Empire Justice Memo of Support: Provide Married Victims of Intimate Partner Violence With a Protective Economic Safety Net

Amy Schwartz-Wallace March 06, 2017

A.6049 (Mayer)/S.4569 (Savino)

A.6049 (Mayer) /S.4569 (Savino) seeks to provide married victims of intimate partner violence with a temporary economic safety net when they seek protection and intervention in Family Court.  Empire Justice Center strongly supports this measure.

Perpetrators of intimate partner violence commonly engage in a variety of economic abuse tactics specifically intended to intimidate, control, isolate and foster dependence in their victims.  Such tactics significantly increase the victim’s risk of housing insecurity or homelessness, poor employment or education history, food insecurity and bad credit.  While these tactics may occur during the full course of the relationship, often such abusive conduct increases in frequency and severity when the victim seeks intervention and relief from the abuse.  Where the abuser holds the purse strings, cutting off the victim from access to the financial resources necessary to set up a new, safer household or the ability to cover existing and immediate expenses (such as food, housing, or basic utilities) is retaliatory and coercive and can make the challenge of getting free immeasurably difficult.  The long-standing impact of economic abuse can harm both the victim and the victim’s children, as well as increase their dependence upon government-funded benefits such as unemployment insurance, public assistance, and public and subsidized housing.

While addressing many domestic violence victims’ needs for immediate safety and freedom from physical violence, New York has similarly recognized that long-term safety and security for families often cannot be achieved without relief from economic and financial manipulation and abuse.  The legislature has already undertaken a series of important measures designed to provide victims with economic safety nets including, but not limited to, economic abuse-related enumerated family offenses, implementation of the Family Violence Option for public assistance applicants and recipients, relief from housing and employment-related discrimination, access to unemployment insurance benefits, early lease termination protections and free credit report security freezes.

Critically, one of the earliest and most responsive measures was included in the Family Protection and Domestic Violence Intervention Act of 1994 when it provided the Family Courts with the authority to issue temporary orders of child support in an order of protection.  For over 20 years, access to temporary child support relief in these family offense proceedings has been an invaluable tool for getting the child support process started quickly at a time its needed most.  However, despite Family Court’s jurisdiction to also award spousal support, this same type of economic safety net was never offered to married petitioners in conjunction with family offense proceedings.  This measure seeks to bridge this gap by amending §§828 and 842 of the Family Court Act and, finally, providing the Family Court with the authority to order temporary spousal support when issuing orders of protection.

This measure provides that within seven (7) days of the issuance of the temporary or final order of protection, the court may set further proceedings to determine temporary spousal support in accordance with Article 4 of the Family Court Act.  The parties will then be directed to appear with information about their incomes and assets enabling the tribunal to more accurately assess the family resources and determine an appropriate temporary award.  Notwithstanding that financial information may be unavailable or where the respondent defaults in appearance, the court retains the authority to issue its necessary temporary award.  Taken together, these provisions balance the victim’s need for a rapid economic safety net against due process and other notice requirements.

Given the widespread use of family offense proceedings as an intervention for family violence, strengthening this tool by providing temporary spousal support has the potential to effectively reduce the impact of economic abuse.  We strongly urge the legislature to pass A.6049 (Mayer) /S.4569 (Savino) and provide married victims with the practical and meaningful range of tools they need to get and stay safe. 

For more information, please contact:

Amy Schwartz-Wallace
Empire Justice Center
Telesca Center for Justice
One West Main Street, Suite 200
Rochester, NY  14614
(585) 454-4060
(585) 454-2518