Working with Your Attorney on a Domestic Violence Case
Your attorney is there to help and support you. Attorneys are bound by ethical rules and all information you tell them must be kept confidential. It is important that you tell your attorney everything that is relevant to your case, even if you think it makes you look bad. Your attorney will work with you to decide how to deal with any negative information.
Once you choose a lawyer, take care to explain to the lawyer everything that you think is relevant about your case. Here are a few things that you might want to bring up in your first couple of conversations with your lawyer:
- Explain what your concerns are about in the case
- Tell him/her what your goals are for the case
- Ask about his/her strategy for how to accomplish your goals
- Ask what things you can do to better prepare your case
It is in your best interest to be as specific as possible with your attorney. If you think you may not feel comfortable verbally informing your attorney about specific acts, you can put them in writing.
Detail ALL incidents of abuse and try to be as specific as possible:
- Dates of Abuse
- Places where the abuse occurred: i.e. in your home (what room) or in public (give street name).
- Types of Abuse: i.e. threats, hitting, punching, pushing, shoving, biting, or forced sex acts.
- Objects used: i.e. knives, guns, furniture, etc.
- Inform your attorney about any possible witnesses: give your attorney the names of any possible witnesses.
- Do you have any pictures that show any injuries that were a result of abuse?
- Did you ever seek medical attention?
- Which hospital did you go to?
- Did the hospital treat you for any injuries?
- Did you ever call the police?
- Did the police respond?
- Was a report written?
- Was your abuser arrested?
Do you have children? - Is there a custody order in place? (Just because your child resides with you does not mean you have legal custody, if there is no order in place. Both parents always have rights.)
- Are your children safe?
- Inform your attorney of the names, ages, addresses, and school addresses of your children.
- If your abuser wants visitation, inform your attorney that you would like the exchange to take place in a neutral setting.
- Inform your attorney what days and times would work best for you and your children, for visitation.
- Inform your attorney whether or not you want supervised visitation, and who you would be comfortable with as a supervisor.
- Inform your attorney whether or not you are receiving child support from your abuser.
- Inform your attorney whether or not your abuser is paying health insurance for your children.
- Review the checklist on Preparing for the Final Protective Order Hearing.
Benefits - State whether or not you are receiving any type of benefits from the state (i.e. welfare, temporary cash assistance, etc.).
Keep your Address Confidential* - Inform your attorney that you do not want your current address listed on any documents that your abuser may receive or view.
It's Your Case - Remember to ask your attorney questions. You should tell your attorney about any other information that you think may be important.
REMEMBER to bring ALL court documents. - It is important to bring any and all documents that relate to a case you have in court (i.e. protective order, child custody order, or child support order).
*Remember: Your safety is the most important issue. You can ask your attorney to keep your new address confidential in the court documents.