Child Safety First Bill

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This is a comprehensive initiative to recognize domestic abuse and ensure that it is neither rewarded nor tolerated in Connecticut. Please see the proposal below:

Child Safety First Bill
by State Senator Alex Kasser

Domestic violence and abuse exist across our state; domestic violence and abuse pose an unacceptable and disproportionate threat to the health, safety and wellbeing of women and children; domestic violence and abuse has been under-reported and under-recognized in our family court system; “high conflict” divorce cases often involve domestic violence or abuse; the State of Connecticut has a duty to ensure the safety of all its citizens, especially children; House Congressional Resolution 72 urges states to prioritize domestic violence and abuse as the first factor considered in determining the “best interests of the child” in custody cases. Therefore, it is resolved that; 

1. The statutory definition of “domestic violence and abuse” is revised to include a history or pattern of coercive, controlling behavior including, but not limited to, physical violence, sexual assault, financial abuse, litigation abuse and psychological abuse including, but not limited to, isolation, stalking, harassment, intimidation and threats regarding the safety of a person or the safety of or access to that person’s children. “Domestic violence and abuse” does not include the justified use of force or flight to protect oneself or others in response to abuse or violence.

2. In legal proceedings regarding child custody, domestic violence and abuse will be the first factor assessed by the court, before all other factors, in determining the “best interests of the child.”

3.  In hearings regarding domestic violence or abuse, a court may only consider valid scientific evidence or testimony from qualified professionals with experience working with victims of domestic violence and abuse that meet admissibility standards.

4.  A presumption against custody will be made for any parent with a history or demonstrated pattern of domestic violence or abuse or any parent who has sexually abused a child.  

5.  If a parent is found to have committed domestic violence or child abuse, that parent shall pay the attorney’s fees and all other court-related expenses of the other parent.

6.  The legal standard for protective orders shall recognize forms of domestic violence and abuse that endanger the safety or restrict the agency of a person or children. (Refer to the new statutory definition in #1.)

7.  The State shall provide legal assistance for all victims of domestic violence and abuse to help them complete protective order affidavits and other legal forms. (Legal assistance increased the likelihood of obtaining a protective order by more than 50%.)

8.  Courts shall restrict frivolous or excessive motions in family court. When divorce cases approach 100 motions, additional motions shall be subject to review and approval before submission. “High conflict” cases should be diverted to a specialized court that recognizes litigation abuse and obstruction and holds parties in contempt for not disclosing financial or other critical information or following court orders. (A small number of “high conflict” cases consume a disproportionate amount of judicial resources. This specialized court would prevent litigation abuse and resolve cases faster.)

9.  Reopen the Office of Victim Advocate and fund it adequately to support all victims across the state through the legal process.

10.  Review and approve all judicial education programs to ensure that abuse is recognized and not rewarded. Allow only experts with a demonstrated history of working with Domestic violence and abuse victims to be the educators on this subject.