Please note: Entries within this blog may contain references to instances of domestic abuse, dating abuse, sexual assault, abuse or harassment. At all times, Break the Cycle encourages readers to take whatever precautions necessary to protect themselves emotionally and psychologically.  If you would like to speak with an advocate, please contact a 24/7 peer advocate at 866-331-9474  or text “loveis” to 22522.

What Can Lawyers Do to Help Victims of Domestic Violence?

In many states, the laws are designed so that the victim can obtain a protection order or restraining order without a lawyer. But say there are children involved or there are issues with immigration. What if the abuser has a lawyer? If any of these pertain to your or your child’s case, then it’s a good idea to try and find a lawyer to help.

How Will A Lawyer Help Me?

Your lawyer is your advocate — they are representing your interests. They can make strategic decisions, such as what evidence to present or who should testify on your behalf. But you are the only person who can make a decision about settlement. Your lawyer can go into more detail about the best choices and possible outcomes in a settlement and trial. And if at any point you have concerns that your lawyer isn’t representing you well, you can always talk to them about what they are or are not doing. You also have the option to choose to speak with another lawyer.

What Should I Ask My Lawyer?

Once you find a lawyer, don’t be intimidated — they are there to help you. Interview them so you find out what their past experience in dating abuse is and get a feel for whether they’ll be a good fit for your situation. Make sure they’re able to explain things clearly to you, and take your time explaining everything you think is relevant about the case. What are your concerns? What are your goals for the case? What is their strategy for helping you accomplish these goals? What can you do to prepare for the case? What will they do to prepare for the case? Have they or other members of their firm represented your partner or anyone associated with your partner? How many domestic violence or sexual assault cases have they handled, and how many of those were contest, appealed, or went to trial? What types of decisions does the judge usually make? How can they help protect your children?

If it helps, write it down, using bullet points or a list to help organize your thoughts. This way, you’ll be able to focus on the most important elements of your case, and your lawyer will be able to read and understand what you’re trying to explain. Remind your lawyer if they forget something, or ask them to go over how they’ll present your case to the judge.

What if I Can’t Afford a Lawyer?

If you cannot afford a lawyer, there are lawyer referral services that can help you find one with experience in the field of domestic violence. Make sure to let the referral service know that you need a lawyer with this kind of experience, as not all referral services will know the right lawyer to recommend to you.

Moreover, you may be eligible or able to secure legal aid. or free or low-cost legal help.  Or, if they cannot provide help, they may be able to refer you to a lawyer in your area who can take your case pro bono or on a sliding scale. Check with domestic violence or sexual assault organizations for resources. If you live in the Washington DC area, are suffering from dating abuse, and you or your child is between the ages of 12-24, Break the Cycle offers free legal services.