The steps that family/collaborative lawyers, mediators and arbitrators can take, based on informed screening to enhance client safety are explained in part 3 of this blog series. Read more about safety planning in high-risk family law cases in Part 1 and Part 2 of the series.
21. Discuss with clients the reasons for the instructions or settlement positions they give. a client may be prepared to settle for an amount that you think is unreasonable because that is what they believe will keep them safe.
22. Always take very seriously client perceptions of danger. Research shows that a client’s fear of being killed is a reliable predictor of his or her murder.
23. Know the steps to take and referrals to make if a client hints at suicidal thoughts or plans. have a resource sheet to provide to clients who are suicidal, including referrals to local agencies. Take client disclosures of suicidal thoughts or acts very seriously. take client disclosures of the other party;’s suicidal thoughts, threats or acts very seriously.
24. Know your obligations under the Rules of Professional Conduct to report any information suggesting that a person is at risk of imminent harm. (Rule 3.3-3 of the Amended Rules of Professional Conduct.)
25. Know your obligations as a mediator, arbitrator or PC under s.72 of the Child and Family Services Act to report a child at risk of harm.
26. Take appropriate steps to keep yourself safe. there are too many cases where family lawyers, mediators, and their clients have been harmed or killed and where little or no screening/safety planning was done.
27. Pay attention to and take seriously the fears, intuitions and instincts of family and friends.
28. Support both parties. If you have a concern that a party is depressed, address that concern in a supportive and positive way and seek undertaking that clients will obtain counseling and other supports. Design your process with the safety and well-being of both parties and their children in mind and do not proceed until you are satisfied that your and/or your client’s concerns have been appropriately addressed.
29. Educate clients about the harmful impact that adversarial court processes can have. When they are providing instructions to take procedural steps, ensure that you have helped them contemplate, identify and assess risks. Ask clients to consider and share with you their safety plan for the most dangerous times, including when clients are retaining counsel, having lawyer meetings, serving proceedings, four-way meetings, meditation, an arbitration hearing and the time leading up to and immediately following a court hearing.