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Canada’s First Integrated Domestic Violence Court: Examining Family and Criminal Court Outcomes at the Toronto I.D.V.C.

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This is the first quantitative study to examine Canada’s only Integrated Domestic Violence Court. The methodology used a quasi-experimental design with parallel groups with baseline equivalence. Results demonstrate that when support services are provided to victims of domestic violence during family separation, children benefit from greater involvement with both parents. There was more compliance with child support in the integrated court than the comparison group and compliance in custody and access were two variables that predicted the type of final custody orders. There were fewer judges involved in the IDVC court than comparison group; however, there were no differences in the number of court appearances between groups. The IDVC demonstrates a promising intervention to address domestic violence that involves both criminal and family law courts. Future research is needed to explore the views of children, victims and offenders about their experiences with the IDVC.

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  1. The percentages in the text are different than those in the Table because the percentages in the text provides an average of the percentages for both applicants and respondents in Table 1.

  2. The Ontario Government introduced this program in 2012 to assist victims of domestic violence throughout the province in family court processes. It is a separate initiative from the Victim Witness Support Program that also operates in the IDVC.

  3. An independent government funded office that represents children’s interests in custody and access disputes, child protection matters and estate matters in Ontario. The Office may provide a lawyer for a child, undertake a clinical investigation (social work report) or both.


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This second phase of the evaluation could not have been possible without the significant administrative support of the Ministry of Attorney General (Family and Criminal Divisions) and the Office of the Chief Justice of the Ontario Court of Justice. The authors are also grateful for the financial assistance of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council for their support. We are particularly grateful to patti cross, Counsel (family) and Maretta Miranda, Counsel at legal Services, Ministry of Attorney General, Ontario, as well as the administrative staff and court support at 311 Jarvis Street, Toronto, Ontario. Special thanks goes to Camila Troughton for her administrative assistance, data collection and data entry, and Dr. Peter Jaffe for his support throughout.

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Correspondence to Rachel Birnbaum.

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This study is dedicated to the memory of the Honourable Justice Geraldine Waldman, who died on October 20, 2015. She dedicated her legal and judicial career to victims of family violence and custody disputes. She led the effort to establish this court and was one of the original judges to preside in the integrated domestic violence court.

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Birnbaum, R., Saini, M. & Bala, N. Canada’s First Integrated Domestic Violence Court: Examining Family and Criminal Court Outcomes at the Toronto I.D.V.C.. J Fam Viol 32, 621–631 (2017).

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