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Supporting the Health of Survivors of Family Violence in Family Law Proceedings

About This Project

This project is funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada and is designed to address the unique need of survivors of family violence within the family justice system. Canada’s research centres on violence against women will initiate, host and support a Community of Practice(CoP)  comprised of family violence experts, survivors, family lawyers, researchers, mental health, and social service professionals.    

The overarching goal of the project is to enhance support to survivors of violence through the family law system by increasing opportunities for family law practitioners to have training, guidance and resources to support trauma-informed practice, and to improve coordination of services that will enhance the safety and wellbeing of all parties.   

Major goals for the project (November 2020 - November 2023)    

  1. Foster communication, collaboration and build relationship among experts from the family violence and family law sectors;     
  2. Develop and disseminate evidence-based guidance and resources to address issues crossing these areas of concern;    
  3. Provide learning opportunities to build capacity of practitioners in the field of violence prevention and family law;     
  4. Promote research and evaluation initiatives to examine effective strategies for helping victims, perpetrators and their children receive the interventions they need from family court proceedings;    
  5. Support sustained knowledge mobilization in the field.  



  1. Develop guidance and information resources for dealing with COVID-19 and family violence victims involved in custody and access disputes that respect regional differences, and diverse realities.    
  2. Develop guidance and information resources on critical issues related to risk assessment, safety planning and risk management strategies for family violence victims in family court, critical issues related to risk assessment, safety planning and risk management strategies for family violence victims in family court.    
  3. Develop guidance and information resources on trauma-informed interventions for family violence victims in family court.    
  4. Regional and National webinars on issues around risk assessment and supervised access provided by team of legal and family violence experts together with survivor.    



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jennifer_foster_updated_headshot.jpgJennifer Foster

Prior to becoming a lawyer, Jennifer, who is married with two young adult children, led teams for over 15 years, marketing and raising funds for organizations, including Yale University, St. Joseph’s Health Care Foundation, and Western University. Because of her passion for helping others, particularly those who are vulnerable and marginalized, Jennifer left her successful career and pursued her dream of becoming a family lawyer. Jennifer opened her family law practice after working with a leading law firm in London. Jennifer also provided family law services through Community Legal Services at Western University, coaching and training law students in family law. More recently, Jennifer was the inaugural Executive Director of the Middlesex Law Association, until she decided to focus on her practice and provide limited scope services to clients and freelance/virtual associate services to family lawyers. 
Jennifer continued to mentor and teach students through her role as an Adjunct Professor for the Family Law Externship and the foundational Family Law course at Western University as well as a lawyer supervisor for Pro Bono Students Canada. She continues to support her local and legal communities through her volunteer work with organization such as the Family Justice Centre and Wellspring London and Region. 
Originally from a coastal town in North Carolina, Jennifer has a soft spot for her childhood playground of sand and surf. When Jennifer is not dreaming of splashing in the waves of the Atlantic Ocean or searching for shells on its beaches, she is avidly reading historical fiction, legal or crime novels. 

Karla O’Regan     karla oregan photo

Dr. O’Regan is an Associate Professor of Criminology at St.Thomas University and a part-time lecturer in the Faculty of Law at UNB. A graduate of St. Thomas University, Karla has law degrees from the University of Toronto, Dalhousie University, and the London School of Economics. She is a member of the Law Society of Upper Canada and has worked for the Federal Department of Justice, Ontario’s Office of the Children’s Lawyer, and the private legal sector. Karla served as a Complaint Officer under St. Thomas University’s Harassment & Discrimination Policy for five years and chaired the University’s Research Ethics Board from 2014-2018. She acts as a project supervisor for Pro Bono Students Canada and is a (faculty-elected) member of St. Thomas University’s Board of Governors. Dr. O’Regan also serves on the NBCC Research Ethics Board and has acted on a number of community and regional Boards of Directors, including the Fredericton SPCA, Dialogue NB, and the Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission. She is currently working with the Fredericton Sexual Assault Centre and the Fredericton Police Force on a case audit of unfounded sexual assault files. Her book, Law & Consent: Contesting the Common Sense (Routledge) published in Spring 2019.

dominique bernier photoDominique Bernier

Dominique Bernier has been a member of the Quebec Bar since 2008 and    received her doctorate form the University of Ottawa in 2017. She is interested in alternatives and different paths in the Quebec justice system. Her doctoral studies focused on control practices and judicial system interventions for drug and alcohol users. She is currently a professor in the Department of Legal Sciences at the University of Quebec in Montreal. Her research focuses on self-representation and access to justice, the recognition of domestic violence in family and criminal law, and the legal and non-legal issues of reporting violence against women.    

