There is hardly anything more difficult than trying to leave an abusive spouse. Due to the danger involved in domestic violence and divorce, care is taken here to share only the basic steps on preparing to dissolve a marriage to an abuser. Circumstances are vastly different for each individual, but the more information you have can help you to face this challenge more courageously while protecting you and your children.
Before you file for divorce, start to document the abuse. If the abuse occurred in the past, take note of dates or seasons, circumstances, frequency and details surrounding the events. Obtain copies of police reports if possible, and if the abuse is ongoing, plan to contact the police to protect you and your children. This could result in your spouse being arrested and may be helpful so you have a report of your spouse’s behavior. Your records and police reports will be vital moving forward.
To prevent further harm, you may seek to get a temporary or permanent order of protection or domestic violence restraining order. Each state an order has different provisions, or validity, though emergency protections may be granted if the police are called during an incident. The process for filing involves completing necessary paperwork, but a judge must decide whether to grant such protection. The details surrounding why you wish to have a restraining order should be specific and detail which actions you wish to stop, including those beyond physical assault as in the case of stalking, harassing phone calls, and threats again you, neighbors or family members.
Many times an abusive person will take advantage of financial dependence to control their spouse. If you rely on your abusive spouse’s income to support you and your children, take stock of marketable skills and the job market to see what you can do to provide for your household without spousal support. While it may take time, seek to become self-sustaining as soon as possible so money isn’t a way the spouse can maintain control over you. Once you formally file for divorce, you may also seek to obtain child support since the financial obligations for the care of children does not cease just because the spouse was an abuser.
Seek out a family law attorney to begin legally dealing with the domestic abuse and uncoupling.
Do not hide abuse from your lawyer, especially if children are involved. According to an American Bar Association handout, the abusive parent seeks primary custody of children more than a nonviolent one and win 70% of the time. This is done as a means to continue their control. Your lawyer will help you navigate this challenging time and aim to protect your best interests.
Divorcing an abusive spouse can be draining, maddening even, so having support will keep you from feeling more isolated. Work with a therapist who specializes in trauma so that you can unpack difficult emotions you may feel including shame and grief over the loss of the family life you truly desired. It is also practical to have witnesses who can validate abuse claims when seeking to protect yourself and your children. Beyond emotional support, find healthy outlets to cope including exercise which may help to restore a stripped self-esteem.
Seek out resources for victims of domestic violence so that you can prepare yourself for the fight ahead. It takes courage to leave your abuser and file for divorce, so do what is within your power to protect yourself and your children. When you’re ready to move forward, be sure to contact our offices so we can support you in this process.
The Law Office of Thomas Hogan, Stanislaus County divorce attorney, is here to help. Feel free to contact us if you are considering a divorce from your spouse or legal separation. Thomas P. Hogan is a Family Law Specialist in Stanislaus County, don’t settle for anyone else when determining your rights. Call (209) 492-9335.