As we start the new year 2020 the top story of 2019 in domestic violence law has been the case of Jennifer Dulos. I predict that the Dulos case is going to have profound and lasting effects on domestic violence cases in Connecticut for years to come. On December 31, 2019 the lead story in newspapers across the State reported that the term “Jennifer Dulos” was the number one most searched term in Google for the entire State of Connecticut in 2019 by a huge factor. Simply put, the public is fascinated, outraged and shocked by the case and this kind of widespread attention is going to have a effect in the Judicial Branch on how domestic violence cases are handled. I want my clients who have domestic violence cases pending in the local Courts to be aware of the Dulos case and what I call the “Dulos effect.” I made a companion video on YouTube which you can watch here.
>> Brief Background of the Dulos Case
Jennifer Dulos suddenly disappeared in May of 2019 from her home in New Canaan. At the time she and her husband Fotis Dulos were embroiled in a highly contested and nasty divorce battle in Stamford Superior Court before Judge Heller. Fotis Dulos has since been charged with tampering with evidence along with his girlfriend for driving to Hartford on the night of Jennifer’s disappearance and dumping garbage bags containing clothes with Jennifer’s blood on them in the garbage. There are a lot of details about this case and I would encourage you to do a google search if you are interested in all the particulars. For the purposes of this blog article all we need to focus on are the following important highlights:
- The Dulos family was very well off financially and well educated
- The parties were engaged in a very highly contested divorce case which was one of the most high conflict divorce cases in Connecticut if judged by the number of competing motions filed by the parties against each other
- The sudden nature of the disappearance of Jennifer Dulos has shocked the conscience of the community in that, by all accounts, she was a lovely person and excellent Mother
- The defense counsel of Fotis Dulos has taken a very aggressive approach in defending the case in the media which has led to tremendous media attention nationally on this case
- Jennifer Dulos is obviously dead and her husband Fotis Dulos is a prime suspect in her murder
- Jennifer Dulos apparently has been raising alarms about her Husband before her disappearance in motions filed in her divorce case which apparently were not heeded by the Judge at the time
>> Just what is the “Dulos Effect” and How Does it Effect Your Domestic Violence Case?
The massive media attention on the Dulos case is already having a profound effect on every kind of domestic violence case pending in Connecticut. The feeling is that somehow an oversight was made in the Dulos case and the concerns of Jennifer Dulos were not heard or acted upon before it was too late. We live in a very reactionary society and all too often a tragic event triggers an overreaction. The fear in this “Dulos Effect” is that the next case is going to be another Jennifer Dulos. After all, the Judge who was hearing the Dulos divorce had little to guide her to suspect that something this violent would occur. The parties were apparently very well off financially, both residing in large homes and lacking nothing. There was nothing in either of the parties’ backgrounds to indicate that either had a propensity for any violent act. You can see how the Judge would have discounted Jennifer’s assertions in her pleadings filed with the Court that she had grave fears for her personal safety as a result of filing for divorce. There was just not anything there to back up these generalized feelings of fear.
This is the problem for future domestic violence cases going forward in the year 2020 and beyond. Judges are going to want to err on the side of caution going forward with such a tragic event so fresh in the mind. In the Court system we can feel the sentiments shifting already towards a more cautious, methodical and slow moving approach to resolving domestic violence cases than existed before the disappearance of Jennifer Dulos. I call this the “Dulos effect.” The entire system from the family relations officers, victim’s advocates, State’s attorney’s and Judges are all taking a fresh look at domestic violence matters – particularly those cases involving any arrests which involve parties who have an ongoing divorce case.
A sign that the Court system is taking the Dulos case very seriously was the very high level panel meeting and report which was issued in July, 2019 shortly after it became apparent that Jennifer Dulos was not missing, but rather was dead. It is clear from a reading of the report – which is linked above – that the Judicial Branch is paying close attention to the Dulos case and making adjustments and recommendations for how to further refine the programs already in place.
The conclusion of the report stated:
“The Judicial Branch is acutely aware of its responsibilities regarding domestic violence and is committed
to assisting victims of domestic violence within the parameters of its core function, which is to decide
cases in a fair and impartial manner.”
>> Having Identified the “Dulos Effect” – What Are My Recommendations for Defending a Domestic Violence Case In the Present Climate?
The most important result of the “Dulos effect” is going to be more media attention in 2020 on the Jennifer Dulos case and domestic violence in general. I predict that Fotis Dulos is going to be charged with murder in the upcoming months and it will become one of the most sensationalized murder trials in Connecticut history. The media attention is going to go off the charts and the “Dulos effect” is only going to get worse as the Fotis Dulos circus comes to town. Judges, State’s attorneys and family relations officers are going to be erring on the side of caution. In practice this means that family relations is going to be less likely to recommend “nolles” and more likely to recommend the family violence education program for first time offenders. In addition, it is going to be harder to get modifications of orders of protection, particularly in cases where the parties are going through a divorce. Overall, I predict in the upcoming year all the decision makers at the Court are going to be taking a more cautious approach in resolving domestic violence cases. If we keep in mind what the Court system is trying to prevent from happening – another Jennifer Dulos like situation – then we can develop some strategies to help make your case easier to resolve.
Keep in mind that every domestic violence case is different. You should contact us for a free initial consultation is you have questions about how we would handle your specific case. The comments I am going to make here are generalized and not applicable to any individual case.
- Embrace any treatment modalities that are recommended by family relations. Obviously given the sense of heightened sensitivity over at the Court with the Dulos case pending it is imperative that you cooperate fully with any recommendations that the office of family relations may have. If they recommend parenting classes, anger management or substance abuse treatment just smile and go along with what they recommend. Also, always be polite, friendly and cooperative when meeting with family relations. I will be happy to review with all clients my suggestions on how to prepare for your meeting with family relations.
- Consider to participate in your own individual anger management with a private therapist. Often these sessions are covered by your health insurance. Doing some anger management counseling is a great way to help make everyone feel more comfortable that you have the situation under control and you are making positive progress. Realistically, in some cases anger management skills are what gets the clients into the problem in the first place so this kind of therapy can be helpful for everyone.
- If alcohol or substance abuse was a factor in your domestic violence arrest often engaging in substance abuse therapy is a great way to show the Court that you have the situation under control. It does not matter if you feel that you have “a problem” if the police report indicates that you were intoxicated or under the influence at the time of the arrest then doing some brief form of substance abuse counseling can help to make decision makers at the Court more comfortable to make a favorable resolution in your case.
- It seems that more people are being pushed into the family violence education program if any physical contact of any kind was involved in a domestic violence arrest. Hiring an experienced domestic violence defense attorney to develop a plan to present a good mitigation package on your behalf is your best alternative to work to get your case dismissed quickly.
The “Dulos effect” is real. Domestic violence cases are getting tougher to resolve quickly. Things are only going to get worse as the Dulos case gets more publicity and attention both locally and nationally. By working with an experienced Stamford domestic violence lawyer you can get the best guidance how to present your particular case in the most favorable light to get the best possible resolution.
If you have been arrested for a domestic violence case in the State of Connecticut please feel free to contact us using the link or call us 24/7 at (203) 357-5555 for a free initial case evaluation and review. We will put our 28 years of experience to work to develop the best possible defense strategy to defend your case. We look forward to hearing from you!