The Impact of Family Violence on your Divorce

Guest: Sarah Dargatz

Episode Details

Family violence refers to many kinds of abuse committed by a member of a family, a household, or an intimate partner against another member of the family, household, or against the intimate partner.

Sarah Dargatz joins us on a very important podcast today talking about Family Violence and Intimate Partner Violence.

People facing abuse are desperate for information and Sarah tackles some really difficult questions when it comes to separation and divorce.

Episode Notes

“Anyone who thinks a child is in danger has a legal obligation to report it”

Exposure to conflict and violence changes kids brains, we must limit abuse on children.

If there is an emergency, call legal aid (no matter what your income level is) or go to the court house (duty council) immediately – this is where you can get an Emergency Protection Order EPO to protect you” and you may want to call Child and Family Services. You can get a phone number on the Legal Aid website.

Angles of Family Violence:

1.  How does it affect our outcome (ie. As it relates to parenting, ideally is there is an allegation of violence, a mental health specialist would be brought in for guidance, assessment, insight an education)

2.  How does it affect out process? Can be hard to find representation because Family Violence is a niche area.

Processes can be different when Family Violence is present. It is dangerous to make assumption about the spectrum of violence.

Look at the issues first, that helps to add clarity to the process. Sometimes people don’t want the history of abuse to be part of the public record, if that is the case there are divorce processes where it wouldn’t be. Although that process may not be the best route to go – it depends on your circumstances. Your lawyer will have an opinion on


Child and Family services protects children. They can become very involved so people need to be aware that they are inviting a strong group into their lives. They can help get a court order, help people with dangerous situations, they can do investigations. It is a big 0deal when you get them involved because they follow through. Violence can be hard to identify. There are organizations that can help, lawyers and friends and family need to listen when there is an allegation and rather than give advice, they should be pointed to the organizations on our website. It’s hard to leave relationships. Eg. The Today Centre Good quality in a lawyer for this assertiveness not aggressiveness. There is a distinct difference and a lot of

times experience in the area is really important. If money is tight legal aid would be your first phone call to see if you qualify.  Sometimes a mental health specialists would be a better use of money than a lawyer. Limited Scope services may work too. See out episode from Ken Proudman on this topic. Legal aid is a provincial organization where there are internal lawyers and also external lawyers who participate. The Gov’t subsidized the legal costs, there are no retainers, lawyers get paid less than their typical rate, it is based on people’s assets and income levels to qualify. A payment plan can be setup so people can pay their reduced rate. It is less than half the typical cost of a lawyer.

Guest Bio

Sarah Dargatz has been practicing as a family lawyer in Edmonton, Alberta since 2009. She regularly handles files in areas of family law as a litigator, mediator, and Collaborative Family Lawyer.

Sarah has experience working with clients who have been victims of family violence and was formerly the team lead of Legal Aid Alberta’s Edmonton Emergency Protection Order Program. She currently sits on the board of the Today Family Violence Help Centre.

Sarah’s takes a practical approach to most of her family law files and always looks for ways to help her clients reach an agreement. She is a member of the Association of Family and Conciliary Courts (AFCC) which brings together lawyers and mental health professionals to find ways to improve the lives of children and families through eh resolution of family conflict.



For a legal perspective, free online book:

  • Responding to Domestic Violence in Family Law, Civil Protection & Child Protection Cases, 2017 CanLIIDocs 2 by Linda C. Neilson

For professionals: find a good screening tool (talk to mental health professionals in your area – see resources from DOJ that should be forthcoming – see resources from 2019 Annual Institute of Family Law Conference)

For professionals and clients:

  • Books and resources by Bill Eddy and the “High Conflict Institute” – Ex. “BIFF”

For clients: most major cities have family violence help centers (and often more than one that offer different types of services)

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