Domestic Abuse and Family Law

February 9, 2010

By Thomas Moore, Family Law Office Manager

First of all, I would like to express my appreciation to Stephen R. Arnott, author of Screening for Domestic Abuse: What You Don’t See, May be What You Get in the October 2009 issue of Bench & Bar of Minnesota magazine.

Domestic Violence

I would urge you to read his article in its entirety. It is written by an attorney for attorneys but Mr. Arnott makes several key points that are important for clients to consider also.

  • Domestic violence seems to be on the increase.
  • Some litigants in family law proceedings use allegations of abuse to give themselves an edge in the case, especially when fighting for child custody.
  • Unacknowledged domestic abuse may be at the heart of other disputes over property, visitation, child custody and other aspects of a family law matter.
  • Domestic abusers are taking advantage of modern technology, using cyberstalking, cameras, “bugs” and other devices to stalk their prey.

What Your Attorney Should Do

From this, Mr. Arnott draws several useful conclusions. Again, these are directed at other lawyers, but they are relevant to a layperson or litigant also.

  • Lawyers should screen for domestic violence even when their client does not mention it.
  • An attorney should develop a skill at eliciting the relevant information, judging its authenticity, and acting on it if need be.
  • An attorney might use a domestic-violence advocate or other professionals for the benefit of their client.
  • Appropriate screening for domestic violence helps ensure that their client is not only well represented legally but also physically and emotionally safe.
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