Aida Montanaro | Keys to Understanding the Domestic Violence Issues in Family Law Cases

We’re excited to welcome Aida Montanaro as our guest today on the “Texas Family Law Insiders” podcast. From the beginning of her law career Aida was seeking ways to help victims of domestic violence. Prior to opening her own practice she worked as an assistant DA and supervisor at her local district attorney’s office. 

Now at her firm, Montanaro Law Firm, in Brownville, she works at the intersection between immigration, domestic violence, and family law. As she approaches a milestone year in her law career, she sits down with us to talk about domestic violence issues in family law, as well as: 

  • How to use the power and control wheel to help your client
  • Establishing and proving a domestic violence custody case 
  • Cost-effective ways to bring expert witnesses into domestic violence cases
  • And more

Mentioned in this episode:


Aida Montanaro: It’s always important to remember that we can advocate for our client heavily and still do our job while making sure that the children in that situation are safe. So that everybody in that situation is safe.

Voiceover: You’re listening to the Texas Family Law Insiders podcast, your source for the latest news and trends in family law in the state of Texas. Now, here’s your host attorney Holly Draper.

Holly Draper: Today we’re excited to welcome Aida Montanaro as our guest on the Texas Family Law Insiders podcast. Aida is the owner of Montanaro law firm in Brownsville, Texas. Prior to opening her firm in 2016, Aida spent several years working as an assistant district attorney and supervisor in the domestic violence unit at our local district attorney’s office. Her practice focuses on contested child custody cases and the intersection between immigration, domestic violence and family law. In her free time, Aida buy, sells and flips investment properties and is an active member of multiple book clubs. She wasn’t born in Texas, but as she likes to say she got here as fast as she could. Thank you so much for joining us today.

Aida: Thank you for having me.

Holly: So why don’t you start out by just telling us a little bit about your background?

Aida: Sure. I grew up in Brownsville, Texas. So it’s a town on the very southern tip of Texas and I’ve lived here pretty much until I graduated from high school. So I left town to attend UT Austin, where I obtained my bachelor’s in political communications. And then I went off to St. Mary’s and San Antonio, where I participated in a joint Master’s/JD program. So I have my JD and a Master’s in international relations with a focus on security policy and national security issues. Next year is my 10th year anniversary of practicing law. So I’m a little excited about that milestone.

Holly: Congratulations.

Aida: Thank you.

Holly: So how would you describe your current practice?

Aida: Um, I’m a solo practitioner and about 90% of my practice is focused on family law cases. So everything from the uncontested simple divorce, to the complex divorces involves being multiple properties, businesses, custody battles, and everything in between. So that includes a lot of CPS work, adoptions, etc, things like that. I also do U visas T visas and VAWAs for undocumented victims of human trafficking, domestic violence and other major crimes through a collaboration with the Mexican consulate. So a big, big, big chunk of my work is domestic violence and family law.

Holly: So today, we are going to start off by discussing issues involving domestic violence. And I know you have a lot of experience through working at the DA’s office in that area. So why don’t you tell us a bit about your experience in the domestic violence unit, and let us know kind of how that has impacted your family law career?

Aida: I started at the DA’s office, down here locally in Cameron County back in 2012. And so we had a new DA coming in. And there was a big scandal with the prior DA and so our new DA that came in said, You know what, I want to make domestic violence a priority, because he had spoken to our local women’s shelter and just kind of the community. And we knew that we needed a unit that focus specifically on these types of cases, because they’re very unique. And so he came in, he asked me if I was interested in joining his team, we hit the ground running. And I gotta say he did everything from a public relations campaign where we reached out to the community.

Went out into the schools to talk to kids about dating violence and getting them started early. Because you know, prevention is key. We rethought the entire idea of taking affidavits of non prosecution, because that’s something that a lot of domestic violence cases entail. And so in the past, you know, cases were just dismissed with this affidavit of non prosecution. And that that kind of helps change the tide, as well as providing officers and ADAs is about training regarding kind of the red flags and cycle of violence and how to treat victims and how to treat offenders when you run into the situation. And so when I left the DA’s office, and I came into public practice, or private practice, I started seeing that there was other ways in which I could help the victims.

