What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You: The importance of family violence screening tools for family law practitioners

Recommendations

  1. Provincial and territorial law societies implement a requirement for universal FV screening for FLPs.
  2. Screening be conducted using a standard two-step approach. A short tool should be used initially with all new clients to quickly identify FV red flags, followed by a longer tool to be used with clients if red flags have emerged during the initial screening or if the client has self-disclosed the presence of FV (See Appendix C for a list of proposed questions for the two tools).
  3. The screening tool include a working definition of the term “family violence”.
  4. The screening tool include basic information for the FLP about risk assessment and safety planning.     
  5. Further work be undertaken to develop culturally specific screening tools. In particular, unique tools should be developed for use with Indigenous, newcomer, and older clients as well as for clients with disabilities. These tools should be developed by, or in close collaboration with, those communities.
  6. All family law practitioners receive training in how to administer and score FV screening tools, including training in the appropriate follow-up where they encounter a positive screen.
  7. Training be provided for FLPs that is developed and delivered by FV experts who also have expertise in family law, that is free of cost to lawyers, and that provides CPD hours upon successful completion.
  8. A pilot study be undertaken to test both training and screening tools in diverse regions and communities of Canada.
  9. Provincial and territorial legal aid programs cover the cost of FV screening when they issue certificates, or in other ways provide financial assistance to family law clients.
  10. Further funded research be undertaken to continue to enrich knowledge related to FVSTs in the family law context. This research should address, but not be limited to: screening for cases of mutual abuse; screening for child abuse in the family law context; the strengths and weakness of both practitioner- and self-administration of tools; cultural considerations, and the impact on wording and format of screening tools; and, the effectiveness/impact of FV screening by FLPs.
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