a provincial partnership of community and government focused on increasing safe and effective justice options for women experiencing family violence in Prince Edward Island, Canada


Linking Criminal and Family Law Issues in Woman Abuse June 2002 - September 2003

When an abusive relationship ends, there are often two areas of law involved: criminal and family. And, when children are affected by the abuse Child Protection law could also be included. While these are distinct areas with distinct purposes and processes, there is often confusion and implications for the participants. The fact that these are distinct processes sometimes means that information from one process is not available to the other process. So for example, information about abuse that resulted in criminal charges is often not considered in custody decisions in family law. This lack of relationship between the different courts may mean a "no-contact" order in criminal court, and "shared custody" in family court at the same time, a situation which could mean further abuse suffered by a woman and her children.

As the Justice Options Steering Committee summarized in a recent meeting: Women don't make the distinction (between criminal and family), and the system doesn't make the connection (between criminal and family). During this project, we will research, and provide opportunities for women and the system to evaluate, potential models for use in cases of woman abuse for both criminal and family law. And, while recognizing and acknowledging the differences between criminal and family law areas, recommendations will be made to the Province about ways to address woman abuse in the family and criminal law areas which reduce the potential for further abuse to women and their children.

Project Goals and Objectives

Project Goal

To provide an opportunity for women victims of violence, victim advocates and community to inform policy and be a part of the decision-making process regarding options in the criminal and family law areas as they relate to woman abuse and family violence.

Project Objectives

The objectives of the Project are

  • To help victims of woman abuse to make the distinction between Criminal and Family Law;
  • To help systems to make the connection between Criminal and Family Law when there is violence in family relationships; and
  • To use Gender-based Analysis to consider options for providing services in the Criminal and Family Law areas to women who have experienced violence in their relationship.

Key Activities and Products


Reports and documents were reviewed to build a knowledge base around the needs identified in criminal and family law issues and practices for woman abuse. Local, national and international research was conducted to identify issue areas and new approaches that address criminal and family law matters, and the link between the two.

Forum on New Approaches in Criminal and Family Justice

Two one-day forums were held to look at the issues that arise for women and the system in criminal and family law when there has been violence in a relationship.

Proposals to Family Law Section and Criminal Justice System

The research and information gathered through the forum and consultations with survivors of woman abuse and justice and community sectors was used to draft proposals for new approaches for criminal and family justice in Prince Edward Island.

Summary Report of Research Findings and Forum Learning

A summary of the research and learnings from the workshop resulted in proposals on options for consideration by both the Family Law Section and the Criminal Justice System in addressing woman abuse. A plain-language, popular format discussion paper will be prepared.

Workshop to Determine Draft Options

A workshop was held with Steering Committee members to review the research and learnings from the Forum and to develop a draft proposal for new approaches for criminal and family justice in Prince Edward Island. A plain language consultation paper was created as a result of the workshop.

Consultations with Survivors of Woman Abuse

Two focus groups were held with survivors of woman abuse to get their feedback on the proposed options contained in the consultation paper.

Consultations with Organizations

Four meetings were held with justice and community sectors to review the proposals and get feedback contained in the consultation paper.

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