As an ADA, you’re helping them on their criminal matter, and you’re trying to resolve that for them. But there’s this multi disciplinary approach that we have to take as as attorneys in private practice and family law. And so you start forging those relationships with marriage counselors, and counselors for domestic violence cases. Or for children that have grown up in homes where there is either fraught with a lot of friction or domestic violence, things like that. So starting at the DA’s definitely gave me that perspective that I needed to understand that not every divorce is the same and that there are very unique issues that sometimes need to be handled very delicately.

Holly: So one of the things you mentioned was about recognizing red flags. That’s something I think as Family Lawyers, we really need to be good at doing as well. Because, you know, oftentimes, you’ll hear a lawyer say, there’s three sides to every story, right? His hers and the truth. And being able to recognize those red flags can really help us dig deep and figure out what story is the truth? Or where does the truth lie between the two stories? So what are some red flags that you think family lawyers should be looking out for?

Aida: So one of the things that I like to look at and kind of keep presence of mind when I’m discussing these domestic violence cases with with potential clients or with victims, is having that power and control wheel image, and I don’t know how many people are familiar with it, but the power and control wheel was developed to kind of help explain the different types of family violence. So it’s all based on power and control, you know, so financial control, and control over a person’s autonomy. So when they give different examples, if, you know, just as an example, if there’s a male offender, saying to the female, you know, you can’t go with your family, go with your friends, you don’t have any, you know, financial liberties, or financial freedoms, all those isolating the victims, things like that, those are all red flags.

And, you know, it might not be the physical violence, but there is a lot more to domestic violence than just physical violence. And so when I interview my clients, I mean, I’ve been looking at that power and control wheel for years, I have it memorized. But it helps to have that wheel in front of you, and you kind of start getting these behaviors. And these examples that they may not even realize is domestic violence. But the reason it matters is because there’s that power dynamic. And that affects how we how we handle these family law cases and what route we take with them.

Holly: So I haven’t heard of this power and control wheel before. Let’s talk a little bit more about that, do you know where our listeners can go to find find it or to find out more about it?

Aida: Actually, you know, I have a feeling if you just Google like power and control wheels, you’ll come up with an image. And it’s like I said, a big circle. And it talks about the different areas. And I wish I had kind of looked this up, I should have probably looked this up right before them. But it has a different sections of financial, emotional and familial types of control. And then it gives different examples in each one.

So if you’re not familiar with it, you kind of get this image, and you’re able to kind of put the picture together. And it’s really helpful also to victims, because they’re able to see that they’re not crazy, these behaviors, these, what they were going through is something that’s very legitimate. And so we have to be able to give them that power to know that, okay, I’m a victim, but I’m moving forward, I’m able to take this case on instead of having me continue to be the victim in that role, you as the attorney serve as that buffer.

Holly: Do you often see the aggressors, or the perpetrators using multiple areas of that power and control wheel, or does it tend to focus in one or two?

Aida: Oh, you know, obviously, like everything, there’s a, there’s a range, right, and so you have the one time instances of violence, and that’s, although obviously nobody condones violence, right? That’s very different. This one time instance of violence from a pattern of violence of domestic violence. And that’s what what I’m talking about with these cases, right. And so when we see these we normally see it’s the physical, but before the physical came about, usually there’s a pattern of evolution from isolating them from family and friends and from neighbors, not allowing them to have jobs, not allowing them to have any financial freedoms and tying them to, to that person to the abuser, making them dependent.

And those, like I said, those are all financial, because that’s mostly what I see down here with my clientele. But there’s also, for example, immigration. So they threaten you with deportation, and they try to bring that up in custody cases. And luckily, a lot of the judges so we have down here are local, and they understand our community is is very unique. It’s very different. We’re a border town, and so you can’t come in as an offender and say, you know, yeah, I offended or yes, I have this this criminal record, which just happened to me several times, and they say, but the victim is here undocumented. So she committed a crime to and they’re not receptive, thankfully to that argument. But that is an argument that they make, and that’s a very legitimate concern that victims have.

Holly: And I’m sure that keeps a lot of victims, particularly in your area from coming forward. Because they have that fear.

Aida: Definitely, definitely.

Holly: So as Family Lawyers, we see the whole spectrum of family violence cases. Do you have any Advice for attorneys and how to tell when a family violence claim is legitimate. And when it might not be?

