Domestic Violence Waivers

Produced by Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Last updated April 2019

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.

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.

 

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.

Find Legal Aid

You may be able to get free legal help from your local legal aid program. Or email a question about your own legal problem to a lawyer.

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