Resources for Judges and Courts

The Family Court Enhancement Project

The Family Court Enhancement Project (FCEP) is a demonstration initiative funded by the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women. The project was designed to build the capacity of the four FCEP sites’ court systems to improve custody decision-making in the context of domestic violence. The four court sites are located in Cook County, Illinois (Chicago), the State of Delaware (all three counties), Hennepin County, Minnesota (Minneapolis), and Multnomah County, Oregon (Portland).

A Judicial Guide to Child Safety in Custody Cases

Because custody cases involving abuse have intermingled issues of safety and access, judges require effective and accessible information and tools to aid their decision-making. The Judicial Guide contains 14 bench cards, which provide an easy-to-use checklist system for judges at critical decision-making points throughout the case, as well as a supplemental guide, which provides additional information about in- and out-of-court behaviors, best interest of the child, and order issuance and enforcement.

Custody and Visitation in CPOs: Guiding Principles and Suggested Practices

Despite the fact that the majority of state civil protection order statutes confer legal authority upon judicial officers to include custody, visitation, and other child-related relief in civil protection orders (CPOs), judges often do not exercise that authority. These guiding principles and suggested practices are intended to assist communities’ efforts to address this disparity. They are the product of a collaborative effort involving theNational Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ), the Battered Women’s Justice Project(BWJP), the Center for Court Innovation (CCI), and a group of national experts, including judges, attorneys, and advocates.

This guide is intended as a resource for professionals from any discipline who seek to enhance the ability of their civil protection order system to address victims’ safety and other needs related to their children. The overall focus of the guiding principles and suggested practices described below is on custody and visitation relief provided in CPOs, although some of the guidance necessarily touches upon custody and visitation in long-term family law cases outside of the CPO context, as well as the relationship between CPOs and orders issued in such long-term cases. Professionals seeking guidance on long-term custody decision-making in a variety of contexts should consult the resources developed by NCJFCJ, BWJP, and other organizations. 

In the last section of this guide, we provide ideas for how to put the principles and practices into action in your community. In addition, to facilitate assessment of current practices and processes and the identification of new strategies, we have developed a Checklist for Judicial Action that summarizes the material in this guide in an easy-to-use format.

Guiding Principles for Effectively Addressing Child Custody and Parenting Time in Cases Involving Domestic Violence

The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) understands due process to require that all litigants have a meaningful opportunity to be heard, that all judicial and non-judicial decision-makers are neutral and unbiased, that non-judicial court processes (custody evaluation, use of guardians ad litem, custody facilitators, etc.) include due process protections to the extent possible (and that parties are informed of any due process rights they give up), and that access to legal representation and/or legal advice is made available for all litigants, to the extent possible.

Decision-Making in Custody Cases Involving Domestic Violence: A Review of the Literature

This publication summarizes results of empirical research studies on decision-making in custody cases involving domestic violence. It specifically focuses on how a variety of case-related factors and individual characteristics may influence the decision-making of three key professional groups: judicial officers, custody evaluators, and mediators. Case-related factors include type and nature of alleged abuse, evidence of abuse, and state statutes; individual characteristics include knowledge, beliefs, experiences, and gender. Gaps in the existing literature and future directions for research are identified. Although there is much to learn, this review is intended to provide a foundation for understanding what is currently known about decision-making in custody matters involving domestic violence for a broad range of professionals (e.g., advocates, administrators, policy-makers, attorneys, service providers, judicial officers).

Model Order Appointing a Custody Evaluator

This model order is a tool designed to assist judges in drafting orders for the appointment of custody evaluators, particularly in cases where domestic violence is an issue. The order and companion commentary guide a judge through considerations in key elements of an appointment order. Electronic copies of the order are available for easy modification to comply with local rules and practice.

Navigating Custody and Visitation Evaluations in Cases with Domestic Violence: A Judge’s Guide

This publication is intended to serve as a practical guide for judges on how to interpret and act on professional child custody evaluations when domestic violence is involved in family law cases. The Navigating Guide includes four bench cards and supplementary material that are intended to guide a judge chronologically through the custody evaluation process.

Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act: Guide for Court Personnel and Judges

Interstate custody cases involving domestic violence arrive at the courthouse in a variety of ways:
  • A victim of domestic violence who has fled for safety from another state seeks an emergency custody order from your court.
  • A left-behind parent files for custody in your court, seeking the return of the children from another state.
  • A victim with a custody order from another state seeks enforcement of the order in your state because the other parent has refused to return the children.
  • A victim with a custody order from another state seeks a modification from your court because the other parent has been abusive during visitation with the children. 
  • A victim from another state seeks a protection order with a custody provision.
  • A protection order from one state and a custody order from another contain conflicting provisions regarding the children.
This guide, developed by the Legal Resource Center on Violence Against Women, the National Center on State Courts, and the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, is intended to help you to determine whether your court has jurisdiction to enter or modify a child custody order in these and other interstate cases, as well as to understand your responsibilities to enforce orders from other jurisdictions. The guide includes four components: (1) an overview of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (the UCCJEA), a uniform state law that governs decision-making about jurisdiction in interstate custody cases; (2) a practice guide for judicial officers that includes strategies for effective implementation of the UCCJEA in your court; (3) a similar practice guide for non-judicial court personnel; and (4) a copy of the UCCJEA and a chart with citations to state versions of the UCCJEA.


Resource Center on Domestic Violence: Child Protection and Custody.


1-800-52-PEACE or 1-800-527-3223
Email :


Sign up to receive our email newsletter which includes a guest blog, free resources, and upcoming events and training opportunities.

Professional Helpline