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Community Legal Aid Society, Inc. (CLASI) represents survivors of domestic violence in family law matters such as civil retraining orders, or Petitions for Protection From Abuse (“PFA”), divorce, and custody. The program is limited to cases in Kent and Sussex Counties so you must reside in Kent or Sussex Counties or the matter must be before the Family Court in one of those counties in order to receive representation from CLASI. If you are a survivor of domestic violence and you live in New Castle County you will need to contact Delaware Volunteer Legal Services (“DVLS”) for assistance. You may contact DVLS by telephone at (302)478-8680 or visit their website.

In addition, Legal Services Corporation of Delaware, Inc. (“LSCD”) represents survivors of domestic violence in Kent and Sussex Counties in non-Family Court related matters that are a result of the domestic violence. LSCD represents survivors in bankruptcy and consumer matters, landlord/tenant and other housing related matters that may have been caused, even indirectly, by domestic violence. You may contact LSCD by telephone at (302)734-8820 or visit their website.

What is Domestic Violence?

Domestic violence is abusive behaviors used by one partner to control another partner or family member. Domestic violence includes physical violence, sexual assault, threats of violence or other harmful acts, stalking, psychological and emotional abuse, and economic control. While the majority of survivors of domestic violence are women, the same issues of power and control can be present regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. Domestic violence affects old and young, rich and poor, people with disabilities or people without disabilities.

Safety planning is essential. See the Delaware Coalition Against Domestic Violence information on increasing your safety.

Domestic Violence Impact

The combination of a lack of family or other support and poverty force many people to stay in abusive relationships. They are often subject to rape and diseases such as HIV infection. Many people who are employed and victimized are harassed at work and lose jobs as a result. They are evicted from rental properties for disturbances. Domestic violence adversely affects employers, businesses, the public health system as a whole, as well as the survivor, children, and family members.

Legal Remedies

Order of Protection From Abuse:

CLASI represents survivors of domestic violence who seek civil restraining orders in the form of an Order of Protection From Abuse (“PFA”). Intimate partners can file for protection, as well as other family members as outlined in 10 DelC. 901(9), including parents, children, sisters, brothers, and stepparents, among others.

This is a Family Court matter and allows protection from someone intentionally or recklessly causing, attempting to cause or threatening to cause physical abuse, sexual assault, or destruction of personal property; engaging in a course of alarming conduct likely to cause emotional distress or provoke a violent response; trespassing; child abuse; unlawful imprisonment, kidnapping or interference with custody; or, any other conduct that is deemed threatening or harmful.

A person filing for protection can ask the Court to prohibit further abuse; to impose a 100-yard stay away requirement from the person, residence, and workplace; to grant exclusive use and possession of the home; to grant temporary possession of personal property; to grant an injunction to refrain from selling, encumbering, or destroying property of the survivor; to grant temporary custody and visitation; to require temporary support; to award damages as a result of the domestic violence; and to require treatment for the perpetrator.

Criminal Matters Related to Domestic Violence:

While CLASI’s funding is exclusive to civil matters, there are criminal remedies as well for survivors of domestic violence. If the perpetrator has committed a crime against the survivor, they can be arrested, incarcerated, and a criminal no-contact can order the perpetrator to stay away from the survivor’s home, residence, and workplace. However, the criminal no-contact will not provide the additional relief as outlined above with a civil PFA, i.e., temporary custody and visitation, and temporary support.

Custody and Divorce for Survivors of Domestic Violence:

CLASI offers representation with divorce, ancillary matters to divorce, and permanent custody for survivors of domestic violence.

Other Legal Remedies:

There are additional remedies available for early termination of leases for survivors of domestic violence.