Civil Custody Institute for Attorneys


Understanding the Impact of Domestic Violence on Children and Parents

An understanding of the impact that exposure to domestic violence has on children and parenting is essential in order to effectively represent your client's interests in custody cases. This workshop explores this issue and provides an introduction to the Institute.

Developing Case Theory

A persuasive and well-planned case theory is the backbone of effective custody litigation. In this workshop, participants will define an effective case theory in a domestic violence case with a custody dispute and discuss how this case theory differs from a domestic violence case without a custody dispute. Participants will discuss factors and standards that judges apply to custody cases involving domestic violence. In a small group exercise, participants will analyze a scenario and identify the most important facts in this case by using the applicable statute to create and effective case theory. Participants will also observe and critique a closing argument demonstration utilizing this case theory.

Conducting Effective Client Interviews

Effective client interviewing is an essential step in the representation domestic violence victims in custody cases and it presentation unique challenges. In this workshop, participants will observe, participate in, and analyze demonstrations of client interviews, paying particular attention to potential barriers and solutions to effective communication. Participants will discuss successful client interviewing techniques and will engage in a self-analysis of their own client interviews.

Defining the Players and Their Roles

Custody cases frequently have several different people involved in the decision-making process and it is important to understand the function of all of the different players and to incorporate them into the execution of the theory of their case. In this workshop, participants define the roles of those involved in the decision-making process. Participants will practice being the judge, guardian ad litem, custody evaluator, or child's attorney in disputed custody cases involving domestic violence and apply that knowledge in preparing their case.

Obtaining Safe and Effective Visitation Orders

Visitation is cases involving domestic violence are often problematic and can create dangerous situations for clients. In this workshop, participants will identify the full range of possible visitation options in custody cases and the key points of effective visitation arrangements that may be ordered by the court. Participants will discuss how to address their client's safety and that of their children in visitation arrangements. By drafting and arguing for visitation orders, participants will develop the skills needed to increase enforceability by including detail and specificity in proposed orders.

Use and Integration of Expertise

Finding and utilizing expertise in custody cases with domestic violence, sexual assault, and/or dating violence is critical. Through small group exercises, participants will identify different types of expertise and discuss how expertise fits into case theory. Participants will also discuss how to qualify witnesses and experts and watch a demonstration of this process.

Negotiations and Settlements

Many temporary and final custody and visitation arrangements are reached through negotiation. In this workshop, participants will discuss the differences in the negotiation process when there is opposing counsel and when the batterer acting pro se. Participants will identify when negotiations are no longer an appropriate option in domestic violence cases and how to determine when negotiations have become a continuation of the abuse. Participants will identify common terms in settlements and discuss how those terms may apply differently to victims of domestic violence. In additions, participants will observe and practice negotiating tips and strategies through small and large group exercises.