Fairfax County Domestic Violence Community

Information for Domestic Violence Professionals and Volunteers in Fairfax County, Virginia

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Dunn-Chadwick Domestic Violence Fellowship

“The single best predictor of children becoming either perpetrators or victims of domestic violence later in life is whether or not they grow up in a home where there is domestic violence.”*  

Ending that cycle of violence is often not accomplished with the granting of a protective order; it typically extends to months of difficult litigation to keep children with a safer parent.  Legal representation throughout that process is key to achieving justice and safety for victims and their children.  

Access to legal services increases the likelihood that a victim will successfully be able to obtain a protective order.  According to one study, 83% of victims represented by an attorney successfully obtained a protective order, as compared to just 32% of victims without an attorney.  The study further found that legal services may present victims with real, long-term alternatives to the abusive relationship by helping them with custody and child support.**


The Dunn-Chadwick Domestic Violence Fellowship helps moderate income victims of domestic violence in Fairfax County gain access to justice for their family law and other civil legal needs, providing a continuum of services to bridge the gap between free civil legal aid and costly private counsel.




The Fellowship is administered by Legal Services of Northern Virginia (LSNV) and the fellow's stipend is funded entirely through private or corporate donations.  Donations may be made through the Legal Services of Northern Virginia website Please write "Dunn-Chadwick" in the Memo line of your check or in the Designation line of their online giving form.


In March 2013, the Needs Committee of the Fairfax County Domestic Violence Network (DV Network) hosted a Family Legal Services Roundtable to identify gaps in family law services for victims of domestic violence and their families.  They identified several, but the participants unanimously agreed that the greatest unmet need involves victims who earn too much income to qualify for legal aid services, but not enough to pay a private attorney for a lengthy, contested custody or divorce case.

In response to this need, the Fairfax DV Community (the DV Network and the Domestic Violence Prevention, Policy, and Coordinating Council) partnered with the Domestic Violence Action Center (DVAC) and Legal Services of Northern Virginia (LSNV) to create a legal fellowship to target this underserved population.

The fellow is a recent law school graduate who serves families in Fairfax County who earn between 200% and 400% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines (just over the threshold to qualify for legal services). The fellow’s physical office space is located at DVAC for easy access by clients and coordination with other services. LSNV staff screen applicants for eligibility and provide supervision of case work. 

All administrative fees and overhead costs are absorbed by the project partners, however, the partners require direct contributions toward funding the fellowship stipend itself.  Thanks to a generous initial donation and sustaining commitment from Needs Committee member Melanie Dunn-Chadwick, the partners were able to make the Fellowship a reality in September 2014.  Inspired by Melanie’s commitment, the partners named the fellowship the Dunn-Chadwick Domestic Violence Fellowship.

Catherine Burke, a 2014 graduate of George Mason School of Law, became the first Dunn-Chadwick Fellow in September 2014 and served 75 victims of domestic violence (over 80% of whom had children) throughout her fellowship year.  Cristina Macioch serves as the current fellow, serving 54 victims in the first 8 months of her tenure.   

*UNICEF's Behind Closed Doors: The Impact of Domestic Violence on Children 

**Supporting Survivors: The Economic Benefits of Civil Legal Assistance to Survivors of Domestic Violence