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New York Laws Involving the Confidentiality of Domestic Violence Victim-Related Information

October 13, 2011

Author: Amy Schwartz-Wallace

Address Confidentiality Program for Mail & Service of Process:


Executive Law §108 Statewide Address Confidentiality Program
Effective June 23, 2012, creates an address confidentiality program for receipt and forwarding of mail and for service of process with the NYS Office of the Secretary of State. 

Unpublished Sealed Name Change:


Civil Rights Law § 64-a Unpublished Name Change
Addresses exemption from publication requirements and sealing of court records in judicial name change proceedings.  As part of name change proceedings conducted under Title 60 of the Civil Rights Law, applicants must publish notice of the name change in a newspaper.  Under this section, if the court finds the publication of an applicant’s change of name would jeopardize such applicant’s personal safety, the publication requirements under the law will be waived.  The court also has authority to order the records of name change sealed and only opened by court order for good cause shown or at the request of the applicant.  Further provides for an automatic temporary court order sealing court papers during the pendency of the action where an individual seeks a sealed, unpublished name change under this provision. 

Non-Disclosure Of Address Or Identifying Information Court Records:

Family Court Act §154-b(2) Confidentiality of Address
Addresses confidentiality in Family Court proceedings including child and spousal support, paternity, interstate child support, custody/visitation, family offense, and child protection.  Directs court to authorize any party or the child to keep his or her address confidential from the opposing party in any pleadings or other papers submitted to the court where disclosure of such address or other identifying information would pose an unreasonable risk to the health or safety of a party or the child.  Further, if the party has resided or resides in a residential domestic violence program, the present address of the child, the present address of the party seeking custody, and the address of the domestic violence program cannot be revealed. This section also contains provisions regarding service of process on another designated person or the court.

        
Domestic Relations Law §254 Confidentiality
Addresses confidentiality in matrimonial proceedings.  In any proceeding for custody, divorce, separation or annulment, the court can authorize any party or the child to keep his or her address confidential from any opposing party or the child in any pleadings or other papers submitted to the court, where the court finds that the disclosure of the address or other identifying information would pose an unreasonable risk to the health or safety of a party or the child.  Further, if the party seeking custody of the child has resided or resides in a residential domestic violence program, the present address of the child, the present address of the party seeking custody, and the address of the domestic violence program cannot be revealed.  Also contains provisions regarding service of process on another designated person or the court.


Domestic Relations Law §76-h Information Submitted to the Court
Addresses information to be submitted to the court in interstate child custody proceeding under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA).  Under this section, a party can request the court order the identifying information or address be held confidential where the health or safety of a party or child would be unreasonably put at risk by the disclosure of identifying information.  Further, if the party seeking custody of the child has resided or resides in a residential domestic violence program, the present address of the child, the present address of the party seeking custody, and the address of the domestic violence program cannot be revealed. This section also contains provisions regarding service of process on another designated person or the court.


Family Court Act §580-312 Non-Disclosure of Information In Exceptional Circumstances
Addresses nondisclosure of information in Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA) cases.  If the court makes a finding that the health, safety, or liberty of a party or child would be unreasonably put at risk by the disclosure of identifying information, the court must order that the address of the child or party or other identifying information not be disclosed in a pleading or other document filed in a proceeding under Article 5-B of the Family Court Act. 


Civil Practice Law and Rules §2103-a Confidentiality of Address in Civil Proceedings
Addresses confidentiality in all civil proceedings.  Allows a court presiding over any type of civil proceeding to authorize any party to keep his/her home or business address or telephone number confidential from any other party in the proceeding or confidential in other papers submitted to the court.  The court must determine that disclosure of the address or phone number would pose an unreasonable risk to the health or safety of a party.  If a party has ever resided in a residential domestic violence program or currently resides in one of these programs, neither the party’s address or the program’s address may be revealed. This section also contains provisions regarding service of process on another designated person or the court.

Confidentiality Laws, Regulations And Policies In Domestic Violence Residential and Non-Residential Programs

Social Services Law §459-g Confidentiality
Addresses confidentiality of residential program’s location, including in funding applications. 


18 NYCRR §452.10 Confidentiality 
States that records, books, papers, and reports regarding residents of domestic violence programs are confidential and access is appropriate only for authorized individuals for particular purposes.  Also states that the local district office will have access to a residential program’s resident case records, including any resident identifiable information, for purposes of investigating a report of suspected child abuse and maltreatment. 

18 NYCRR §452.9(e)(1)-(3) General Operational Standards
In addition to other provisions, states that licensed residential programs must report suspected cases of child abuse, neglect and maltreatment occurring while a family is in residence or whenever a staff person has reasonable cause to suspect that a child has been abused or maltreated, or when the child's parent discloses child abuse or maltreatment. 
 
