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Paul, Weiss Wins Appellate Ruling Providing Protection Under the Family Court Act for Domestic Violence Survivor

Paul, Weiss recently secured two additional years of protection for our pro bono client, a survivor of domestic violence, in a significant appellate victory that strengthens the protections afforded to survivors under New York’s Family Court Act. The New York Family Court Act allows survivors of domestic violence to seek orders of protection against their abusers for a reasonable period of time upon a showing of good cause. Our client sought an extension of an order of protection granted by a trial court based on uncontroverted evidence of the respondent’s eight episodes of domestic abuse and his violations of the prior order. Our client’s request was pending before the trial court for two years, during which time she was protected only by a series of temporary extensions. The trial court ultimately granted our client a five-year extension, but shortened it by two years by backdating it to the expiration of the prior order. The Family Court Act, however, expressly provides that “[t]he duration of any temporary order shall not by itself be a factor in determining the length or issuance of any final order.” The New York State Appellate Division of the Supreme Court, First Department, held that the trial court had erred in backdating its decision, and that the order of protection should have begun as of the date of its issuance. The First Department reasoned that “the undisputed and serious facts of the case, as determined by the [trial] court, as well as the legislative history of the statute” justified five full years of protection. Our client will therefore receive two additional years of protection under the First Department’s decision.

This decision is the first published ruling by a New York Appellate Division reversing a trial court’s issuance of an order of protection under the Family Court Act on the basis that it is of insufficient duration, even though the order exceeded the two-year statutory minimum. The decision sends a strong signal to the trial courts that temporary orders of protection do not provide the same relief as final orders, and that survivors of domestic violence like our client are entitled to five full years of protection.

The Paul, Weiss team included litigation associates Elana Beale, Alyson Cohen and Samantha Bennett. The team was supervised by litigation partner Gregory Laufer. Alyson Cohen argued the appeal before the First Department.

November 8, 2019

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