National Trends in Family Violence Legislation: 2009

Emilie MeyerEmilie Meyer, Assistant Attorney, Family Violence Department, NCJFCJ

Summary: The author offers a sampling of legislation passed in 2009 that may have particular impact for youth exposed to violence.



Each year, the Family Violence Department (FVD) publishes the Family Violence Legislative Update. By identifying legislative trends and summarizing state legislation, the FVD hopes to provide guidance to legislators, judges, attorneys, domestic violence coalitions and others to inform change efforts in their jurisdictions.

Family Violence Legislative Update Volume 15 focuses on legislation from 2009. The following is a sampling of legislation passed last year that may have particular impact for youth exposed to violence:

Multi-Disciplinary Children’s Services:

Colorado and Idaho passed laws to include domestic violence experts or services as resources in responding to families in the dependency process.

Reunification Efforts:

Nebraska amended its laws to make sexual assault by a parent against a spouse grounds for not reunifying the family and for termination of parental rights of the perpetrator.

Oklahoma amended its law to allow the court to excuse notification of certain relatives in dependency proceedings when the notification is not in the best interest of the child due to past or current domestic violence.

For more information on identifying fathers with a history of domestic violence please see the article, "How Are Victims of Domestic Violence Affected by Efforts to Identify Fathers in Dependency Cases?" in this issue of The Judges' Page.

Domestic Violence Training:

New York now mandates that attorneys who work with children receive domestic violence training.

Teen Dating Violence Education:

Six states (Illinois, Maryland, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York and Ohio) addressed the need for dating violence education in schools. These states now require the development and implementation of a dating violence curriculum so that students, parents and school personnel can recognize and understand the signs of dating violence.

For more information on dating violence please see the article in this issue of the CASA Judges’ Page, Responding to Adolescent Partner Violence.”

Rebuttable Presumption:

Four states (Florida, Nevada, North Dakota and Oklahoma) amended their laws to include additional behaviors that trigger a rebuttable presumption that a perpetrator of domestic violence should not be granted sole or joint custody or unsupervised visitation. More than half of all states now have similar rebuttable presumption legislation.

Rebuttable presumptions apply in private child custody and not in dependency cases. However, when parents are separating, it is presumptively not in a child’s best interest to be in the custody of a perpetrator of domestic violence. In the context of dependency matters, the actions of a perpetrator may also interfere with the well-being of the child. For an example of how states can respond to perpetrators of domestic violence without finding the adult victim at fault for abusing or neglecting the child, please see the article in this issue of the Judges’ Page, “Moving Beyond ‘Failure to Protect’ in West Virginia.”

For a free copy of the Legislative Update, please contact the Resource Center on Domestic Violence: Child Protection and Custody, at (800) 527-3223 or visit



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