Domestic abuse shelters can keep records secret, under a ruling issued today by the State Supreme Court. The Court has overturned a lower court ruling that had ordered Hope House of Independence to turn over records to juvenile court. A juvenile officer had requested the information to back his allegation that Maria Martinez had failed to provide a stable home for her two children, because she had lived in three different domestic violence shelters between October of 2002 and January of 2003 – and had not broken off a violent domestic relationship. The Court ruled confidentiality is essential to ensure the safety of all shelter residents and cannot be waived except at the resident’s option. A dissenting opinion says two state laws are in conflict on the matter and that the conflict should be resolved by acting in the best interests of the child. The dissent contends that the benefit to the children in this case outweighs the confidentiality claims of a shelter resident who might be abusing her children.
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