Divorcing an Abusive Spouse

Mental Health

Ending a marriage with an abusive spouse demands sacrifice, incredible courage, and the resolve to make a life-altering decision. When children or a lengthy marriage come into play, these qualities become even more paramount, amplifying the challenges and complexities of the situation. Our family law and divorce lawyers understand the sensitive nature and demand for confidentiality that cases like these require. 

It is common for individuals not experiencing an abusive relationship to suggest the victim “walk away,” without understanding that the reality of these relationships are far more complex. Successfully separating from an abusive partner requires strategic planning, thorough preparation, and effective legal advocacy to ensure a safe resolution. At Coldwell Bowes, we're committed to guiding you through this process, and providing the highest legal protection and support possible. 

Defining Abuse

Abuse encompasses a range of behaviors, including physical violence, emotional or psychological abuse, and financial control. We recognize that abuse can look like many things, though in a legal sense it is generally considered the means to cause intentional or reckless harm through bodily injury, sexual assault, the threat of imminent bodily injury, harm to family pets, and or threats to personal property.. 

We ask that you refer to the specific abuse laws in your state to understand how they define abuse, because in certain jurisdictions actions such as attacking, threatening, assaulting, harassing, stalking, molesting, damaging personal property, and disrupting the peace may be considered forms of abuse in court. 

Gathering Evidence

Documentation is key when divorcing an abusive spouse. Collect any records of police reports, medical records, or photographs of injuries. Keep a journal detailing instances of abuse, noting dates, times, and descriptions of incidents. This evidence can strengthen your case and support legal actions.  It is imperative that you store the evidence in a format that cannot be access by the abuser, this could include keeping the information on a portable device that can be stored in a safe deposit box, a friend’s home, or some other safe and secure location. 

Situational Domestic Violence

In divorce cases involving abuse, a judge may assess whether the abusive behavior is an isolated incident or part of a broader pattern. Situational domestic violence often arises in such cases, wherein external factors trigger otherwise non-abusive spouses to exhibit harmful behavior. Common catalysts include addiction, financial troubles, infidelity, or a spouse's decision to leave, among others. 

This does not excuse the behavior, but rather if situational domestic violence becomes a concern in your divorce proceedings, your attorney may recommend seeking a restraining order and/or protective order (depending on your jurisdiction). These orders, whether temporary or permanent, are typically handled urgently and may be granted without prior notice. In some cases, a hearing may be scheduled promptly to address the matter. 

Steps to Take

  1. Contact Our Divorce Lawyers: A divorce lawyer can help you document the history of abuse, even if it is situational, and they will help you file for and go through with your divorce. 
  2. Safety First: Prioritize your safety and that of any children involved. Seek shelter and support from local domestic violence organizations.
  3. Restraining Orders: Your attorney will talk with you about obtaining a restraining order to establish legal boundaries and protection from the abusive spouse.
  4. Document Everything: This evidence will be crucial during legal proceedings, and your lawyer will help you.   Ensure you safeguard the evidence. 
  5. Seek Counseling: Emotional recovery is as important as the legal process. A counselor can provide invaluable support as you navigate the emotional aftermath of abuse.

Additional Considerations for Parents

If children are involved, the situation becomes even more delicate. Consideration for their well-being is paramount. Work closely with your attorney to present evidence of the abusive spouse's behavior, detailing the potential impact on the child. Courts prioritize the best interests of the child.

It may be important to request supervised visitation, ensuring that any contact between the abusive spouse and the child is closely monitored to guarantee the child's safety. If you and your child are safe, depending on your relationship and situation, you may also want to explore co-parenting resources and parenting classes that focus on communication and cooperation. These can provide tools for managing a healthy co-parenting relationship after the divorce, but we strongly discourage this if it could potentially put you or the child in any harmful situation. 

Legal and Emotional Support

Beyond divorce proceedings, a lawyer can play a pivotal role in connecting victims with essential resources. This may include referrals to counselors, support groups, and government assistance programs aimed at helping survivors rebuild their lives.

At Coldwell Bowes, we understand the complexities of divorcing an abusive spouse. Our team is here to provide the legal expertise and compassionate support needed to guide you through this challenging journey. Remember, you are not alone, and there are resources available to help you rebuild your life with strength and resilience. If you have been abused by your spouse and are ready to file for a divorce, contact a divorce lawyer from Coldwell Bowes. Even if you are not ready to file, we are here to answer questions and we prioritize the confidentiality and safety of our clients, giving you the expert insight and guidance you need.

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