Aida: Yes, so that is the big question. Because obviously, there is, that’s one of my favorite sayings. There’s her side, his side and the truth, right, there’s always three sides to the story. And so I’ve found that, besides doing the initial client intake and talking to the victim, we really also need other forms of evidence that we can present to the judge. Because obviously then it’s going to turn into a he said, she said, right. So I always asked, you know, have you been to the shelter? Have you been to the women’s shelter? Have you ever called to obtain services from them? Have you obtained counselling anywhere? Have you gone to any doctor’s office or hospitals after an assault, to get checked out, and you’d be surprised, they don’t bring up this information until you ask a lot of the time.

They don’t think it’s relevant, or they forget, or, you know, they’re going through the civil process of a divorce, that they don’t even put together, the fact that the divorce and the domestic violence are so intertwined, that there’s so many issues that we do need to know that would help us in cases. So I start from there, and I tell them, you know, is their family, friends, neighbors, stepchildren, anybody that has witnessed anything? Not just that. I usually ask about any police call outs. So not necessarily convictions or any, you know, arrests for domestic violence, just any police call outs.

And, you know, you can get information from there through open records requests. And then you’ll see sometimes really great reports that obviously show you something happened, and there was some assault, but sometimes the officers feel like, you know what, she doesn’t wanna press charges. So I’m not going to move forward on this, or for whatever reason, the DA’s office doesn’t prosecute for whatever it is. But that report in and of itself can be great evidence for a custody case, for example. Or divorce, any divorce, any restrictions on on possession and access, things like that.

Holly: So obviously, if you’re trying to pursue a case, a custody case, and you’re alleging domestic violence, those police reports, arrest records, things like that are excellent evidence. But we all know that a lot of domestic violence victims don’t call the police, they keep it a secret, they don’t want him to lose his job, they don’t want her to, you know, be kicked out of whatever organization. The fear leads people not to report it. Not to call the police. Not to have the person arrested. And that’s where it can really be difficult as an attorney, how do we A establish that this was actually really happening? And B how do we prove it? The court?

Aida: Yes, that is that is a really good point. It is. It is difficult, the majority of cases don’t have police reports. And you’re right. I ask it, because sometimes there are sometimes there’s not a lot of the time there’s not. And so that’s when you, you know, domestic violence is often said it’s something that occurs in the home, right. And so nobody wants to let people into their home. Nobody wants to let people know what’s going on in their home. So already, it’s a crime that occurs behind closed doors for the most part. But I’ve found that in more egregious cases, sometimes the offender can’t control their ire even in public. And so there’ll be incidents, I’ll have clients tell me where there was this incident once when we went to, you know, go drop off the rent, and we got into it outside, and he pushed me and this and that, and, okay, was a manager on site?

Usually, there is some kind of public outburst. And sometimes there will be witnesses. Sometimes there’s not, you know, but I think if I, what I try to do is I try to prep my client, and I tell them, look, where I’m going to ask you some very difficult questions, it’s going to be he said, she said, we’re going to go in front of the judge. And a lot of the time, the judges tend to a lot of leeway, because they understand that it’s something that occurs in the home, and then we have the offender come and give his version. But you know, you’d be surprised a lot of the time, the offenders dig their own hole. And so that kind of explodes in their face.

Holly: Oftentimes, in custody cases, the violence is just between the parents, and it’s not specifically targeted at the children. And obviously, having children witness domestic violence with their parents is not good. But in my experience, a lot of judges seem to think that if we can just separate the parents, the issue is resolved. What are your thoughts on that?

Aida: Oh, you know, I tell, sometimes we need to inform just kind of our jurors or the bench or just the community in general, about what happens when you separate a couple that has that there’s domestic violence within that relationship. And you know, 70% of cases of domestic violence where somebody murders a partner is when they leave so when they actually separate that’s the most dangerous time it’s not when they’re in the relationship. And so a lot of the time I have clients that come in, and they’re victims of violence, and they’re wanting to proceed with a divorce, but they’re still living with their partner, that’s a very common.

And so because they’re living there, they’re scared of that time when they’re served with a TRO. Or their served the divorce papers, and they’re well aware that that separation is is what causes the problem. So every time that a judge issues an order, in my cases where there, where there is domestic violence, and the parties are in the process of separating. Literally at the temporary orders hearing, I tell the judges, you know, we need to put a lot of safeguards in place and make sure that, you know, they’re meeting at a public place that has cameras, where they do the exchange with the children, if if we can’t get a competent adult to just take over and do the exchange to minimize the, the, you know, the parents running into each other.

