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Family Violence Appellate Project is the first and only nonprofit organization in California dedicated to providing legal representation to domestic violence survivors in civil legal appeals cases, for free. We represent low-income survivors who need to appeal dangerous trial court decisions that put them or their children at risk of ongoing abuse. Our goal is to empower domestic violence survivors through the court system and ensure that they and their children can live in safe and healthy environments, free from abuse. FVAP simultaneously is changing California law, using the appellate courts system to set new, binding statewide legal precedent that prioritizes the safety and well-being of survivors and their kids. In this way, FVAP is holding California courts accountable and making sure our law does what it's supposed to -- keep families safe.
The Problem: Decisions reached by trial courts in domestic violence cases are leaving survivors and their children in danger of ongoing abuse. At least half of batterers who frequently abuse their spouses also frequently abuse their children and one study found that abusers are granted custody in 54% of custody cases involving documented domestic violence.
Many survivors in this situation, who may have had poor or no representation in the trial court, either do not know that they can appeal their cases or simply lack the financial resources to appeal. As a result there is little appellate precedent for trial courts to follow, and they are not rigorously enforcing key statutes designed to protect children from abusive parents. Moreover, while many nonprofits provide much-needed trial court representation to survivors of domestic violence, nothing is being done to help them at the appellate level.
The Goal: Our goal is to empower victims and survivors of domestic violence through the court system to ensure that they and their children can live in safe and healthy environments, free from abuse. We will work towards this one family at a time, while building up a body of precedential case law that will help families across California.
- Erin Smith
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