Overview of the issue
The legal system in New York State is very complicated. For purposes of dealing with domestic violence, there are two separate parts of the court system:
- Family Court, a “civil court,” allows someone to file a petition to ask for an Order of Protection when the abuser has committed one of the enumerated family offenses. The abuser will not go to jail or have to pay fines. The petitioner (person asking for help from the court) is responsible for filing the papers and moving the case forward. It is very helpful to have a lawyer representing you if you go through Family Court.
- Criminal courts are used when someone is charged with violating a criminal law. Law enforcement must be involved, and it is the District Attorney’s office that decides how or whether to move the case forward. Someone found guilty of committing a crime can be sentenced to jail or prison, be placed on probation, a combination of those, or receive other, less severe, penalties. An Order of Protection may also be part of the sentence.
To learn more about the courts and the police.
Please refer to the Unified Court System’s website for more detailed information about the New York State Court System and structure.
- Tools for Professionals
- Tools for Victims - If you need an attorney you can apply for a pro bono attorney through a program within your community