I try to use a lot of the communication apps between the parents so we can kind of see the dynamics, see what’s going on and keep an eye on the conversations. It’s just it’s a dangerous time. And I think that remembering that makes things makes it more important, because it’s so easy to think that we’re separating them, the problem ends there. That’s when the problem sometimes really begins really begins to ramp up.

Holly: In a lot of family law courts, mediation is mandatory before you can have a final trial. How does domestic violence play to that?

Aida: So there is a provision in the family code that talks about mediation, and I believe it’s I was reading about it the other day, 6.602 around there. And it states that there, if there is domestic violence, and the court orders mediation, the party can request a hearing. And then in the hearing, there’s a preponderance of the evidence. Whether they believe that there was domestic violence or not. And if they believe that there was and the judge can say, okay, you know, what, we’re gonna scrap mediation and not make it mandatory, because a lot of judges are making mediation mandatory. And it’s understandable in a lot of cases. But when we look at power and control in the dynamic between the victim and the abuser, you’re putting them in a situation where there’s still that that power struggle.

And obviously, the legislature felt that that was a good reason to not have mandatory mediation. If there is, if the judge does find that he’s going to order mediation anyway, after having that hearing, then he can still put safeguards in place, like making sure that there are restrictions. For example, I’ve had a judge do this where we meet at a neutral ground, and then the abuser or the person that was alleged to have committed violence has to leave the mediation first and be completely gone. And so then the opposing party can come out and then leave, and we won’t have any issues in the parking lot or anything like that, which sometimes happens. So there are some safeguards in place.

Holly: Do you find in your domestic violence cases that you still do mediate regularly or do you skip that step?

Aida: Unfortunately, we do still have to mediate. Luckily, during the pandemic, it’s been a lot easier because it’s through zoom, they don’t have to be in the same room or in the same building or in the same city. Right. But even when we were doing them in person, I make sure that if it’s a case that has those kinds of issues, I let opposing counsel know already, because they tend to know that that’s, you know, that’s where we’re going with this and I say, hey, you know, what can we make sure that your client leaves first or mine leaves first or just work? And everybody’s been super great and helpful with that. So, you know, we are still doing mediation, but there’s a few cases where the judges found that it would do more harm than good.

Holly: Yeah, I’m a huge proponent of mediation. And even in domestic violence cases, I can really see where you know, the benefits of getting it resolved and moving on with your life might definitely outweigh having to go have a trial with this person in the same room as you. So I kind of see both sides of it. I’m hopeful that zoom mediations are here to stay for one thing. And hopefully, that can be an additional level of separation between the parties to allow mediation to be effective. I also think, you know, my experience, if the mediator is aware that there’s a domestic violence allegation, they’re usually very understanding about, you’re not needing a court order to have people arrive at staggered times, or make sure that one party has left the premises before the other party leaves. So you know, I certainly, even though the code may allow you to not have to mediate, I almost always still recommend it for clients.

Aida: I agree. I agree it, there can be sufficient restrictions in place to make it safe. And I think that the most important thing above all is having an attorney that’s your advocate, if you’re a victim because that’s really where it comes about you are that barrier between them and the abusive partner. And so becoming their advocate becomes very important and also gives them the power to say, you know what, I’m not under this person’s control anymore.

Holly: Exactly. So, transitioning more to trial, do you find that experts are often needed in domestic violence cases?

Aida: Are they needed? Yes, are they used? Not as often as they should be, right. But obviously, there’s a lot of, there’s a lot of constraints. So there’s time and financial restraints, and a lot of clients don’t have the funds to hire an expert for cases like this. But I found that if, for example, the client has been going to counseling, you can bring in the counselor, they’d be happy to testify, sometimes you can have, like, for example, here, we have our battered women’s shelter. And they have a ton of advocates with years of experience. And so they’ve gone to different trainings to expert witness trainings, where they can explain the power and control wheel, to the general public, and even to the judges, because not everybody is familiar with it. It’s not something that you see, or you learn about every day.

