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WHAT DIVORCE ATTORNEYS AND CLIENTS NEED TO KNOW ABOUT DOMESTIC ABUSE

Recent events regarding Kansas City linebacker, Jovan Belcher, who took his life and that of his girlfriend, require us all to stop and think about the cycle of abuse. Divorce attorneys are on the front line of abuse. They must be equipped to deal with abuse, even though law school does not include abuse training. Here are some steps and thoughts for the divorce lawyer and his client.
  1. Warn every client you see about abuse. Our firm uses a New Client Checklist which has abuse prevention first on the list. Clients should be warned not to engage in arguments. Clients should be coached to withdraw from any conflict. If a person feels unsafe, they should get to safety and call 911 if necessary. People should be advised that if the police are called and suspect abuse, the suspected perpetrator will be arrested and may not be able to get out of jail for 24 hours. Unsuspecting clients should be warned their spouse may try to start a fight to get them arrested.
  2. Know the signs of abuse and educate clients. Visit our web site at www.chinnandassociates.com for the “Warning Sings of Domestic Violence” and the “Power and Control Wheel” developed by the Domestic Abuse Intervention Project of Duluth, MN and produced by the “National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence.” Provide clients with literature such as The Verbally Abusive Relationship, by Patricia Evans.
  3. If necessary,refer clients to a local domestic abuse center for an evaluation of the danger of the situation. This is called a “lethality index.” Trained counselors can tell if the situation is likely to become violent and what to do about it. The local abuse center near our office is The Center for Violence Prevention, phone 601-932-4198. We have found them to be an incredible resource, providing abuse counseling, shelter and assistance in court.
  4. Be aware that the victim is as likely a participant in the cycle as the abuser, and may be difficult to deal with. According to authorities, victims can become just as addicted to the cycle as the abuser, and may be not only unable to accept help, but may resist it. Studies show the victim returns to the abuser an average of 7 times before finally leaving. One of the keys is to get the victim separated from the abuser in order to allow them to “detox” and have a clear mind about what they have been subjected to. This is of course complicated if the parties have children together.