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Domestic Violence Cases: What Is the Difference between Criminal and Family Courts?

It is essential to remember domestic violence is viewed as a criminal offence according to the Criminal Code of Canada. However, in certain situations, there are times when domestic violence cases can intersect across both criminal and family courts.

How Criminal Courts Address Domestic Violence

Criminal courts prosecute those accused of domestic violence as a criminal offence. When a victim files a formal complaint with the police, they are duty bound to fully investigate the claim. Initially, they make take the suspect into custody if they believe the victim’s claim is valid.

Once a formal complaint has been filed, the victim no longer has the ability to drop the charges. Sometimes victims feel remorse afterwards and believe that if they do not drop the chargers they will only make their domestic situation worse. Yet, the Crown’s objective is to ensure the accused is held accountable for their actions.

If one is convicted and found guilty of domestic assault in a criminal court, they can be sentenced to jail. The offence is also recorded on their criminal record. Furthermore, the court can issue a peace bond, which could prevent the accused from returning home or having contact with the victim, as well as any minor children the couple shares.

How Family Courts Address Domestic Violence

In family courts, domestic violence is not viewed as punishable crime. Rather the objective of family courts is to resolve various matters of disputes between the two parties in areas such as:

  • Separation and Divorce
  • Child Custody and Access
  • Child Support
  • Spousal Support
  • Divisions of Martial Property
  • Modifications of Existing Family Court Orders

If domestic violence is a contention for a divorce proceeding, yet the victim has not filed formal criminal charges, then family courts are limited in what they can do. The victim can apply for a restraining order and if issued, gain protections from the accused. Although, this is really the only remedy family courts can offer for victims of domestic violence.

What Happens When There Is an Existing Divorce Proceeding?

In cases where the party has already filed for divorce, and the victim has filed a formal complaint of domestic violence with the police, then family courts can take into account the outcome of the criminal proceedings.

For instance, pending the outcome of criminal proceeding, and if the suspect is convicted and found guilty of the criminal offence, family courts can alter existing child custody and access agreements. They may view make the victim the sole custodial parent, could suspend visitation schedules, or alter those where visitation must be supervised.

As you can see, domestic violence cases can be complex and complicated if they involve both criminal and family courts. If you have been formally charged with domestic violence by the police or Crown, you need assistance defending against the charges from Toronto criminal defence lawyer, Jeff Hershberg. Call my office at 416-428-7360 for a consultation today.