Safety Planning in Family Law : Part 2

The ways in which family negotiations are done is in the midst of a major shift. Family law professionals must be prepared to use a variety of tools to ensure a safe and equitable process. Part 2 of this blog series suggests more tips for safety planning in high-risk cases.

11.Ensure that the confidentiality of safety disclosures, in all processes, will be respected by the process and the person providing the process. If confidentiality of disclosures of fear, risk, violence, etc., is not maintained, clients and children could be put at risk of harm. Ensure that any mediator, parenting coordinator and mediator-arbitrator follows best practices in screening, confidentiality and safety planning.

12.Be familiar with basic safety planning guides. The services in your community for abused men and women will have safety planning resources. All family law professionals should have copies of such resources in their offices and available to clients. One excellent general resource is “Safety Planning Across Culture and Community”, published by Ending Violence Association of BC. https://www.endinqviolence.orq/files/uploads/ure and Community Manual
EVA BC Dec 9 2013.pdf

13.Be familiar with the many risk assessment resources available to victims of violence, to help them (and their lawyers) better understand the potential risk they (and their families, and/or their spouses) may be facing. For example,

14.Understand different types of violence, how to identify each, and what the implications are of such differentiated assessments. The article by Joan Kelly and Michael Johnson is an excellent resource for this purpose.

15.Be familiar with the various screening tools including their limitations.

16.Secure a working relationship with the Family Court Support Workers in your jurisdiction. Know when to refer a client or prospective client for support or counselling before, during and after a family dispute resolution process.

17.Use the court connected onsite mediators whenever possible to meet with and screen clients where there are any concerns- Use the resources in the Family Law Information Centres in all courts, including the knowledgeable Information and Referral Coordinators.

18.Understand the link between violations (however minor) of bail terms (however seemingly minor the assault) and risk of escalated assault or murder, and have a working relationship with a good criminal lawyer to whom victim clients can be referred for advice about violations of bail and restraining orders.

19.Be familiar with the resources to support men, particularly if the man appear depressed, isolated, unable to take responsibility, is blaming and critical and unsupported.

20.Discuss your risk assessment directly with the client. If you are mediator, mediator-arbitrator or parenting coordinator, discuss your concerns for each party with each party, ensuring that you maintain the confidentiality of all that they both told you and yet are still supportive of the needs and concerns that each disclosed to you in confidence. Help clients better assess their own risks and better engage in their own safety planning.

This article is excerpted from “Safety Planning in Family Law Cases: An Emerging Duty of Care for Lawyers?” by Hilary Linton