Avoiding Liability Bulletin – August 2011

… If one spouse, partner, or cohabitant intentionally strikes and injures the other, causing a physical injury, does the law in your state require that any kind of report be made? The answer is likely “yes,” if the injured spouse, partner, or cohabitant is under the age of eighteen (likely, child abuse), or if he or she is an “elder” under the elder abuse reporting law in your state. Likewise, a report may be required if the injured person is considered a “dependent adult” (or similarly titled protected person) under the law in your state of practice. But, what about those spouses, partners, or cohabitants who are not in any of those categories?

In California, for example, the law does not require a report by the psychotherapist because of the injury inflicted by one spouse, partner, or cohabitant against the other. Several of the mental health professional associations successfully fought a legislator’s effort to require such reports of domestic violence and other abuse or injury inflicted upon an adult. The mandatory reporting law regarding such abuse applies only to those practitioners who provide medical services for a physical condition. Additionally, there are other limitations in the law regarding who has to make such reports, based primarily upon the setting in which the practitioner works.

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Richard Leslie

Richard S. Leslie is an attorney and acknowledged expert on the interrelationship between law and the practice of marriage and family therapy and psychotherapy. Most recently, he was a consultant to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT) and has written articles regarding legal and ethical issues for their Family Therapy Magazine. Prior to his work with AAMFT, Richard was Legal Counsel to the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (CAMFT) for approximately twenty-two years. While there, he also served as their director of Government Relations and tirelessly advocated for due process and fairness for licensees and applicants.

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