Canadian Journal of Family Law

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The establishment of domestic violence courts has resulted in significant improvements in responses to family violence, but these courts have generally dealt only with criminal cases and do not address the risks that the victim and children may face in family proceedings. In some locations in the USA, courts have been established to deal with both criminal and family proceedings that arise from a domestic violence situation. This paper describes and analyzes the establishment of the first court in Canada that hears both criminal and family cases concerning families where there are domestic violence issues. The authors report on a study of the views and experiences of 21 stakeholders (judges, Crown, criminal and family lawyers, community supports, victims, and offenders) involved in the Integrated Domestic Violence Court in Toronto. The participants generally report that the Court provides a better approach to dealing with domestic violence post separation, though there are some concerns expressed about its operations, especially by lawyers representing alleged abusers. The Integrated Domestic Violence Court is a promising example of how systems can collaborate to better protect victims and advance the interests of children.