What is a Domestic Violence Lawyer?
Domestic violence lawyers specialize in cases of violence and abuse between family and household members. Some represent the victims, seeking prosecution of the abuser and safety for the victim. Others are criminal defense lawyers, helping the person charged with domestic violence.
What Do Domestic Violence Lawyers Do for Victims?
For victims, domestic violence lawyers act as guides and advocates. They represent their clients in all legal matters and provide expert advice. They advocate for their clients’ best interests and prioritize their safety. A good lawyer is more than just an expert with advice. They provide stability and support during a challenging time. More specifically, domestic violence lawyers can:
- Communicate with the abuser’s legal team so that the victim does not need to have contact
- Get a protective order
- Help victims find a safe place to live
- File a lawsuit on behalf of the victim
- Help the victim get a divorce or child custody
- Represent the victim in court
Why Hire a Lawyer as the Victim?
As a domestic violence victim, you do not have to hire a lawyer, but it’s a good idea. There are several important benefits of working with an experienced domestic violence lawyer and advocate for victims:
- Experience and knowledge
A lawyer working in domestic violence knows the state laws and all laws that apply. They can explain your rights to you so that you can make the best choices. They also have experience standing up to abusers, which is very difficult for a victim to do alone.
- Representation in court
Going up against an abuser is difficult, but it can also be intimidating to be in court and to speak in front of a judge. It’s in your best interests to have an experienced lawyer there as your representative.
- A better outcome
If your abuser is facing criminal charges, they will have a lawyer defending them. You’ll get a better outcome if you also have a lawyer looking out for your rights and safety.
- Help with complicating factors
A domestic violence case may be simple, but there can be many complications that raise additional legal issues. These include children and custody, divorce, and shared finances. A lawyer can help you sort through it all and address each issue to your benefit.
What Do Lawyers Do for Accused Abusers?
The person accused of domestic violence faces criminal charges, which means they have a right to representation. If you have been charged, a lawyer will represent you, advise you, and build a defense. They will listen to your story and attempt to get charges dropped or reduced or get you a better sentence if you are convicted.
Choosing a Domestic Violence Lawyer
Take some time to choose a lawyer who makes you feel comfortable. They should also leave you feeling confident in their ability to help you. Line up a few options and interview them before choosing a firm or lawyer. Look for these factors important to a domestic violence case:
- They should be able to describe extensive experience working with and helping victims, with proof of positive outcomes.
- Most laws impacting domestic violence cases are at the state level. Hire an attorney that lives in your state and has years of experience there. It’s even better if they are in your community.
- Talk to lawyers about what you want to achieve to determine who can help you meet those goals.
- Look for a lawyer who is communicative and easy to reach. They should keep you up to date regularly and always explain the laws, your rights, and your options.
What if I Can’t Afford a Domestic Violence Lawyer?
If you have been charged with a crime, you have a constitutional right to representation. You can request a public defender through the court. If the judge determines your financial need is valid, an attorney will be assigned to you.
As a victim, you don’t have the same rights to representation. However, victim resources and non-profit organizations can help you find a lawyer who helps victims for free or offers reduced fees. Resources include WomensLaw.org, the Domestic Violence Legal Empowerment and Appeals Project, and the Victim Rights Law Center.
You can also check with local and regional groups that assist victims of domestic violence. Your state’s bar association can assist you as well. You should also be able to find Legal Aid offices in your area.
Working with Your Domestic Violence Lawyer
If you work with a lawyer on your domestic violence case, it’s important to be an active client. Your lawyer will do a lot of the work, but it is up to you to stay informed and make decisions. Here’s what you can do to work well with your domestic violence lawyer:
- Explain your situation and provide all the details and evidence, even if you feel embarrassed. They need this information to help you.
- Tell your lawyer what your goals are and what you hope to achieve.
- Share with them what you think the abuser’s goals are and what they expect from the case. Try to think of what they might say about you or accuse you of in an attempt to make a defense.
- Ask your lawyer what they think the outcome will be and what strategies they’ll take.
- Ask what they need from you and what you can do to be better prepared.
- Listen to your lawyer’s advice, but ultimately make the decisions yourself.
- Speak up if you aren’t clear about something or don’t like what your lawyer is doing on your behalf.
Domestic violence is a crime, and victims have a right to take legal action. Work with a domestic violence lawyer to ensure you get a better outcome for yourself and any children involved.