A brief guide to domestic violence attorneys
There are many different kinds of domestic violence, ranging from stand-alone incidents of cruelty to patterns of consistent abuse inflicted by one family member upon another. For those trying to put an end to life-threatening relationships or those accused of violence, domestic violence attorneys are an unfortunately necessary component of a difficult process. Here are some things to consider if you need legal representation in this area.
Types of domestic violence
Domestic violence occurs between two people in an intimate partnership. This includes:
• Married couples
• People living in common-law marriage
• Parents and children
• People who are dating
Depending on the nature of the offense, domestic violence is either a misdemeanor or felony charge. In either case, the legal consequences can be serious for anyone found guilty of the offense. Different kinds of domestic violence include:
• Physical violence such as any kind of abusive physical contact, including biting, punching, hitting with an object such as a bat and any other action in which you attempt to inflict damage upon another person’s body
• Emotional violence can be broadly defined, but includes insulting, demeaning and/or attempting to control another person. Expressions of jealousy that lead someone to fear for their safety also fall under this category.
• Sexual abuse refers to any unwanted or forced sexual contact, such as groping, molestation or rape.
• Economic abuse concerns those who unlawfully use others’ money or possessions in attempt to either defraud or control them.
No matter the nature of the charges, all aresubject to serious prosecution. Domestic violence attorneys can help you take into account all the state laws that may apply to your case when you prepare to make charges.
How to file domestic violence charges
If you are in an abusive relationship, be prepared to prove your claims before getting the police involved. Photograph any bruises or signs of injury to your body, gather financial documentation if your funds or assets are being misused, and prepare to thoroughly answer any questions the police may have for you.
After an instance of domestic violence, call the police. You will need an arrest and police report before you can continue prosecuting charges. In some states, it may be possible to file charges directly with the public prosecutor’s offices. There are two ways to pursue a domestic violence lawsuit:
• After reviewing the evidence, your city or jurisdiction’s public prosecutor may choose to pursue criminal charges against the offender.
• If criminal charges are not passed or you wish to seek damages, a domestic violence attorney can help you prepare a case for civil court.
Types of restraining orders
In a criminal trial, a domestic violence attorney argues that his or her client requires some form of protection from the defendant. These range in severity and how much time they cover. While laws vary from state to state, common restraining orders include:
• Emergency protective orders in cases where a judge decides the defendant poses an immediate threat to the plaintiff. This can order the alleged abuser to immediately vacate the shared residence. Such injunctions typically last for five to seven days.
• Temporary restraining orders may not kick the defendant off the property but threaten him or her with severe prosecution if abuse continues. These may be obtained by domestic violence lawyers to protect the client until their court appearance.
• Long-term restraining orders can be issued by a judge after the evidence is heard in court. These can vary greatly in length, though it is possible in some cases to obtain a permanent restraining order.
• If the public prosecutor in your area declines to prosecution on your behalf, you may still file for a civil protective order in civil court.
Finding a domestic violence attorney
If you are facing civil or criminal domestic violence charges, you are not required to hire a lawyer. However, these charges are extremely serious. If you cannot afford to privately hire a domestic violence attorney, see if you can find pro bono representation. Likewise, if you are a victim of abuse who doesn’t receive assistance from a public attorney, you are allowed to represent yourself in civil court but should consider paying for private counsel. Whether paid or pro bono, domestic violence attorneys are helpful in assembling a strong case.
Whatever you decide, once the legal process begins you will want to move fast to prepare for court. This does not mean that you should engage the services of the first domestic violence attorney who makes you an attractive offer. Your physical and emotional health, as well as that of any children, are at stake. It is important to interview as many domestic violence attorneys as you see fit to find one who you trust to represent you.
Try to find a recommendation for a reliable lawyer from a friend or family member, preferably one who has personally used their services. If you are unable to get a recommendation this way or wish to keep your desire to press charges a secret, for a small fee your state or local bar organization may be able to refer you to a local domestic violence attorney who can handle your case.
Whether you are the accused or the accuser, it is important to come into the first meeting with your lawyer with all of your evidence and documentation prepared. Domestic violence attorneys cannot offer you the strongest possible legal advice until they have all of the evidence supporting or disproving every charge.
Question every lawyer you talk to extensively. Ask them about how much experience they have in these kinds of cases and make sure to receive their frank assessment of what you can expect from the legal process. Some domestic violence attorneys may offer defendants unrealistic promises of complete exoneration or make unrealistic promises to victims. Until you have received a detailed, written explanation of how the domestic violence attorney plans to handle your case along with an accurate estimation of prospective costs, do not enter into any legal relationship.