Journal of Family Violence

, Volume 33, Issue 6, pp 421–433 | Cite as

Civil Legal Aid and Domestic Violence: a Review of the Literature and Promising Directions

  • Jacqueline G. LeeEmail author
  • Bethany L. Backes
Original Article


This note summarizes extant research on civil legal aid, which includes provision of legal services for indigent and low-income individuals, and its applications for DV and IPV victims, and concludes with suggestions for improving service delivery and research in the field. Results of searches of online databases for peer-reviewed and non-peer reviewed articles, reports, analyses, and evaluations of civil legal aid in the United States were analyzed and critically assessed. Civil legal aid is a promising but underfunded and underexplored avenue for responding to and reducing domestic violence (DV), intimate partner violence (IPV), and their devastating effects. Providing civil counsel in divorce, custody, and protective order proceedings can significantly improve outcomes for DV and IPV victims and their children as well as serve as a cost-effective strategy for reducing violence and generating positive social returns.


Civil legal aid Intimate partner violence Domestic violence Civil justice Legal assistance 



We are very appreciative of Angela Moore Parmley, Carrie Mulford, and Ginger Baran for their helpful feedback in previous drafts. We also would like to thank John Ropp for his assistance in preparation of the final manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Criminal JusticeBoise State UniversityBoiseUSA
  2. 2.Steve Hicks School of Social Work, Institute on Domestic Violence and Sexual AssaultThe University of TexasAustinUSA

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