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Domestic Violence Waivers

 

What is a TAFDC domestic violence waiver?

If you can not meet a welfare (TAFDC) rule because of current or past domestic violence, you can ask for a "domestic violence waiver" of that rule. A "domestic violence waiver" of a TAFDC rule stops that rule from applying to you.

What is domestic violence?

Domestic violence is not always physically violent. When one person in a relationship tries to control and overpower the other person, that is domestic violence. There are many types of domestic violence. Some kinds of domestic violence are:

  • Physical abuse: pushing, shoving, hitting, biting, kicking, throwing things at a person, using a weapon, forced sex or touching, rape, choking, etc.;
  • Isolation: keeping you from seeing people; controlling who you see and talk to; wanting to control where you are all the time;
  • Emotional abuse: calling you names; putting you down; playing mind games; humiliating you in public;
  • Economic abuse: taking your money; making you ask for money; controlling all the money;
  • Sexual abuse: treating you like a sex object; forcing you to have sex or do sexual things when you don't want to;
  • Using children: using visitation as a way to harass you; pumping the children for information about you; insulting you in front of the children;
  • Threats: saying he will take the children; telling you that you will never see the children again; threatening to hurt you; threatening to report you to welfare or DSS; threatening to hurt your family; threatening to hurt himself;
  • Insisting on being in charge: treating you like a servant; making the big decisions;
  • Intimidation: using looks; hurting pets; destroying your property.

Which TAFDC rules can be waived with a domestic violence waiver?

You can get a domestic violence waiver of almost any TAFDC rule. People most commonly get waivers from:

Can I get a domestic violence waiver?

You may be able to get a waiver of a TAFDC rule if you can show that if you had to follow the rule it would:

  • put you or your child at risk of more domestic violence; or
  • make it harder to escape from domestic violence; or
  • make it harder to recover from domestic violence; or
  • have a worse effect on you than it would on someone who has not lived with domestic violence.

For example

Any of the following might be a reason for getting a domestic violence waiver of the work rule, the time limit rule, or the teen school attendance rule:

  • you can't meet the rule because you need to stay in hiding in order to be safe; or
  • you can't meet the rule because you need to go to court, medical, counseling or other appointments during work or school hours because of the domestic violence; or
  • you have physical or emotional injuries from the violence and you need time to heal; or
  • you are just not ready to be off welfare because it took you time to heal, or go to school, or get ready to work.

How do I apply for a domestic violence waiver?

You can apply for a waiver by completing a form. Ask your worker for a domestic violence waiver request form.

Your worker will ask you for proof of the domestic violence and proof of why you need the waiver. Proof can include any of the following:

  • a restraining order, or
  • police reports, or
  • medical records, or
  • a signed statement by someone who knows your situation.

You do not have to fill out the form in the welfare office. You can take it home to fill out. You can also ask a domestic violence specialist or legal services office for help filling it out.

What if DTA denies my waiver request?

If the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) denies your waiver request, you can appeal. Call your local legal services office for help.

I can't work because I have health problems caused by domestic violence. What's the difference between applying for a disability exemption and applying for a domestic violence waiver?

If you have mental or physical health problems that make it hard for you to work, it is usually better to apply for a disability exemption than a domestic violence waiver of the work rule or time limit.

  • You have the right to a disability exemption if your mental or physical health problems are bad enough. There is a clear checklist that DTA must use to decide if you get the exemption. If you apply for a domestic violence waiver, DTA does not have a clear checklist. If DTA decides not to give you the waiver, it is harder to prove in a hearing that you should get it.
  • A disability exemption means that both the time limit and the work requirement will stop applying to you. With a domestic violence waiver, DTA might not agree to waive both rules.
  • If you are not working, your welfare grant will be a little bit higher if you get a disability exemption.

If you apply for a disability exemption, you may have to go to one or more doctor appointments. If you apply for a domestic violence waiver, you do not have to see a doctor.

You may want to talk to an advocate at your local legal services about your case before you decide whether to apply for a disability exemption or a domestic violence waiver of the work rule or time limit. You can also talk to a domestic violence specialist at the welfare office. See below for more information about domestic violence specialists.

One of my children does not get welfare because of the family cap rule. I have heard that there are "exceptions" and "waivers" of that rule. What is the difference and which should I ask for?

The "family cap rule" says you can not get TAFDC benefits for a child who is born more than ten months after you first start getting TAFDC. If you are a domestic violence survivor, you may be able to get an Exception to the Family Cap rule or a Waiver from the Family Cap rule.

Exceptions

You should be able to get an exception to the family cap rule if:

  • You got pregnant from rape or sexual assault, including rape or assault by your spouse or boyfriend; or
  • You got pregnant because you were afraid of the father and did not feel like you could say no to sex with him, even if he did not physically force you to have sex with him; or
  • you were afraid of the father of your child and he kept you from using birth control.

If one of these situations applies to you, tell your worker that you "qualify for an exception to the family cap rule." Also, there are other exceptions to the family cap rule that are not related to domestic violence. For example, you may be able to get an exception if you did not receive TAFDC for at least 12 months in a row at some point before the child was born. If you have other reasons for asking for an exception to the family cap rule, call your local legal services program.

Waivers

A"domestic violence waiver" of the family cap rule will also make the rule stop applying to your child. You may be able to get a domestic violence waiver of the family cap rule if:

  • you were afraid of the father of your child and he kept you from getting an abortion; or
  • the family cap rule makes it harder for you to keep yourself and your children safe; or
  • the family cap rule makes it harder for you to recover from domestic violence.

If any of the above apply to you, tell your worker that you want to apply for a domestic violence waiver of the family cap rule.

Should I apply for an Exception or a Waiver?

Exceptions are quicker to get than waivers. Exceptions also have less paperwork and do not require you to answer as many private questions. So if you qualify for both an exception and a waiver, you probably will want to ask for an exception.

If you get a family cap exception or domestic violence waiver of the family cap rule, the child should be added to the TAFDC grant (unless there is some other reason that the child does not qualify for benefits). If your child is added to your TAFDC grant, your benefits will increase by about $100 each month.Also, depending on the age of the child, your welfare time clock may stop and you may not have to meet the work requirement.

If you get a waiver or exception to the Family Cap rule, you will only get benefits for the child back to the date that you asked for the exception or waiver. This means that you will get more money for the child if you ask for the exception or waiver right away.

Are there other things I should know about?

Yes. There are other things that you should know about TAFDC if you have lived with domestic violence. See the article on MassLegalHelp called Domestic Violence and Welfare.

This seems complicated. Is there anyone who can help me figure out what to do and fill out the paperwork?

The Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) has specially trained workers called "Domestic Violence Specialists."Domestic Violence Specialists are there to help you.They can help you apply for domestic violence waivers, and can refer you to services outside of DTA.

Your DTA worker is supposed to refer you to a specialist if you tell him or her that you have experienced domestic violence. It is up to you whether or not you want to talk to the specialist.

You can talk to the specialist at any time, even if you decide not to at first. You can call the specialist directly. Call the welfare office and ask to speak to the domestic violence specialist. Each domestic violence specialist covers several offices, so call ahead if you want to talk with a specialist.

If your worker says that you must speak to a specialist and you do not want to, call your local legal services program for help or advice.

You can also call your local legal services office for help figuring out what to ask DTA for and for help filling out the forms.


Produced by Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Created June, 2008


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