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:
- What are your concerns about in the case?
- What your goals are for the case?
- What is the attorney's strategy for how to accomplish your goals?
- What things can you do to better prepare your case?
It is in your best interest to be as specific as possible with your attorney. If you do not feel comfortable verbally informing your attorney about specific acts, put them in writing.
Detail ALL incidents of abuse. Try to be as specific as possible.
- Dates of Abuse
- Places where the abuse occurred - i.e., in your home (what room), in public (give street name), etc.
- Types of Abuse - i.e. threats, hitting, punching, pushing, shoving, biting, or forced sex acts, etc.
- 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?
Children - Do you have children?
- Are your children safe?
- 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.
- Inform your attorney:
- of the names, ages, addresses, and school addresses of your children
- that you would like the exchange to take place in a neutral setting if your abuser wants visitation
- what days and times would work best for you and your children, for visitation
- whether you want supervised visitation, and who you would be comfortable with as a supervisor
- whether you are receiving child support from your abuser
- whether 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. Your safety is the most important issue. You can ask your attorney to keep your new address confidential in the court documents.
It's Your Case - Ask your attorney questions. 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).