Any district or municipal court of record of Oklahoma may now establish and maintain a domestic violence court program. The court will consolidate cases that arise in the context of a domestic violence incident.
A “domestic violence court” is a specialized judicial process for domestic matters both civil and criminal in nature that arise out of the same family or domestic circumstance. The presiding judge of a district or municipal court of record may appoint an individual judge to preside over related criminal, family, and matrimonial matters that arise in the context of domestic violence. Criminal domestic violence charges, protective orders, and any actions for divorce, separate maintenance, guardianship, adoption, or any other proceeding involving custody or visitation between the same parties may be presented to the domestic violence court.
The Administrative Office of the Courts may promulgate rules, procedures, and forms necessary to implement a domestic violence court to ensure statewide uniformity.
This sounds like a good idea. What’s happening now (or at least before any domestic violence courts get created) is that the civil case(s) is/are held in one courtroom, and the criminal case is held in another. If there are two civil cases–a victim protective order and modification of visitation rights for example–then those will initially begin in two courtrooms. The VPO will then be transferred over to the other “family law” case, and each appearance will be held together.
What it looks like will happen after the establishment of a domestic violence court is that every case arising out of a domestic violence matter will be held in one courtroom. It’s very common for a VPO to be filed after an event of domestic violence. If criminal charges are filed, then there will be a separate criminal case. The VPO case will continue and nothing will typically be done in it until the criminal case is complete. This requires appearing in two different courtrooms and, typically, at two different times. Consolidating the cases into one courtroom will save a lot of unnecessary court appearances. An attorney might have to appear a handful, or more, times in the VPO case just to say that the criminal case is still pending and get a new date. Also, the judges in domestic violence court will have a better idea of exactly what’s going on in all the cases. Finally, it will be helpful to know where each case will be held at the outset. It’s frustrating to show up on the first court date (typically on a VPO case) just to process the paperwork to move it to the family law court.
HB 1121 created 22 O.S. § 61. It went into effect on November 1, 2017.