Expanded Access to New York’s Family Courts – the 2008 Law

In July of 2008, New York State expanded access to Family Court for victims of domestic violence by broadening the definition ofwho could petition the court for an order of protection.

Redefining Access To Family Court

Family Court access was previously limited to individuals who were related by blood or marriage, were married/formerly married or had a child in common. The new expanded access law (also known as “fair access”) added “… persons…who are or have been in an intimate relationship regardless of whether such persons have lived together at any time.” Teens, LGBT individuals and those in heterosexual dating relationships are now covered by the law.

Expanded Access Implementation: OPDV’s 3-Year Report to the Governor and Legislature

As required by the 2008 law, OPDV worked with the Division of Criminal Justice Services and the Office of Court Administration to collect information on the impact the new law has had on the courts and police, and how well it has served the victims of domestic violence. Information included in the Report to the Governor and Legislature 1 was obtained from the New York City Police Department, chiefs of police and sheriffs statewide, as well as service providers.

Implementation – Impact

The 2008 law created several significant changes, in addition to opening access to Family Courts for intimate partners seeking a civil order of protection. In a domestic violence incident involving intimate partners:

  • police officers must now complete a Domestic Incident Report (DIR) and give a copy to the victim, including a copy of the Victim’s Rights Notice
  • the abuser is now subject to mandatory arrest and primary physical aggressor laws
  • the issued order of protection must be entered into the NYS Order of Protection Registry

For additional information on how the new law relates to DIRs, mandatory arrest and primary physical aggressor determinations, please see “A Police Guide to the New York ‘Expanded Access to Family Court’ Law”