As family law lawyers we are required by the Family Law Act to discuss with our clients whether or not there has been any family violence as separation is the single most common risk factor that triggers family violence.
Lawyers need to discuss with their clients whether or not there has been any past verbal or physical abuse. They also need to canvass whether the spouse has had any prior convictions or whether there has been any escalation of violence in the home or any controlling or obsessive behaviour.
Risk factors other than separation may include unemployment, death threats, suicidal tendencies, and stalking or monitoring.
If any of these factors exist, lawyers must work with their clients to develop a plan to safely remove the client and their children from the home. This often means ensuring the client has sufficient funds to establish themselves and their children in a safe location. Often this is extremely difficult particularly when their spouse has limited or no access to the family’s money.
Transition houses are a free solution but they only provide temporary accommodation and it may be necessary to do an emergency court application to obtain funds for the spouse who has had to leave the home.
One of the very best indications of potential family violence is the client’s intuition, do they fear for their safety? Their intimate knowledge and past experience will usually enable them to predict the reaction that their spouse will have if they separate.
Deborah A. Todd