8. Civil Law Remedies
Throughout the CEE/CIS region, victims of domestic violence
turn to civil law remedies, including
divorce and orders for protection (OFPs), to escape abuse. In
addition, because of the ways in which batterers can use child
custody and visitation against their former partners, it is critical
that the laws that govern child custody
determinations, laws most often invoked during divorce, further
the safety of both the child and the non-abusive parent.
Divorce is frequently seen as the only option for women
fleeing violent husbands. However, it is often extremely difficult
for women to obtain a divorce and keep herself safe during the
process. Divorces are often costly for women. ď[W]omen bear the
costs of feeding and clothing the children (a task made especially
difficult given the lack of enforcement mechanisms for child support
and alimony payment) and also bear the burden of locating a new
home.Ē From MAHR, Domestic
Violence in Macedonia 24 (1998). In Moldova, women reported
that lack of housing alternatives and severe economic circumstances
deter women from seeking divorces. Countries throughout the region
are experiencing similar problems.
Women in Moldova and Poland also reported that courts may
postpone hearings on divorce cases to encourage reconciliation.
This approach has extremely dangerous consequences for women since
research shows that during the period directly following a womanís
decision to leave her abuser, the risk of serious, even lethal,
From MAHR, Domestic
Violence in Poland 39 (2002); MAHR, Domestic
Violence in Moldova 34, 35 (2000).
Also, in countries where women must show fault to obtain
a divorce, details of abuse may become part of the proceedings.
In cases where fault is not at issue, judges may nonetheless see
signs of abuse during the proceedings but not address it.
Domestic violence advocates have recognized the importance
of civil law remedies for battered women and in many places, have
accomplished significant reform in the areas of family law and
for Protection and No Contact Orders
Few countries in the CEE/CIS region have civil remedies
designed to protect the victim and temporarily remove the abuser
from the home. One civil remedy used in some countries, often
called a civil protection order or
order for protection (OFP), is an order issued by a judge
to exclude an abuser from the home for a period of time to protect
a woman and her children. These protection orders can take the
form of emergency ex parte orders (temporary orders issued without
notice to the defendant), which last a short time. Women may
seek longer term orders for protection. These orders require
a full hearing before a judge with the abuser present. Many women
use this civil court process instead of using the criminal court
system. The international model
a civil protection order provision.
Civil protection orders were controversial when they came
into use in the United States, but there were convincing reasons
that they were important for protecting women against domestic
violence. While a civil protection order interferes with an abuserís
property rights (i.e., the right to live in oneís house), the
legislature made a determination that a womanís right to be free
from violence is more important than the abuserís property rights.
When an abuser was putting other members of the household in danger
with his behavior, justice required that he should leave the home,
not the women and the children. Advocates should closely monitor
the laws and their implementation and educate officials in order
for the civil protection to be an adequate remedy.