Representing Survivors Experiencing Trauma and Other Mental Health Challenges

by Mary Malefyt Seighman, Erika Sussman, Olga Trujillo | November 10, 2012

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The handbook was created for the overall purpose of providing guidance to attorneys so that they can help survivors achieve their civil legal objectives when trauma or other mental health challenges are a potential factor in a case. We do this in two ways. First, it intends to help attorneys identify when trauma may be an issue so that they can partner with the survivor to craft personal and legal strategies that help her to stay safe, avoid circumstances that can potentially trigger the effects of trauma, and develop plans for when triggers do arise. Second, it offers guidance on each step of a civil case related to the possibility of the opposing party or others raising issues about the mental health of the survivor. The handbook is intended to help attorneys anticipate with their clients the kinds of mental health-related case theories and evidence that the opposing party may attempt to procure and introduce, respond to such attempts, deal with custody evaluators, decide whether to negotiate or proceed to trial, choose and utilize experts, cross-examine the opposing party, and craft a closing argument.