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95 Marquette Law Review 955 (2012)


Family courts are increasingly interested in matching parties with appropriate dispute resolution processes and related services. For many parties, especially those who are self-represented, triage of cases could be helpful and efficient. Nevertheless, implementation of triage in complex cases may bring unintended repercussions, and in the spirit of averting these, this Article identifies and discusses challenging issues that become apparent when triage systems are viewed through the lens of intimate partner violence.

Some questions about triage in the context of intimate partner violence were raised at the Wingspread Conference on Domestic Violence and Family Courts and explored more fully by Loretta Frederick in her 2008 article titled “Questions About Family Court Domestic Violence Screening and Assessment.”1 In light of subsequent research and commentary, this Article revisits the topic and concludes that because thinking about triage is in its infancy, important questions remain unanswered.

Intimate partner violence poses a number of complicated challenges for any system of triage, including: (1) questions about the complexity of decision-making about dispute resolution alternatives; (2) the feasibility of quickly and accurately screening for intimate partner violence; (3) the substantive and procedural safeguards necessary to preserve confidentiality, protect litigants’ due process rights, and provide accountability; and (4) the question of whether courts or parties are best positioned to make these decisions. After analyzing these questions, we conclude that maximizing the ability of parties to make informed choices about participation in dispute resolution processes is paramount. We urge courts to make this a primary goal of any system of triage developed.


This article is co-authored by Gabrielle Davis and Loretta Frederick.

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