Some of the most difficult types of cases as a family law practitioner are ones in which you represent either the victim or the perpetrator of domestic abuse. One of the reasons this is difficult is because the communication about such a painful part of a client’s life is hard to talk openly about. But, our commitment to family law and to providing strong representation to our clients means that we will encounter these situations periodically, so it is important that we’re equipped for these difficult conversations and cases.
Importance of Screening for Domestic Violence for Family Law Practitioners
One great tool for family law practitioners is a document developed by the Domestic Abuse Committee of the Family Law Section of the Minnesota State Bar Association. This document serves as a screening tool for attorneys and can help make the communication between our lawyers and clients around the complex issue more comfortable and easy. It also gives our team strategies for ensuring the safety of ourselves and our clients. Understanding this potentially dangerous dynamic is important to providing strong representation to our clients, which is our ultimate goal. Domestic violence impacts all aspects of family law including custody, distribution of assets, relocation, parenting time, and the determination of whether mediation will be an effective tool in the resolution process.
Domestic Violence Screening
- Screening for domestic abuse and violence is a useful and necessary tool to help us more strongly represent oour clients. The most effective way to screen is via conversation (not using a formal questionnaire or other less interactive tool). Knowledge about our clients experience with domestic violence will also help protect our staff and our clients.
- We have a responsibility to be alert and be looking for signs that domestic violence is occurring. Some potential signs are: attempts to control the actions and responses of a spouse, physical evidence of abuse (bruises, broken bones, etc.), threatening, degrading or humiliating behavior, and isolation of the victim.
- Tips for family law practitioners when navigating these difficult issues include explaining confidentiality and attorney-client privilege to the client, asking our clients to set up an alternative email address for private communication, and ways to focus on building a relationship with the client that encourages them to confide in our firm so that we can help (making eye contact, asking open ended questions, communicating that have time for your client, etc.).
Kallemeyn & Kallemeyn is a law firm serving clients in the Minneapolis St-Paul, MN area, with a focus on family law, including custody disputes, divorce, child support. Our team believes in the importance for incorporating screening tools for domestic violence into our daily practice and actively seek resources and support to make sure that our communication strategies help our clients feel comfortable confiding in us about this difficult issue. Give us a call at 1-763-427-5131 for more information or to partner with our team.