As described in the previous chapter, victims of domestic violence may be involved in two separate court cases: Family and Criminal. Each Court belongs to different branches of law that operate within distinctive legal systems.
Due to the lack of coordination between the family and criminal courts, families may be subject to:
- Multiple hearings – the hearings may be held on different days and in different court locations. Family members have to tell their side to various courts and judges, which can result in sensitive matters being continually repeated in front of new people. It can put the already vulnerable individuals under unnecessary stress and trauma.
- Partial view – due to the involvement of multiple courts, the presiding judges of both courts will only be exposed to a partial view of the story. This could heavily skew their perception and the subsequent judgment that they make.
- Conflicting orders – also called inconsistent orders. Due to the lack of coordination, the courts may not be aware of the outcome of other court cases.
- Delayed proceedings – the family law case may be delayed due to the criminal court case (Department of Justice, 2016). When an incident dabbles into both criminal and civil disputes, the criminal law case takes precedence over the civil. This is due to the accused’s right to remain silent.
For purposes of simplifying court processes for the families involved, the courts developed and implemented the Integrated Domestic Violence (IDV) Court.
Integrated Domestic Violence Court
The IDV Court in Toronto is located at 311 Jarvis Street. The Court presides every other Friday and overviews matters involving domestic violence. This court’s focus is on family and criminal law cases geared towards domestic violence incidents. Therefore, the matter needs to be an issue of domestic violence and the parties are involved in criminal and family courts. It is important to note that each case is treated separately within this court. The IDV Court cannot hear cases that involve divorce, child protection, or property division. Services are available through a Community Resource Coordinator whose focus is to connect parties to community resources. Additionally, legal services are available by way of Duty Counsel, Advice Lawyer at the Family Law Information Centres, Pro Bono Law students, and Legal Aid’s Family Law Services Program (Department of Justice, 2016).
The IDV Court is tailored to families of domestic violence that are facing family and criminal law cases. The approach and process differ from other courts, as the goal is to cut on court appearances and provide a suitable outcome tailored to the individuals involved. Some of the common principles of the IDV Court are as follows:
- One family – one judge – one judge sits before the family and criminal law cases. As a result, the judge obtains an overall view. This ensures consistency and order that is tailored to the family’s situation.
- Individual treatment of each case – although the same judge presides over the family’s criminal and family law cases, each case is treated separately. The processes involved with each court remain the same. The rules, procedures and standards of proof associated with both courts apply.
- Coordinates resources for each family – the IDV Court have staff members whose role is to act as a primary link between the parties.
- Monitoring for compliance with orders – offenders are required to attend frequent court appearances. This is to promote offender accountability and to ensure the offender is complying with the orders.
- Victim advocacy – victim safety is ensured via consistent orders and the available victim services.
- Involvement of community partners – the IDV Court involves collaboration with third parties – such as prosecutors, police officers, lawyers, victim services, and partner assault program staff.
The requirements for a transfer to the IDV Court are as follows:
- All parties must consent – victim and accused agree.
- Family Law Case Judge Consent – Consent from the family case management judge for a transfer. This applies if the case has already started in family court and the family case management judge had an active involvement in the case (Ontario Court of Justice, 2013).
- Family Law Case – the family law case is held in one of Toronto’s provincial courts. The case does not involve divorce, property division, or child protection.
- Parties are City of Toronto residents
- Criminal law cases – proceeded as summary conviction, which are domestic-violence related charges with lesser severity. The case is originating in one of the two courts in Toronto. Accused is not in custody.
- For more information see: Which court will hear the case ↵
- For more information see: Making the Links in Family Violence Cases: Collaboration among the Family, Child Protection and Criminal Justice Systems ↵
- For more information see: Integrated Domestic Violence Court (IDV Court) ↵
- For more information see: Integrated Domestic Violence Court ↵