Domestic Violence Legal Assistance

Domestic Violence Legal Assistance Project (DVLAP) is a project of the Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York, Inc., (LASNNY) a not-for-profit legal services organization which has been providing free civil legal services to low-income residents of our region since 1923. DVLAP is able to provide a broad range of free civil legal services to victims of domestic violence who cannot afford private legal counsel. Our services include assistance with Divorce and Family Court matters, such as Orders of Protection, Child and Spousal Support, Custody and Visitation. Additionally, we assist victims of domestic violence with legal problems related to public assistance, food stamps, housing (including landlord/tenant), consumer and employment issues, and as many of your domestic violence-related civil legal problems as our resources allow.

Domestic violence/abuse occurs in all types of intimate relationships and former relationships. Abuse does NOT have to be physical.

Who is a Victim of Domestic Violence?

Domestic violence is a pattern of controlling an intimate partner either physically, psychologically, emotionally, sexually, religiously, or economically. Abuse does NOT have to be physical. Current or former partners restrict victims’ personal freedoms or makes them feel afraid.

Some of the tactics used by abusers are:

  • Being kicked, punched, pinched, slapped, choked and bitten
  • Use or threats of use of ‘weapons’ including knives and irons
  • Being scalded or poisoned
  • Objects being thrown
  • Violence against family members or pets
  • Limiting outside involvement such as family, friends and work colleagues
  • Not allowing any activity outside the home that does not include her or him
  • Constant checking up
  • Constant yelling and shouting
  • Verbal humiliation either in private or in company
  • Constantly being laughed at and being made fun of
  • Blaming for their own failures
  • The threat of violence
  • The threat of use of ‘weapons’ including knives and irons
  • The threat of use of violence against family members or pets
  • Threatening to use extended family members to do harm
  • Destroying personal items
  • Threatening to tell the police that their partner is the person committing the domestic abuse
  • Threatening to take away the children of the relationship
  • Intimidation
  • Withholding affection
  • Turning children and friends against their partner
  • Being stopped from seeing friends or relatives
  • Constantly being insulted, including in front of others
  • Repeatedly being belittled
  • Keeping their partner awake/stopping their partner from sleeping
  • Excessive contact, for example stalking
  • Using social media sites to intimidate (such as Facebook and Twitter)
  • Wilfully stopping the other parent from seeing their children by breaching court orders
  • Telling them what to do and expecting obedience
  • Telling their partner, “you will never see your children again if you leave”
  • Using force to maintain power and control
  • Not accepting responsibility for the abuse – not their fault
  • Continual and purposeful breach of family court orders
  • Forced marriage
  • Totally controlling the family income
  • Not allowing their partner to spend any money unless ‘permitted’
  • Making their partner account for every dollar you spend
  • Running up huge bills such as credit/store cards in their partner’s name
  • Purposely defaulting on payments
  • Sexual harassment/pressure
  • Forcing sex after physical assaults
  • Sexually degrading language
  • Rape
  • Telling the police that their partner is committing the domestic abuse when it is the other way around
  • Telling friends, families, their partner’s employer and others such that their partner is the one committing the domestic abuse
  • False allegations of another ‘crime’ such as abusing children

Stalkers will often use multiple and differing methods to harass their victims. Stalking can consist of any type of behaviour such as:

  • following the victim to and from work
  • checking the victim’s email and phone calls
  • regularly sending gifts
  • making unwanted or malicious communication
  • damaging property or clothes
  • physical or sexual assault

Examples of digital and social media abuse (often this can be with former partners):

  • stalking
  • placing false and malicious information on social media
  • being trolled
  • having no control over content or not allowed to  have access
  • revenge porn
  • monitoring or controlling e-mail and phone calls (including work email and calls)

 

Domestic violence/abuse occurs in all types of intimate relationships and former relationships. Abusers may be a current or former spouse, domestic partner, girlfriend/boyfriend, date, or the other parent of their victim’s child. Victims may be abused whether they are straight, gay/lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, and/or non-binary. Domestic violence occurs in intimate relationships regardless of socio-economic status, race, ethnicity, age, education, employment status, physical ableness, marital status or childhood history.

Who do we represent?

Victims do not have to be poor to qualify for DVLAP services. Although we have income guidelines for many of our programs at LASNNY, we can assist any domestic violence victim who cannot afford a lawyer, as our staff resources permit. Preferences may be given to those who have income below 125% of the federal poverty guidelines.

Victims do not have to be a US Citizen or Legal Permanent Resident to receive services from the DVLAP. If the services a victim seeks are related to their safety, we can provide assistance even if the victim is undocumented. We can also help victims adjust their immigration status, if that relief is available.

What assistance can we provide?

We provide advice and counsel, advocacy and representation regarding civil legal remedies and rights which result from domestic violence. We cannot represent victims in any criminal matters.

What are your legal rights?

Calling the Police for Help: If you call the police for help, they must come to investigate. The police must find enough evidence that a crime was committed before they can make an arrest. If the police have evidence of a violation, they are not required to make an arrest. In this situation, you have a right to sign a complaint, and the police should help you do this.

An example of a “violation” is when your partner threatens you with harm, or slaps or pushes you. Even if the police don’t arrest your partner, they should help you get medical care and to a safe place. Your local domestic violence program can help you if you get an unsatisfactory response from the police.

