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LAWYERS AND MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONALS WORKING TOGETHER: RECONCILING THE DUTIES OF CONFIDENTIALITY AND MANDATORY CHILD ABUSE REPORTING

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conti.stephanie@gmail.com

Abstract

Lawyers are increasingly finding themselves working in conjunction with a social worker and/or a psychologist. This dynamic can be found in organizations that take a multi-disciplinary approach to the law, such as New York City's Legal Aid Society and Lawyers for Children. Collaborative law is another such example. Collaborative law is an increasing trend in family law; it provides a divorcing couple the opportunity to work with professionals from different disciplines, without being subject to the court system. While a multi-disciplinary approach to the law has the ability to maximize the value of representation, it also can create tension when inconsistent duties are imposed by conflicting professional obligations. A major area of conflict is between the lawyer's duty to maintain client confidences and the mental health professional's duty to report child abuse. This Note discusses the important policies behind these opposing duties. The Note recommends amending state child abuse and neglect laws in order to eliminate the conflict between the professions' duties and allow lawyers and mental health professionals to work together more harmoniously. Amending state child abuse and neglect laws will allow for mental health professionals working with a lawyer who represents a client the same reporting duties as lawyers in the process.

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