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March 2011 / Fleeing to Another State: Key Things to Consider
This month’s contributor Cynthia Amodeo, LMHC is the Coordinator of “Generations of Freedom” the family services department at Barrier Free Living’s Freedom House Emergency Shelter. She graduated Teachers College, Columbia University with her Master of Education and Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology. Prior to Freedom House she worked with children and families impacted by the World Trade Center attack, children infected with HIV and affected by HIV/AIDS.
Domestic violence victims often face the highest level of danger when they take action to leave an abusive relationship. Carolyn Block’s “How can practitioners help an abused woman lower her risk of death?”* indicates that for 45% of women who were murdered by an abuser, the precipitating factor was her attempt to leave that abuser.
Deciding to leave an abusive relationship is a difficult choice and can bring up new and serious risks. At times, it can be in the best interest of an individual or a family to move to another state, away from the abuser.
Here are some important factors to consider for individuals once they move to the new state.
- Custody and Visitation: State custody laws vary. Issues involving custody and shared custody in one State may not be valid in another. Know the facts before you flee with your children. It is very important to obtain a legal consultation with someone who is aware of issues surrounding domestic violence. In New York the Family Justice Center can assist. http://www.nyc.gov/html/ocdv/html/fjc/fjc.shtml
- Public Assistance: If you have a public assistance case it will be important to work with an entitlements specialist. You will need to close your public assistance case in your prior state before you can open up a new case in your current state.
- Order of Protection: Your order of protection travels with you and is valid state to state. “The Violence Against Women Act, which is a federal law, states that all valid orders of protection granted in the United States receive "full faith and credit" in all state and tribal courts within the US, including US territories” (http://www.womenslaw.org). *It is important to keep a copy of your valid order of protection on you.
- Criminal Court Cases: Keep in contact with the ADA to stay abreast of the court case.
- Counseling: Leaving a relationship is difficult. It is important to seek out counseling services to assist during this stressful transition. (See Breaking Barriers in DV article, January, 2011 for more information, available at www.bflnyc.org, home page link to story).
- Support Groups: A support group is a powerful experience for many survivors. You will get to meet other survivors and receive additional support from your group members. http://www.nyc.gov/html/ocdv/downloads/pdf/ResourceDirectory_2008.pdf
*Block, Carolyn R (2003) “How can practitioners help an abused woman lower her risk of death?” National Institute of Justice Journal, 250, 5-7
Ms. G lived in Florida with her two children and her abusive husband. Initially, to escape violence, Ms. G left her husband and moved in with a family member who also lived in Florida. Ms. G obtained an order of protection and was granted temporary custody of her children.
Unfortunately, the abuse continued. Ms. G’s life was threatened many times as her abuser was constantly leaving voice mails and sending her threatening text messages. Ms. G changed her phone number and when the abuser could not contact her he showed up at the family member’s house in Florida.
Ms. G called the police regularly but she felt in serious danger. To be free of the abuse, Ms. G decided to move with her children to New York where she grew up. She moved in with a friend but her abuser found her in New York. Ms. G then called the Safe Horizon Hotline and then entered Barrier Free Living’s Freedom House Emergency Shelter where the team immediately began to assist her in the transition.
Ms. G’s social worker contacted her lawyer in Florida and obtained a lawyer in NY with the assistance from the Family Justice Center.
In collaboration the FL and NY lawyers worked on the custody case to make sure the custody status was clear and legally sound for Ms. G. The Freedom House entitlements specialist also assisted the family with closing the public assistance case in Florida and in obtaining benefits in NY including health insurance, food stamps, and cash assistance.
Ms. G had Section 8 and the Freedom House housing department was able to advocate for the resident’s section 8 Voucher to be transferred from Florida to New York through coordination of interstate services.
Due to all of the changes and adjustment to living in New York Ms. G regularly spoke with her social worker and went to domestic violence and parenting support groups. Ms. G. has since secured permanent housing with her Section 8 voucher.