Orders of Protection: This is a court order that may require your abuser to stay away from you and/or your children (including removing him from your home), to stop abusing you, to surrender firearms, to have no contact with you, and to do other things which are necessary for your safety. The abuser may be arrested if he violates the Order of Protection. You can get an order of protection from criminal court, if charges have been filed against your abuser.

You can get an order of protection from Family Court if you have been in an intimate relationship with your abuser, your abuser is your current or former spouse, related to you by blood or marriage, or the other parent of your child, and has committed a family offense against you. In Family Court, you can get a temporary order of protection the same day you ask for it.

Custody and Visitation: You have a right to seek custody of, or visitation with, your natural or adopted children. You can also seek to modify a previously issued custody/visitation order if there is a change in circumstances, or complain about the violation of an order. You can file a petition for custody or visitation in Family Court. If warranted, you may get an immediate, temporary order of custody.

Support: A custodial parent has the right to get child support from the other parent. There is a formula for child support, based on income. You also have a right to seek spousal support from your spouse. There is no formula for spousal support—whether you get it and in what amount depends on several factors. You can also seek to modify a previously issued support order if there is a change in circumstances, or complain to the court about the violation of an order. You can file a petition for

You can get an order of protection from Family Court if you have been in an intimate relationship with your abuser, your abuser is your current or former spouse, related to you by blood or marriage, or the other parent of your child, and has committed a family offense against you. In Family Court, you can get a temporary order of protection the same day you ask for it.

Custody and Visitation: You have a right to seek custody of, or visitation with, your natural or adopted children. You can also seek to modify a previously issued custody/visitation order if there is a change in circumstances, or complain about the violation of an order. You can file a petition for custody or visitation in Family Court. If warranted, you may get an immediate, temporary order of custody.

Support: A custodial parent has the right to get child support from the other parent. There is a formula for child support, based on income. You also have a right to seek spousal support from your spouse. There is no formula for spousal support—whether you get it and in what amount depends on several factors. You can also seek to modify a previously issued support order if there is a change in circumstances, or complain to the court about the violation of an order. You can file a petition for child and/or spousal support in family court.

Divorce: You have the right to seek a divorce from your spouse. You can move out of the house without a divorce, especially if your spouse is abusive to you. You have the right to take your own property. In a divorce case, the judge will equitably distribute marital property. Marital property is property obtained during the marriage, including for example, a house, car, and pension benefits. In a divorce case, custody and support will also be decided. You can also get an order of protection in a divorce case.

Domestic violence/abuse is about one person having power and control over the other in an intimate relationship.

Getting Help

Domestic Violence Legal Assistance Project

If you live in:

  • Columbia and Greene Counties: 518-462-6765 or 1-800-462-2922
  • Clinton, Essex, Franklin and Hamilton Counties: 518-563-4022 or 1-800-722-7380
  • Fulton, Montgomery and Schoharie Counties: 518-842-9466 or 1-800-821-8347
  • St. Lawrence County and St. Regis Reservation: 315-386-4586 or 1-800-822-8283
  • Saratoga, Warren and Washington Counties: 518-587-5188 or 1-800-870-8343

Domestic violence community service providers

There is a 24 hour domestic violence hot­line in every county. The telephone numbers are listed here. The local domestic violence service provider can help with emergency shelter, non- residential services such as advocacy, counseling, and support groups, referrals, and other supportive services.

Clinton and Essex Counties
STOP Domestic Violence:
518-563-6904 or 1-888-563-6904
Sexual Assault 24-hour hotline: Clinton County 1-877-212-2323 (toll-free)
Essex County 1-866-307-4086 (toll-free)

Columbia and Greene Counties
Columbia/Greene Domestic Violence Program:518-943-9211
The Reach Center Sexual Assault Hotline: 518-828-5556

Franklin County
STOP Domestic Violence: 1-888-563-6904
Sexual Assault 24-hour Hotline: 1-877-212-2323 (toll-free)

Fulton County
Family Counseling Center of Fulton County: 518-725-5300

Hamilton County
Hamilton County Domestic Violence Services: 518-648-6131 or 1-800-721-8534

Montgomery County
Domestic Violence Services of Catholic Charities of Fulton & Montgomery Counties: 518-842-3384

Saratoga County
Domestic Violence & Rape Crisis Services of Saratoga County: 518-584-8188 Domestic Violence Advocacy Program of Mechanicville Area Community Services Center: 518-664-4008
Domestic Violence Advocacy Program of Mechanicville Area Community Services Center: 518-664-4008

St. Lawrence County
Renewal House: 315-379-9845
St. Regis Mohawk Reservation
Three Sisters Program: 1-855-3SISTER or 1-855-374-7837

Schoharie County
Catholic Charities of Schoharie County: 518-234-2231

Warren and Washington Counties
Catholic Charities Domestic Violence Project: 518-793-9496

From anywhere in New York State
there is a 24 hour domestic violence hotline: English 1-800-942-6906, TTY 1-800-818-0656 Spanish 1-800-942-6908, TTY 1-800-780-7660

 

This project was supported by Grant No. 2010-WL-AX-0012 awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions and recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.