You know, I learned about it years into my, you know, career in domestic violence, right. And so if you have those community members, either the shelter workers or the advocate or the director of the center, or a counselor, or anything like that, they’re they’re very much experts. And they can talk about this dynamic and why victims do certain things, why they exhibit certain behaviors and why abusers exhibit certain behaviors. So they’re definitely underused. But I think they’re a great tool, especially if you can find somebody in your community, like in those shelters or in those centers that you can prep and just kind of work with. And it would be a lot more cost effective and a lot more helpful for your case.

Holly: So I hadn’t heard about that, that shelters have advocates that you can have as expert witnesses, that’s excellent information. Do those advocates usually charge for their services? Or is that something they’re doing as part of their nonprofit?

Aida: So when I was at the DA’s office, we my boss at the time, and he’s still the current DA in Cameron County, sent me to a training on strangulation. So specifically, prosecuting strangulation cases, because those are amongst the most difficult cases to prosecute, to prove, like how you prove impeding breath, you know, it’s very subjective. And the community doesn’t understand everything that goes about everything that a prosecutor needs to prove in a domestic violence case. They feel like it has to be something outright egregious. And sometimes just proving, you know, your the specific elements of your case, even if you prove them all, are not enough.

And so when I went to that expert witness training, I talked to the shelter, and I said, look, I can prep you as a witness, I can ask you the questions that you know, are going to be asked, and all I need to do is for you to run down your expertise, and then just talk about domestic violence in general, it doesn’t even have to be about this specific case. You know what I mean? It depends how you want to use them, because you can use them both ways. I found that they’re very open to it. They haven’t charged they don’t charge as far as I know, they’re nonprofit. The only issue is that just the timing of it, right.

And so if you have trial, you don’t know if it’s gonna go tomorrow or next month or next year. And sometimes they push it until the last minute, and then they have to appear right. And so kind of scheduling that, just like with any expert is, is the difficulty. But if you build a good relationship with, with your shelter with your local shelter, or your local center, or even even talk to the advocate to the district attorney’s office, because different district attorney’s offices also have for the most part, crime victim advocates, and they would also be great people to be able to point you to different resources that that can be your experts in your cases.

Holly: CPS can also play a role often in cases involving domestic violence. How does it impact a family law case if CPS gets involved?

Aida: So you know, that’s tough because I do a lot of CPS work. And one of the policies of the Department of CPS is to remove children or they consider that children are in danger if they’ve witnessed domestic violence. So let’s say for example, dad assaults mom and the children are around and the children see. They opened up a CPS case, not just against dad, but against mom as well. And that system places just the blame partly on the victim, which we know for many reasons why you know, why they don’t leave or why they stay. And so I think that that becomes a big issue because it comes at odds with what’s in the best interest of the children. Because a lot of the time the children and you know doing I also do a lot of ad litem and guardian ad litem work with CPS, they’ll tell you like I I’m just scared when they fight. I want to be with, you know, the person that’s not abusive.

They will tell you straight up, they’re not in danger with that person. But the department feels that they’re in danger because of the environment. And that’s understandable. With your family law case, I found that if we talk to if we have a good enough relationship with the department, we can merge these cases together. So we can say you know, this judge wants these restrictions. CPS caseworkers want these restrictions. Let’s work together and find out what we can do to make sure that not just the children are good, and they’re in a good environment, but that the victim is also safe, because there’s that disconnect within the agency of domestic violence victims and the role that they play in the victimization.

Holly: Right. And in my experience, CPS will often kind of bow out if they know that there’s an ongoing SAPCR or divorce proceeding, involving these same parties, but they can still be a very helpful resource in terms of presenting your case. If CPS is investigating it, and what did they find? And what did they you know, what do they believe was happening can definitely help on either side, depending on what CPS feels? Because they’re kind of a neutral party in the whole thing?

Aida: Oh, yeah, I definitely agree. It’s, they’ve been so helpful in some cases where maybe they just have a safety plan. And it’s not a removal, and it wasn’t enough to meet the removal grounds. But if we have, for example, a contested temporary orders hearing. And we’re discussing issues of violence and why we feel that, you know, the offender shouldn’t get joint custody of the child. We could have a CPS worker come in, and they have their reports, they have their notes, they’re great about, you know, providing the court with information. And they are they’re pretty neutral. They just focus on the effect of the children. And sometimes they do, as I mentioned, they blame the victim because there’s that victimization role. But for the most part, it’s been very helpful to have them appear in court, when there’s cases with domestic violence, and the judges tend to take their testimony, they tend to have it weigh heavily.

