If You Are Disabled, You Are Not Shut Out: The Domestic Violence Courts and Family Courts May Be More Accessible Now Than Ever Before …

People who are disabled often feel that they have inadequate access to the family courts and divorce legal system, as well as the domestic violence court system. Leaving them feeling vulnerable and trapped in unhappy and even abusive marriages and relationships. Without hope of escape.

Too often, there has been merit in their feelings, for a variety of reasons – some subtle and complex. But there is no denying that our family courts are working on improving access to the divorce legal system for people who are disabled. Various disability aids and assistive devices are increasingly available in divorce court.

Admittedly, there is still a long way to go, with significant room for improvement. Having said that, the disabled (and their loved ones, caregivers, lay advocates and attorneys) should no longer simply assume lack of access or limited access to divorce court or domestic violence court. Today’s family court legal system can be accommodating and accessible to the disabled …

Illinois Husband wants a divorce, including temporary alimony and spousal support, – and a domestic violence restraining order of protection.

But Husband suffered a stroke, which left him significantly neurologically impaired. He literally does not have the ability to sit up, let alone travel to court (at least not without an ambulance and a stretcher).

Is Husband shut out of family court or domestic violence court? Not necessarily.

On at least two different occasions, an access-minded Illinois family court fashioned two different solutions for the disabled Husband to have his days in domestic violence court and family court.

On the first occasion in 2011, the family court literally came to Husband, his home, which was specially characterized as a courtroom under authority of an order from the county’s Chief judge. Husband was permitted to testify, prostrate on his couch.

Fast forward to 2012 for the second occasion. Technology facilitates access with even greater convenience and less expense.

Husband again testified from his couch at home. But this time, Husband had a laptop equipped with a built-in web camera. At the same time, Husband’s attorney was in the domestic violence courtroom with her iPad, the judge, the defendant and opposing counsel.

With a friend’s assistance and the court’s indulgence of some delay as they worked through some technical challenges, Husband was able to testify in Court via Skype. The family court could see and hear Husband testifying in real time on the iPad, almost as though Husband were physically present in the courtroom.

The domestic violence court’s and the family court’s willingness to embrace such newer technologies, which are now commonplace in homes and offices throughout the US, is a giant leap forward in increasing access to the family court legal system to people who are handicapped and/or disabled. Almost regardless of precisely how severely disabled they may be.

Read more in this Chicago Daily Law Bulletin article: Judge hears testimony in a condominium living room and this Wall Street Journal piece: Bedridden Man Uses Skype to Testify Against Wife.