Published: March, 2018| Gabrielle Davis

This initial domestic abuse screening guide is designed to help you identify domestic abuse and coercive controlling behaviors in family law cases. It is a simple screen that attempts to detect whether domestic abuse is or may be an issue in the case. It is not a comprehensive domestic abuse assessment guide.

You should systematically screen every adult who plays a parenting role in the case, or who has a significant relationship with a parent in the case, regardless of gender, marital status, sexual orientation, or parenting status.

Before you begin, you should explain to the person you are working with:

  1. That the professional standards that guide your work require you to look into certain issues in every case, including domestic abuse, and that knowing about any history of abuse will help you carry out your functions and fulfill your professional responsibilities;
  2.  What your specific role and function is in relation to the case, including:
    • What you were appointed, hired or referred to do;
    • What steps you plan to take to carry out your functions;
    • What you will and won’t share with the court, the opposing party, and others; and
    • Whether the information will appear in the record and/or a pleading or report.
  3. The scope and/or limits of confidentiality and your duty to report suspected child abuse and certain serious crimes.

If a person discloses domestic abuse, you should:

  1. Obtain as much information as possible in order to fully understand the context and implications of the abuse;
  2. Conduct a thorough domestic abuse risk assessment or refer the person to a qualified risk assessment specialist; and   
  3. Refer the person to a qualified domestic abuse advocate for safety planning assistance.

Remember that risk from domestic abuse is never static, that it is difficult to predict, that it can fluctuate over time, and that it often escalates once it has been disclosed and/or the parties separate. Consequently, screening for domestic abuse is not a one-time event, but should occur periodically over the course of your involvement in the case.