Document Type

Student Paper

Publication Date



There is a distinct correlation between domestic violence and level of income; the lower the income, the higher the prevalence of domestic violence. When poverty and domestic violence intertwine, the consequences for a family in poverty can be devastating. The COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 has added immense pressure to families in poverty already suffering economic hardship. The sudden loss of income due to the nationwide shelter in- place mandate coupled with prolonged proximity to partners and children all day make for a ticking time bomb for many families in poverty.

Law enforcement, criminal courts, and family & dependency courts follow standard policies and procedures set out for domestic violence without taking into account differing socioeconomic statuses. Families in poverty do not withstand involvement in the criminal justice system in the same manner wealthier families do. The loss of needed resources for bail, court ordered fines and fees, and mandatory batterer intervention programs leave families in poverty with the choice of buying food to feed their families that week or abiding by court orders to remain out of jail.

This paper explores the link between domestic violence and poverty in an effort to seek an understanding of the decades long failure of the legislative and judicial systems in addressing the needs of families in poverty when faced with domestic violence. This paper will analyze the effects of the criminal, family, and dependency courts on families in poverty and examine socioeconomic bias at a systemic level. Commonsense approaches to aid judges, child welfare workers, law enforcement, and policy makers will be addressed in an attempt to protect families in poverty from the devastating consequences of domestic violence both inside and outside of the courthouse.


This paper was submitted for the Poverty Law class taught by Professor Michele Benedetto Neitz.