Cases Involving Families, Children, and Pets

The presence of children or pets during the commission of a DV crime may complicate diversion eligibility. In many jurisdictions, the presence of a child during a DV incident constitutes an “aggravating factor” or a separate crime altogether. Program planners and prosecutors can determine if this aspect to a crime, whether a separate crime or not, makes the case ineligible for diversion.

Pets are not only considered family members who survivors are often unwilling to leave behind for fear of the pet becoming a target of abuse, but also a constant support that provides a sense of familiarity and comfort to survivors who are forced to enter shelter or safe housing. Animal abuse often co-exists in cases where DV occurs. See APA’s Break to Basic’s Series for more information.

Additional concerns and considerations for diversion program planners in cases with children and pets:

1. Corresponding family law cases (divorce, custody, and/or support) may be ongoing. 

2. Children exposed to DV are at risk for long-term physical and mental health concerns.

3. Similarly, existing research points to overlap in DV and child abuse.

4. These cases present increased risk of intimidation or external pressure from family members to recant or not report.

5. Child Protective Services (CPS) or social services involvement may be ongoing.

6. Collaborating and establishing regular communication channels between prosecutor and CPS to improve information sharing and
service referrals. 

7. Naming children and/or pets in any protective order or “no contact” order.

8. Providing resources to victims with children and family therapists to address trauma and monitor stress reactions.

9. Connecting victims to housing, financial support, employment opportunities, childcare, etc. independent of the enrolled individual
so that they are able to break dependence on an abusive relationship to meet these needs.

10. Inclusion of pet friendly DV shelters and providers as referral sources, if available.