Lawyer Monthly - May 2022

is a person you have been completely open and vulnerable with; a person you love. When that person tells you that s/ he is sorry and will do better (“It will never happen again”), there is a strong pull to believe them. I tell my clients: “You can always re-marry this person, but right now, it is time to act decisively and deliver the message that it is not okay for them to treat you abusively by setting firm boundaries and following through with the divorce.” Why is it important that a victim of domestic violence shares this information with their divorce lawyer? There are several reasons why it is important for people to divulge their marital dynamics to their divorce lawyer. We cannot help clients if we only have half the story. Often, coercive control plays a major role in the inter-personal dynamics of the marriage, and the spouse on the receiving end of that control is unaware that they are even in an abusive relationship. Whether there has been domestic violence in the relationship should be on every family lawattorney’s intake form, but not just the blatant question. Attorneys should ask things like: who controls the money in the relationship? How often do you (the client) see your family and friends? Are you given an “allowance” to spend by your partner? Who makes the rules for the household? Who disciplines the children? These questions get to the heart of controlling behaviours that the client may not even understand are problematic and enable the attorney to plan the case with a keener awareness of the marital dynamics. Domestic violence throughout the marriage can affect support and custody in myriad ways. We owe it to our clients to provide them with the most effective advocacy we can muster and we cannot fully prosecute their case without all the facts. WWW.LAWYER-MONTHLY.COM | MAY 2022 72 THOUGHT LEADER - ELIZABETH VOORHEES

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