Sample Interview Questions
Before beginning the question and answer portion of an initial interview, the attorney might find it helpful to reassure the client that she/he can tell the lawyer anything and everything about the relationship, including any possible sexual abuse, and that everything she/he says will be kept in strictest confidence.
Has your partner ever slapped, pushed, kicked, shoved, or harmed you in any way during your marriage/relationship? If yes, list the chronological history.
NOTE: It is important to use specific terms such as "pushed" and "shoved" and not the general term "domestic violence," because many who are involved in abusive relationships do not recognize their experiences as abusive.
Did your partner ever threaten to hurt you or the children? If so, describe.
Has your partner ever threatened to hurt you, your children or himself/herself if you leave?
Did your partner ever call you names, demean you, encourage you to be economically dependent, threaten to take the children from you, show extreme jealousy, or threaten suicide?
Have you ever needed medical attention as a result of abuse? What type? From whom? Where and when?
Obtain from the client a medical release to secure a copy of the records.
Did your partner ever use or threaten to use a weapon, e.g., gun, knife, or other instrument of attack on you, your children, your friends, relatives, himself/herself, pets, or property? If yes, describe the incidents. How often did this happen?
Have you and/or your partner received counseling as a result of problems in your relationship?
This background information, if any, can be helpful in establishing a history of abuse.
Has your partner ever threatened to take the children away and never let you see them again? If the children are not with you now, where are they?
Have you or has your partner ever slapped, pushed, kicked, shoved, abandoned (left), or harmed your children? Have you or your partner ever inappropriately touched your children, had oral/anal/vaginal intercourse with your children, forced children to watch intercourse of yourselves or others, forced children to read or watch sexually explicit materials, or pose in sexually explicit ways for selves, pictures, neighbors or friends?
NOTE: It is important to ask specific questions because people involved in child abuse often do not define their actions as such.)
If yes to any of the above, how have they been abused? Has it been reported?
Where are you staying right now? If not at home, do you wish to return? Under what circumstances? With what protection? Do you feel safe?
If you are unable to return home safely in the near future, what are your living plans?
Has your partner destroyed or threatened to destroy property?
How dangerous would you say your partner is? Does he/she have weapons?
Explore this, as the level of violence is often minimized: Do you feel he/she will harm you, your children, family or friends? Are you afraid of him?
Is your partner over-controlled or impulsive?
To your knowledge has your partner ever been arrested?
Does your partner have a history of or has he/she been assessed for mental illness or drug/alcohol abuse?
Have you or anyone ever called the police because of domestic violence, including harassment, destruction of property, assault, battery, trespass, or stalking? How many times? Where? What were the results? Did you sign a complaint? Who was the officer?
Have formal criminal charges for domestic violence ever been filed? Where? When? With what results?
Have you ever filed for a restraining order against your partner? When? Where? Did he/she obey?
Have you ever filed for a divorce or legal separation from your partner? When? Where? With what results?
Have you ever separated from your partner before without any legal action?
Have you sought the assistance of a shelter program? Counselor? When? Where? What services?
Are you aware of services available to victims of domestic violence in your community?
Do you think it is safe for the children to see their father/mother at this time? Under what circumstances?
Do you have access to any evidence of the abuse you have suffered? Photos? Police reports? Medical reports? Torn clothing? Weapons? Statements of family, friends, neighbors, co-workers?
What is your financial situation? That of your partner?
Do you know what type of legal action you wish to take? Criminal prosecution? Restraining order? Divorce? Damage action? Agency complaint?