Domestic Violence Program

DCVLP volunteers help survivors of domestic violence achieve safety and stability in their lives through two methods – civil protection orders (“CPOs,” also known as “stay-away” orders); and favorable long-term custody, divorce, and child support orders.

Civil Protection Orders

DCVLP helps survivors of domestic violence achieve safety and stability in their lives through actions to obtain civil protection orders (“CPOs,” also known as “stay-away” orders) against their abusers. CPO hearings in D.C. Superior Court are handled as expedited, emergency proceedings to ensure the safety of the petitioner and her children. CPOs last for a period of one year, and may also grant temporary custody and child support for the victim and/or order the abuser to obtain counseling for alcohol, drugs and/or domestic violence. DCVLP lawyers also frequently help their clients in extending and/or modifying their CPOs, and in proceedings for civil enforcement of the CPOs provisions.

Representing a domestic violence survivor in a CPO case is an excellent opportunity to gain litigation experience in a very short time.  CPO cases typically require 12-15 hours of an attorney’s time over a period of only two weeks. (However, some cases may be continued in two week increments until they are resolved.)

To Volunteer: If you are an attorney interested in volunteering on a CPO case, please fill out the volunteer registration form, then contact Emilia Plater-Zyberk, Volunteer Coordinator, for information on trainings. If you have already registered to volunteer, have taken the training, and are ready to take a case, please contact Mary Ryan with your availability.

Family Law

They say it takes a domestic violence victim seven tries to leave her abuser; when DCVLP represents domestic violence survivors in family law cases including divorce, custody, and child support matters, they have made the decision to leave their abuser for good. Most of DCVLP’s family law clients have already obtained temporary relief through a civil protection order (or CPO); DCVLP’s volunteer lawyers then help the client obtain a more permanent separation from the abusive relationship and an ongoing custody arrangement that will protect the client and her children.

Family law cases involve discovery and motions practice and often go to trial. Volunteering on a divorce and custody case is a great opportunity for volunteers seeking experience in civil litigation.

To Volunteer: If you are an attorney interested in volunteering on a case, please fill out the volunteer registration form, then contact Emilia Plater-Zyberk, Volunteer Coordinator, for information on trainings. If you have already registered to volunteer, have taken the training, and are ready to take a case, please contact Emilia Plater-Zyberk for next steps.

I’m just a regular person, and I believe regular people should take a stand against domestic violence. We need to add our voices in support of survivors. And so, I do.
— Tom Renkes, a DCVLP volunteer lawyer who represents victims in obtaining protection orders against their abusers

To learn more about the DV program and hear the stories of volunteers and clients, please view below.