Individuals experiencing domestic violence face serious risks when choosing to leave an abusive relationship and/or file for an Order of Protection. Abusers often grow more dangerous when they believe that they have lost control of the victim. To enhance victim safety, the St. Louis County Domestic Violence Court offers advocacy both at the time of filing for an Order of Protection, at the time of the court hearing and through phone follow up.





Internship / Practicum

Practicum/internship opportunities can be customized to meet students' educational needs and career goals. Internships are available for bachelor's and master's level students in social work, law, gender studies, political science, communication, and related fields. This is a highly competitive process with limited opportunities. Two semester practicum is preferred.  One semester practicum (full time) may also be a possibility.

All opportunities are between 8am and 5pm Monday through Friday only.  After training in the dynamics of domestic violence and legal/court issues related to seeking Orders of Protection, a DV Court internship could include the following:

  • Advocate for petitioners in specialized DV Court dockets by providing support, legal information, safety planning and community referrals;
  • Assist petitioners in filing for Orders of Protection;
  • Work with petitioners whose Orders of Protection have been violated;
  • Observe criminal domestic violence proceedings;
  • Review, assess, and prepare cases for court;
  • Engage in outreach efforts on behalf of the DV Court;
  • Assist in the coordination and facilitation of training on domestic violence issues for attorneys, court staff, and volunteers;
  • Follow up with petitioners by phone who have received advocacy in the filing office or court;
  • Research best practices for court advocacy and DV Court programs.

Areas for skill development include (but are not limited to):

  • Crisis intervention;
  • Working with victims of domestic violence and trauma;
  • Program development;
  • Administration development;
  • Community education;
  • Community collaboration;
  • Judicial collaboration;
  • Outreach and event coordination;
  • Legal information.

Victim Advocate Program

Attending court proceedings can be especially intimidating and scary for a victim of domestic violence.  The DV Court Volunteer Victim Advocate Program addresses one of the central tenets of the DV Court: victim safety.  Volunteer advocates undergo an extensive interview, screening and training process that equips them to work with victims of domestic violence who are seeking an Order of Protection in St. Louis County.

All volunteer opportunities are available between 8am and 5pm Monday through Friday only.  DV Court dockets are held on Mondays, Wednesday mornings and Thursdays.

Interested applicants should be able to meet the following requirements:

  • Possess an open, non-judgmental attitude toward victims of domestic and sexual violence;
  • Utilize empowerment-based and victim-centered advocacy when working with victims;
  • Be willing to complete an application, interview and background check;
  • Participate in specialized domestic violence and DV Court training;
  • Make a one year commitment, if possible.

Volunteer advocates come from a variety of backgrounds and bring a diverse range of experience.  The primary functions of the volunteer advocates are to provide support, safety planning and court/community resources to victims during the Order of Protection process.  This might include meeting with victims when they come in to file for an Order of Protection, assisting them during court appearance(s) and/or conducting follow-up with them via telephone once their court proceedings have concluded.  Volunteer advocates also work closely with judges, clerks and bailiffs during court hearings to ensure that dockets run efficiently and that litigants experience a safe and welcoming court environment.

Court Attorney

To best protect domestic violence victims and their children, it might be important for a Parenting Plan to be included with a full Order of Protection.  Since the inception of the DV Court, volunteer Court Attorneys have assisted at the DV dockets to help arrange Parenting Plans and support orders for parties as part of their Order of Protection when doing so has been deemed appropriate by the court.  The Court Attorneys assist DV Court judges by developing a Parenting Plan that establishes custody/visitation and possibly child support.  The Court Attorneys do not represent the petitioner or respondent, rather they are fact finders who help develop a plan that enhances safety for the victim and the children, and establishes contact between the parents and children as appropriate.

All volunteer Court Attorneys must meet the state Guardian ad Litem requirements (see www.mobar.org for more information) and be a registered GAL with the St. Louis County Family Court.

In addition, prospective Court Attorneys should also:

  • Be familiar with the Order of Protection statutes (Mo. Rev. Stat., Chapter 455);
  • Be familiar with St. Louis County Family Court forms, including the DV Parenting Plan (Parts A and B), Domestic Relations Services (DRS) referral forms and the Form 14 (the Mo. Supreme Court child support calculation worksheet);
  • Be available to serve in DV Court dockets on Mondays, Wednesday mornings and/or Thursdays with a minimum commitment of one docket every other month;
  • Be willing to attend free, CLE-registered training in domestic violence annually.

New/incoming Court Attorneys will have an opportunity to shadow and receive mentorship from more experienced Court Attorneys.  Although serving as a Court Attorney in the DV Court is a volunteer position, in some instances the judge may appoint a Court Attorney to serve as a paid GAL for future litigation (i.e., dissolution of marriage or custody) involving the same families with whom they work at the Order of Protection docket.

For more information about practicum opportunities,
volunteering as an advocate or Court Attorney, contact Deanna Rhodes at:

(314) 615-4658

A volunteer application must be submitted for all opportunities.