Friday, June 11, 2010

New York Divorce and Family Law: Violance Against Women Act

The Justice Department has decided that the criminal provisions in the Violence Against Women act should be enforced in cases involving gay and lesbian relationships.

The Violence Against Women Act was first passed by Congress in 1994. Its provisions made it a federal crime to cross state lines with the intent of committing domestic violence, stalking, or violating a protection order. The government’s application of laws to gay and lesbian relationships has been a matter of great contention. The Defense of Marriage Act, a 1996 law, required the federal government to define terms like “marriage” and “spouse” as legal categories that can only be understood as a union between one man and one woman.

Since the Violence Against Women Act includes terms not covered by the Defense of Marriage Act, like “dating partner” and “intimate partner”, and since the provisions of the Act make clear it applies to conduct against male, as well as female, victims, it has been determined that the text of the Act is gender-neutral.

The expansion of the Violence Against Women Act, like the amendment to Article 8 of the Family Court Act in New York which extended the ability of an individual to obtain an Order of Protection against any individual they have been in an intimate relationship with regardless of whether such persons have lived together at any time, is a step towards equality and recognizing that same-sex couples are subject to the same issues facing other committed couples, such as domestic violence.

If you are seeking more information about Family Offense Proceedings or any other Family Court preceding in New York you may go to:

Until Next Time,

Helen M. Dukhan, Esq., LL.M. @


  1. Ms. Dukhan, I live in North Carolina and my wife and I were married in California in September of 2008. We resided in North Carolina at the time of our wedding and own property together in North Carolina. My wife is uncertain that she loves me or ever loved me in the way she portrayed in our preparation and since our marriage began. I have been searching diligently online and spoken with a North Carolina LGBT attorney. She was unable to help me with any aspect of determine where I may be able to obtain an annulment or divorce without having to satisfy a residency requirement. Any thoughts?

  2. Janine,

    I am sorry to hear that. I know it's a very difficult situation. Now, I cannot represent you as I am only licensed in New York, so as a disclaimer the following is not formal legal advice and you should still seek counsel to advise you further. Every state has residency requirements; however, I don't think that is your main problem. You should find out from a lawyer in North Carolina if they give full faith and credit to the contracts of other states, meaning will they let you get divorced if they themselves don't recognize same-sex marriage. In New York, the state may not allow it, but they recognize it if the couple was married in a state that does. Now, if North Carolina does give full faith and credit to your marriage contract made in California, then I would probably recommend that you file in North Carolina as you reside there, your marital residence is there, and you have property there. If the Court gave me a problem, then I would ask the Court for further guidance as to where to get divorced and which state has jurisdiction over the divorce. I hope this helps at least a little bit. Good Luck!