LOUISVILLE (AP) — With a little more than six months before a new state law to address dating violence takes effect, Kentucky officials are trying to determine how best to offer emergency protective orders to victims of abusive dating relationships.
In some counties, officials have yet to decide which courts should process the cases, The Courier-Journal reports. The law takes effect Jan. 1.
In Jefferson County, judges are divided on whether the cases belong in district court or family court.
Jefferson District Court Chief Judge David Holton said family court is best suited for the cases.
“The family courts are perhaps equipped better to handle these cases because they have case workers there and social workers,” Holton said. “Here in district court we don’t have those types of resources.”
Family Court Chief Judge Paula Sherlock argued the opposite.
“Dating couples are not families, and we are family court,” Sherlock said. “We quite simply don’t have the resources to do these.”
Sherlock called for a specialized court to handle the cases.
If a decision cannot be reached between the Jefferson County courts, Chief Justice of Kentucky John Minton Jr. will decide for them.
Carol Jordan, who studies violence against women at the University of Kentucky, said officials are unsure how many people will be entering courtrooms because of the new law.
Having reviewed data in surrounding states that implemented similar protections for dating couples, Jordan said she does not expect courthouses to be flooded with these cases.
“They had not seen a huge rush to the courthouse,” Jordan said. “I think it speaks to the fact that it’s going to be the most severe cases only.”
In April, Gov. Steve Beshear signed a bill to allow victims of abusive dating relationships to receive an emergency protective order from the courts. Currently, Kentucky offers these orders only to couples who are married, have lived together or have a child together.