kendra nixon photoKendra Nixon  

Kendra Nixon is an associate professor in the Faculty of Social Work at the University of Manitoba. Dr. Nixon’s overarching research agenda focuses on gender-based violence, and has included research on intimate partner violence, children’s exposure to violence, mothering within the context of violence, domestic homicide, suicide and violence, and sexual exploitation. Dr. Nixon’s research has primarily focused on policies aimed at reducing violence, as well as institutional responses to intimate partner violence, including the child welfare and criminal justice systems. Dr. Nixon is also the Director of RESOLVE, a tri-prairie research network on family and gender-based violence. Dr. Nixon’s teaching interests include social welfare policy, policy analysis, and qualitative research.

margaret_jackson_photo.jpgMargaret Jackson

Margaret Jackson is Professor Emerita in the School of Criminology and Director of the FREDA Centre at Simon Fraser University. She was principal investigator for a Federal Ministry of Justice study on child abuse. Other research areas of interest include criminal justice policy analysis, problem-solving courts, and most recently, bullying and cyberbullying. Margaret primarily focuses upon research issues related to domestic violence and its impacts on women and children.         

peter headshot 20 Peter Jaffe

Dr. Peter Jaffe is a psychologist, Professor, and the Academic Director of the Centre for Research and Education on Violence Against Women & Children in the Faculty of Education at Western University.  He has co-authored eleven books, 40 chapters and over 80 articles related to domestic violence, the impact of domestic violence on children, homicide prevention and the role of the criminal and family justice systems. For the past 30 years, he has presented workshops across the United States and Canada, as well as Australia, New Zealand, Costa Rica and Europe to various groups including judges, lawyers, health, mental health professionals and educators. Since 1999, he has been on faculty for the National Council of Juvenile & Family Court Judges in the US for judicial education programs entitled “Enhancing Judicial Skills in Domestic Violence Cases”. He was a founding member of Ontario's Chief Coroner’s Domestic Violence Death Review Committee. He has also been instrumental in developing violence prevention programs for schools. Together with David Wolfe, Claire Crooks and Ray Hughes, he helped in the development of “The Fourth R: Skills for Youth Relationships”, a school-based curriculum targeting multiple forms of violence, including bullying, dating violence and peer violence. The curriculum is being used in over 5,000 schools in Canada and the US.

katreena scott photo
Katreena Scott
Katreena Scott is a Psychologist, Professor and incoming Director of the Centre for Research and Education on Violence Against Women and Children at Western University. She held the Canada Research Chair in Family Violence Prevention and Intervention between 2008 and 2018. Dr. Scott leads an applied research program aimed at ending violence in family relationships, with specific expertise on addressing violence perpetration in men. The  Caring Dads program that she developed is offered in in many sites across North American and Europe. She is a contributor to international networks including the DV@Work Network and the Safer Families Centre of Excellence. 


To learn more about the projects at each centre, click below               

University partners  


cathy holtman photo

Cathy Holtmann 

Dr. Catherine Holtmann is the Director of the Muriel McQueen Fergusson Centre for Family Violence Research (MMFC) and Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton. Her research program touches the areas of gender and religion, domestic violence, and immigrants. Locally  Cathy is the principal investigator of the Muslim Family Safety Project in partnership with the Arab Cultural Centre, nationally she is a co-investigator with the Canadian Domestic Homicide Prevention Initiative with Vulnerable Populations and internationally she is a co-investigator on the project “Violence against Women Migrants and Refugees: Analyzing Causes and Effective Policy Response”.  Cathy represents the MMFC on the Provincial Roundtable on Crime and Public Safety and served on the working group investigating Child Sexual Harm in the province.


genvieve photo

Genevieve Lessard  

Geneviève Lessard, Ph.D. is an associate professor at the School of Social Work and Criminology, Laval University (Quebec, Canada). She is the scientific director of the RAIV (Recherches Appliquées et Interdisciplinaires sur les Violences       intimesfamiliales et structurelles) and also of a Partnership Research Team on Intimate Partner Violence. Her work focuses on various forms of victimization experienced by children, including exposure to domestic violence, co - occurrence of intimate partner violence and child maltreatment as well as issues related to the collaboration between fields of practice concerned by family violence. She is also interested in maternity and paternity in domestic and family violence contexts and in the prevention of intergenerational transmission of violence.