18 NYCRR §462.9 Confidentiality
States that records, books, papers, and reports regarding non-residential program clients are confidential and access can only be gained by authorized individuals for particular purposes (i.e. the Department of Social Services or other federal/state/local agency, pursuant to court order, other domestic violence programs, residents, persons authorized by the resident).

18 NYCRR §452.9 General Operational Standards
In addition to other provisions, states that licensed non-residential programs must report suspected cases of child abuse, neglect and maltreatment whenever a staff person has reasonable cause to suspect that a child has been abused or maltreated, or when the child's parent discloses child abuse or maltreatment. 

94 ADM-11 Domestic Violence: Eligibility and Payment for Residential Services for Victims (June 22, 1994)
In addition to other provisions, discusses confidentiality issues including local district access to and disclosure of residential program information, as well as local district access to residents in residential programs.   

Temporary Assistance Laws, Regulations and Policies Addressing Confidentiality:

Social Services Law §349-a(7) Procedures to Insure the Protection of Victims of Domestic Violence  
Outlines the general state Family Violence Option law and related procedures, including confidentiality.  Addresses the parameters of confidentiality of applicant/recipient information held by the Domestic Violence Liaison (DVL).   Additionally, outlines access to and disclosure of this information to authorized individuals and entities. 

Social Services Law §111-v Confidentiality, Integrity, and Security of Information
Requires the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, in consultation with OPDV and other states agencies, to develop regulations that will safeguard confidential information and data.  Among other provisions, safeguards must be in place to prohibit the release of information on the whereabouts of a person who has an order of protection to the person against whom the order was issued. 

Social Service Law §459-g Prohibitions on Compelling Victim-Abuser Contact as a Condition of Receipt of Benefits 
Prohibits the state, its political subdivisions, public authorities, and employees and agents thereof from compelling domestic violence victims to contact their abusers, directly or for any reason, as a condition of receiving public assistance benefits and services.  Provides for the creation of a confidential intermediary in the event that such contact is required and the victim gives informed, written consent.    

18 NYCRR §357.3(i) Basis for Disclosure of Information 
Addresses confidentiality and disclosure of domestic violence-related information by the DVL and other social services staffers. 

98 ADM-3: Domestic Violence: Family Violence Option Under the Welfare Reform Act of 1997 (March 13, 1998)
Sets forth the requirements for the implementation of the Family Violence Option.  Reviews the requirements under the new law, including confidentiality issues.   

02 INF-06: Clarification of Retention Policy of Domestic Violence Screening Forms and Related Case Records (February 8, 2002)
Clarifies the length of time local districts are legally required to retain universal screening forms indicating the presence of domestic violence, as well as DVL records.    

02 INF-36: Family Violence Option Questions and Answers (November 5, 2002)
Q and A’s in the Appendix address several confidentiality issues related to welfare fraud, mandatory reporting of child abuse and neglect, and inter-departmental access to DVL records.   

Insurance Information:

Insurance Law §2612 Discrimination Based on Being a Victim of Domestic Violence
Among other provisions, states that if an insured delivers a copy of a valid order of protection against a policyholder to the insurer, the insurer may not disclose to the policyholder the insured’s address or telephone number or information about covered services.    

Telecommunications

Public Service Law §91 and General Business Law §399-yy Unlisted/Alternative Phone Listings for Victims with Orders of Protection 
Effective December 11, 2010, this new law provides victims with permanent orders of protection a free, unlisted local or cable telephone number or alternative/modified directory listing.  These services are not being mandated under the law and communications companies the option of offering these protective measures to their customers.      

Voting:

Election Law §11-306 Special Ballots For Victims of Domestic Violence

Allows a victim of domestic violence to vote by special paper ballot.  Victims who wish to vote in this way must have left their home due to violence and the flight from the home was a result of the threat of physical or emotional harm toward the individual or toward a member of their family or household. 

Election Law §5-508 Court Orders Providing for Confidentiality of Victim’s Election Records
Allows a domestic violence victim to make application to the Supreme Court of the county in which said victim is registered to vote for an order to keep their election registration records confidential.  Where granted, the election registration records must be kept separate from other records and not be made available for inspection or copying except by election officials where such records are within the scope of their official duties and are pertinent and necessary to the performance of their official duties. 

HIV/AIDS Confidentiality Regulations:

10 NYCRR §63.4 Filing of reports
Requires information gained from domestic violence screenings to be kept confidential in reports.  Allows for limited disclosure for authorized purposes.  

10 NYCRR §63.5 Disclosure Pursuant to a Release
No confidential information related to domestic violence screening, can be disclosed pursuant to a general release except to insurance companies.  

10 NYCRR §63.8 Contact Notification
Information collected in the course of contact notification activities, including screening to assess risk of domestic violence, shall be kept confidential.  Outlines limits for disclosures. 

Statewide Automated Child Welfare Information (CONNECTIONS) System:

18 NYCRR §466.4 Confidentiality
Information regarding the street address of residential programs for victims of domestic violence must be kept confidential in this system. 


 





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