Legal Resource Center on Violence Against Women

Advocate Resources


Working with attorneys

There are many ways for advocates to assist attorneys who are representing survivors in interstate custody and domestic violence cases.

First, advocates may provide support to survivors throughout the civil legal process, which can be lengthy and draining. Many batterers attempt to continue to control their former victims through the use of legal proceedings. For instance, batterers may file repeated motions to modify custody or visitation orders, petition for protection orders against victims, or harass children during court-ordered visits to gain information about survivors. Advocates can help survivors deal with the emotional effects of these behaviors. They also can help other civil justice system personnel to understand that these actions are another form of abuse.

Second, where survivors request assistance, advocates can help collect documentation for survivorsí legal cases, especially evidence of the history of abuse. Such evidence could include, for example: prior court orders; protection order transcripts; police reports; medical records; school records for children; witnesses; criminal history records of batterers, etc. This support can assist survivors to provide their attorneys with the evidence necessary for the case and allows attorneys to concentrate on the legal aspects of the case.

Third, advocates may be able to help survivors to take the practical steps necessary to be prepared for custody litigation. This may require assistance navigating other systems, such as child protective services, university financial aid or academic offices, or housing, substance abuse or parenting programs. By assisting survivors to put economic or child-related services in place, advocates can help survivors strengthen their legal cases.

Finally, not all attorneys who represent survivors in custody cases are familiar with domestic violence, including its effects on survivors and their children and its impact on the custody case itself. Experienced advocates can educate attorneys about these issues and help them to find technical assistance providers and other resources with information that can improve their representation of survivors.

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