The Domestic Abuse Committee of the Family Law Section of the Minnesota State Bar Association has published a new resource for domestic abuse victims entitled “A Domestic Violence Victim’s Guide to Getting a Good Attorney.” With the permission of the State Bar Association, here is what the Committee has to say:

Choosing an attorney is perhaps the most important decision you will make. Going through any court process alone without an attorney can be very difficult. The law and the rules of court can be very complicated.

You are likely dealing with upsetting facts that may make handling a legal process even harder. Many times the advice and/or representation of an experienced attorney may make the difference between a good and bad outcome.

Decisions made by a court can be permanent or very hard to change. Even though hiring an attorney now might seem like more than you can afford, failing to get legal advice may mean you do not get the financial support you need and deserve.

Note that even if you have a domestic abuse advocate, you should still consult an attorney, because attorneys and advocates serve very different roles. It is also a very good idea to have a domestic abuse advocate working with you and your lawyer.

Some people may be able to go ahead without an attorney in cases like Orders for Protection. But even if you think that you can handle the court hearing by yourself, discussing your case with an attorney may help you decide whether to hire an attorney.

There are circumstances under which you may especially need a lawyer:

  • Legal papers have been served on you;
  • An agency has taken (or has threatened to take) your children;
  • Confronting the abuser in the courtroom or otherwise is unsafe or intimidating;
  • The other side has a lawyer;
  • You or the abuser are immigrants or may have immigration-related problems or complications;
  • You may face eviction or lose your job because of the actions of the abuser;
  • You and the abuser live in separate states or one of you is on a reservation or in the military;
  • Your case involves property, financial issues, or child custody;
  • The legal issues involved are confusing;
  • You operate a business out of your home;
  • The legal matter is only one of the difficult issues you have to deal with at this point in time
    and you need somebody to take it over; and
  • Losing would drastically change your life.