing. Family law is considered a family dispute where two contesting parties represent themselves to solve what are considered domestic matters not requiring a trial with judge and jury. For victims of domestic violence representing oneself against a violent perpetrator can be intimidating. Mount a defense against an abuser’s accusations, can launch unrestrained counterattacks by the perpetrator. (WOMEN’S JUSTICE CENTER) Family law is not a criminal dispute which requires the highest standards of evidence. In Criminal Court, “it’s the police and the district attorney telling the judge the guy is a bad guy – and they’ve done so based on the police investigation, the evidence they’ve gathered, the police report, and the district attorney review of that report.” – WOMEN’S JUSTICE CENTER
An Advocate can be a useful ally. Advocates are directly empowered by the courts to offer judges critical information to ensure a victim’s rights. Their role is to provide a judge with objective information about what is in the best interest of a victim or child. They stay involved in a case until it is resolved.
According to the National Institute of Justice regarding victim advocacy and Advocacy Services, Advocates participate in approximately 80 percent of domestic violence cases in the U.S. DOMESTIC VIOLENCE COURTS: VICTIM ADVOCACY & ADVOCACY SERVICES
Advocates can be a strong support system for a domestic violence victim where support may be minimal or lacking. They can:
Attend court with the victim
Develop a safety plan
Explain the court processes
Inform a victims’ legal rights and protections
Recommend housing referrals
Assist in submitting and distribution of paperwork, i.e., compensation applications
Provide counseling and support
Other services which may include helping victims find shelter or transportation or intervene with employers or creditors
The Advocate prepares to make a recommendation by having access to family members, social workers, school officials, health providers; reviews school and medical records, caseworker reports and other pertinent documents.
It is important to note an advocate does not act a legal representative. Rather, they assist by making recommendations to the court for the judge to render a formal decision. Additionally, courts will not readily grant a divorce without input from the advocate especially in ascertaining child custody or guardianship.
Advocates are not exclusive to the criminal justice system. Some may serve in the non profit sector in sexual assault crisis centers and domestic violence programs. WHAT IS A VICTIMS ADVOCATE They may be paid staff or volunteer. Their backgrounds vary from social work, criminal justice, or psychology with on-the-job additional training for areas of specialization.
The National Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA), was founded in 1977 to specifically support children in the courts. Now expanded in 49 states, the CASA network has served over 240,000 children and trained over 75,000 volunteers. CASA: COURT APPOINTED SPECIAL ADVOCATES FOR CHILDREN
1996 saw Colorado’s legislature formally authorize CASA services. Since then it has grown to 16 CASA programs in Colorado’s 22 Judicial Districts. To find CASA programs in Central/Northwestern, Denver Metro, Northern, Southern and Western Colorado areas contact:
CASA in Colorado 1660 S. Albion Street Denver, CO 80222 Phone: 303-623-5380 Toll Free: 877-735-0311 or online HERE.