Im no guru at this by any means, but i offer you my advice anyway, it might help.
"I guess what I'm looking for here is the best way to avoid potential reciprocal linking hazards" - Keep a list of all the sites you have exchanged links with, inc. contact address for the sites. Then just check through those sites periodically. Making sure they havent changed.
You can get a prog to check for the presence of links on a page but afaik i know checking if the content/structure of that page is a more complicated afair. You could write routine to check all that stuff, but it would be long winded, and you would have to update it every time you exchange links.
As far as avoiding potential linking hazards goes, it is pretty hard to tell wether a site that is law abiding now will be in the future. Thats where regular checking comes in handy. I always look through the source of a couple of pages on a site im linking with. If there is anything i would not do on my site then i dont exchange.
It all might seem a really longwinded, and unesarily time consuming process. But IMO its well worth it. Aafter all
"Getting reciprocal links can be one of the most powerful site promotion tools at your disposal" Its best to get it right.
Apologies if my input is of no help whatsoever. Someone may think of a quicker way. But i think to be thorough it takes time. I hope it helps in some way. :) I know that doesnt answer your question directly, but perhaps some of the sub questions?