Holly: I agree completely. So what advice would you give to an attorney who’s representing the victim of domestic violence?

Aida: A lot of patience and a lot of compassion. Because, you know, it’s very difficult to understand that situation. And it’s very difficult to understand the many reasons why victims don’t leave. And so sometimes I would find that when I first started taking on domestic violence cases, I took it on as a, you know, well, you need to do this, and this, and this, and this is your path out, and I would kind of I’m like, I’m helping them, I’m outlining this path for them to get out of this situation, without sitting back and listening and saying, you know, victims are in different parts of this process, you know. Some are not ready to leave, for whatever reason it is. And so my job is to make sure that they’re safe, that the children are safe, and that they have some kind of safety plan, where in the future, if they choose to leave, you know, these are the resources.

Hey, you know, what, this is a woman’s shelter. Have you been to counseling? This is the clinic that works with people that are indigent, that need assistance with this or that. Sometimes clients and this is, unfortunately, very common, they’ll come in and they’re not ready to file for divorce. They just want to know what their rights are, if they would have any rights, if there were a divorce, and they’re in situations where they’re, they’re victims of violence. And so providing them with that information, and saying, hey, you know, what, regardless of what anybody says, like, it’s your relationship, you had great times with this person, I’m sure at some point, and you share children together.

And that’s difficult. It’s difficult to, to leave that relationship. But if you do decide to, here are those resources. And so, as an attorney, you know, sometimes it’s frustrating when they don’t follow our advice. But we have to understand that domestic violence cases play on those very emotions, it’s already there, emotions are raw, you know, you see Family Law Attorneys, our clients emotions are raw a lot of the time. And so you add in violence into the mix, and emotional abuse or physical abuse or whatever it may be. And it just augments that experience for them. So a lot of compassion, a lot of patience.

Holly: On the flip side, what advice would you give to an attorney who’s representing the alleged perpetrator of domestic violence?

Aida: So I’ve been on this side as well. And so one of the things that I try to tell my colleagues and I told my clients is, you know, if you don’t want to tell me what happened, that’s fine. But if I feel that something happened, and I have, for example, I have a report and I’m irrefutable proof that somebody was an abuser. I tried to talk to him about the core causes of that. Okay, what happened? Is this a pattern? Have a policeman called same kind of questions, I would ask the victim, but then have you ever thought about taking bip classes?

So bip is a batterers intervention and prevention program developed by the state. And studies show that it’s it’s one of the most effective programs, preventing recidivism in domestic violence. So it’s aimed specifically at perpetrators, right? So I’m a big proponent of that, and I tell my clients, you know, look heart to heart, like if this is something that you feel you need, and you’re going to go and talk in this group of guys or girls or whoever’s in the same situation, as you as abusers. This may help you be a better parent to your child. Obviously, you know, not all our clients are going to take our advice and are going to listen to what we’re saying.

But I make sure that you know, I it’s always important to remember that we can advocate for our client heavily and still do our job, while making sure that the children in that situation are safe. So that everybody in that situation is safe. So my clients lead, we’re going to, for example, with the, if it’s an alleged perpetrator of domestic violence, I’m like, look, they want include these restrictions. But if you’re not going to violate them, what is the problem? So let’s put them in there. And they’re going to be mutual. And so you know, things like that, and having that heavy heart to heart with them. And I think that’s, that’s, that’s very important to remember.

Holly: So you mentioned the bip classes, the only time I’ve really seen that being included in an order has been in the CPS context. Is that something that private parties can voluntarily choose to participate in? Or do they have to be going through either a criminal court or a CPS litigation?

Aida: So and they can do it through criminal court, and obviously, they’re paying, you know, it’s like $25, a class for the 24 classes, or whatever it is, right? Because it’s a weeks long course, it’s very intense, intensive. If they actually do it through CPS, CPS pays for it. So they don’t have to pay anything, which is great. But if the party is not in a criminal matter, and they’re not in a CPS case, they can go and sign up. And there’s, you know, I don’t want to say every community has somebody that teaches bip, but like, our community is pretty small. And we have women that teach the bip classes, and they’re certified, and they have everybody trained, and so they have people sign up voluntarily.

