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Pinellas County gets special domestic violence court in January

More than 3,500 people are involved in domestic violence cases in Pinellas County every year. In many cases, abusers must be evaluated by a mental health professional or receive other types of counseling. However, the court has had limited resources to see that these orders are being followed.

That will hopefully change in January when a new court focusing on domestic violence will begin operation, forcing abusers to prove they are following the court's orders. This new court may be helpful to many victims of domestic violence in the future. However, it is still important for victims of domestic violence to understand they may need to take legal action to protect themselves.

The court is being created as a result of a $300,000 grant from the Office on Violence Against Women. The grant will be used to hire additional staff who will track relevant cases that go through the court. The funding also allows a magistrate to be at the court on hearing days to deal with issues such as visitation or child custody.

In a press release, one circuit judge said that the new court will provide a better framework for dealing with the issues that create domestic violence incidents in the first place.

Eight circuit judges now serving in the family law division will rotate handling cases in the new court. The court will hear cases on Wednesdays in St. Petersburg and Thursdays in Clearwater.

This new court is a step in the right direction for dealing with the issue of domestic violence. Victims of domestic violence or spousal abuse know the kind of negative impact it can have on a family. This makes it extremely important to understand the legal rights of victims of such events.

Source: Tampa Bay Times, "Special domestic violence court comes to Pinellas in January," John Woodrow Cox, Dec. 23, 2012

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