[Editor’s note: This post was originally published on the SOG’s civil law blog, On the Civil Side. Given its coverage of criminal law, we thought that it would be of interest to many of our readers.]
You are appointed to represent a juvenile in a delinquency proceeding. The petition alleges the juvenile assaulted his stepfather. When you meet with your client, he discloses that his stepfather has been beating him for years. This time, his stepfather went after his younger sister, and your client tried to protect her. In another case, you are hired to represent a father in a child custody action. Your client tells you that he just moved out of the home, where his baby and the baby’s mother live. He discloses that the mother has a drinking problem and frequently attacks him physically when she is intoxicated, sometimes while she is holding the baby. He also tells you that he has come home from work to find the baby is in dirty diapers and crying in the crib while the mother is passed out on the couch.
In both these scenarios, you have cause to suspect a child is being abused or neglected. Are you required to report to the county department of social services or keep your client’s communication confidential? What are the possible repercussions of your decision?