Now, as the attorney representing an alleged perpetrator, I always push for it, if I feel that they’re going to prove their their case of domestic violence, hey, then do it, what do you have to lose, you’re gonna learn something, you know. But if you’re representing the victim of violence, and the opposing party, as you know, anti taking bip because I can’t afford it, it’s too expensive or whatever. Obviously, it’s up to the judge at that point. But I think depending on the egregiousness of it, and the history of the domestic violence, I found some judges that that do order it in family violence cases, and it’s great, I mean, it’s worth a try, it’s definitely worth a try in cases with repeat domestic violence.

Holly: So I would think, then that might be something that would be good to include in a request for temporary orders, or certainly in a petition to have the judge order it if the parties not voluntarily willing to complete it.

Aida: Definitely, especially if you have a case where you’re taking on temporary orders, because the offender got arrested, because of a DV case, you know, if he does have to do bip it’s not going to be until they plead out if they plead out, and that’s going to take a while. Your divorce case is probably going to be done by then. And so you can request the court to have them do bip and then convince the criminal attorney if they have a criminal attorney, you know what, it’s only going to help him in his criminal case. So have them take this class anyway. So yeah, that’s definitely a good time to ask for it.

Holly: Do you recommend seeking an amicus attorney or an ad litem and DV cases?

Aida: Yes, but, it’s only as good as the amicus or ad litem is right. So if they’re not well versed in these issues, then it really serves no purpose, right. Luckily, luckily, if if we get an amicus or ad litem, that’s great. And that understands kind of the process, they are really helpful in setting these restrictions to make sure that the kids are safe in a situation or that the, you know, the victim is safe. The only issue, of course, is down here, and I’m sure everywhere. But down here we see that intersection of domestic violence and poverty.

Because we have an a community, that’s a very high level of poverty. And so with an amicus or an ad litem come the costs that come associated, right, and so most judges split it half and half, even if the victim has no job has no resources. And the alleged perpetrator, you know, has almost unlimited funds, that becomes a barrier. But if it wasn’t for the financial issue, I would ask for an amicus or ad litem in almost all of my DV cases.

Holly: We’re just about at a time. But one of the questions that I like to ask all of my guests on the podcast is this. If you could give one piece of advice to young Family Lawyers, what would it be?

Aida: Oh, I guess, appreciate every day, and what we are doing to help families every day, because I think it’s very easy to get burned out because we’re seeing people fighting and we’re seeing people that are very emotionally distraught and going through some of the worst times of their lives. And you know, as, as we know, as family law attorneys, we’ve read studies that show that the biggest loss in a person’s life is either the death in the family or a divorce. And so it’s that heavy of an impact on somebody. And when you realize you know, as a family law attorney and you’re young, you’re dealing with all these issues. It’s so easy to get burned out. Remember that they’re gonna remember this, this one moment, the rest of their lives, and they’re gonna remember how, how they got through their divorce and who helped them and what happened.

And, you know, years later, I have people that come in and tell me oh, back in the day when I got divorced, you know, my attorney was great. And they did this. And that or my attorney was horrible. You know, they didn’t understand what I was going through. And so it’s important to remember that it’s a very delicate time. It’s a very adversarial system. And I think, reminding ourselves that, you know, at the end of the day, we have to try to make sure that parents co parent as much as possible for the sake of the family unit. And keeping that I think at the forefront of our minds, makes the job a little bit easier.

Holly: I agree completely. So if our listeners would like to learn more about you, where can they go to do that?

Aida: Oh, so I guess social media. I’m on Instagram, Facebook, under my Facebook page, Montanaro Law Firm. And I also have a website. And if you google me, you’ll probably see a ton of articles on domestic violence and my work on the boards and things like that. So I’m pretty I’m pretty easy to reach anywhere on social media.

Holly: Well, thank you so much for joining us today. I certainly learned a lot of good information about domestic violence and its impact with family law. For our listeners. If you enjoyed this podcast, please take a second to leave us a review and subscribe so you can enjoy future episodes. And thanks for being here.

Aida: Thank you.

Voiceover: That Texas Family Law Insiders podcast is sponsored by the Draper Law firm. We help people navigate divorce and child custody cases and handle family law appellate matters. For more information, visit our website at

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