Divorcing A Domestic Abuser: Essential Things To Know

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Divorcing A Domestic Abuser: Essential Things To Know
Divorce can be a terrifying prospect for most people. When divorcing a domestic abuser, the situation is beyond terrifying: it’s dangerous, and potentially even life-threatening. If you or someone you love is being abused by a spouse, there are several things that you should know about domestic violence and its effect on the legal process. The experienced lawyers at Youngblood Law, PLLC have dealt extensively with divorce cases involving domestic violence and are here to outline some essential considerations.

There Are Several Different Types Of Abuse

Often, people who are entrenched in the reality of domestic violence don’t recognize the abuse for what it is. Sometimes, they don’t recognize the extent of the abuse because they don’t realize that their spouse’s actions fall under the umbrella of domestic violence. Here is an overview of some types of behavior that qualify as abusive:

  • Physical abuse: Involves hurting your partner via hitting, kicking, biting, shoving, burning, the use of weapons, and other acts of physical harm. Included in this type of abuse is behavior that purposefully puts a person in the way of harm, denies them from seeking medical attention, or forces them to perform harmful actions or consume harmful substances (ie, drugs, alcohol, food that will trigger an allergy, etc.)
  • Psychological abuse: Includes any form of manipulation and intimidation, including threats, destruction of personal property, threats of self-harm, or harm to pets or loved ones. Isolation is also a common form of psychological abuse, as it alienates the spouse from their supportive circle and forces them to rely on the abuser.
  • Emotional abuse: Often overlapping with psychological abuse, emotional abusers undermine their partner through criticizing, name-calling, humiliating, belittling, yelling, shaming and otherwise causing them to doubt their self-worth.
  • Financial abuse: Occurs when one partner controls the finances in the relationship and the other partner has no recourse for their financial needs and must rely solely on the abuser. A financially abusive spouse might take their partner’s paycheck or not allow them to work at all.
  • Sexual abuse: Sexual abuse in a relationship includes rape, groping, and sexual coercion and harrassment, as well as tampering with birth control.

If you feel that doing so will not pose a significant risk to your immediate safety, it is helpful for your divorce case to collect evidence of any abusive behavior. Evidence such as photographs, recordings, or a dated log detailing the violence you have suffered can help your lawyer establish for the court a pattern of abuse.

Take Safety Measures When Divorcing A Domestic Abuser

If you or someone you love is divorcing a domestic abuser, it’s important that you take precautions for your safety as divorce is statistically the most likely time for a partner to be murdered by their abuser. Here are a few basic safety measures for when you get the divorce process started:

  • Have an escape plan ready: You do not want to be in the vicinity of your partner when they learn you have filed for divorce. Do not tell them in person. Allow them to be served their papers or be informed by an intermediary. Have a place arranged where you can stay, such as at a friend’s house, a hotel, or a shelter, and take with you your most important possessions, especially your ID, passport, birth certificate, medications, and cash or credit cards.
  • File a police report: Filing a police report does not necessarily mean that your abuser will be arrested (though, depending on the circumstances at the time of the filing, it might), but it does mean that you will leave an evidentiary trail that might help your court case.
  • Contact a domestic abuse hotline: The domestic abuse hotline can be reached online or at the number 800-799-7233. Representatives are available 24/7 to help you outline a safety plan via phone or chat.

When you speak with a divorce lawyer at Youngblood Law, we can help you navigate your options for securing legal protections, which are discussed in depth in the following sections.

Securing A Restraining Order

If a judge feels that you are in immediate danger of violence from your spouse, they might issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) or an emergency protective order (EPO).

The main difference between these two protective orders is that, in some jurisdictions, an EPO can be administered by law enforcement. A TRO request can be filed with your initial divorce paperwork. In essence, both TROs and EPOs perform the same function, which is ordering your spouse to stay away from you.

Specifically, a TRO or EPO might also order your spouse to vacate your residence, stay a certain distance from your home and workplace, and cease contact with your children.

Both EPOs and TROs are only temporary–in Texas they last for only 14 days. In order to obtain a protective order that will keep you safe for longer, you must file for one.

How Domestic Violence Affects Asset Division And Alimony

Texas is a community property state, meaning that under normal circumstances shared assets would be split 50/50. However, if one party can prove a pattern of domestic violence, the abused party might be entitled to a greater portion of the property.

It is also possible that a judge will award a victim of spousal abuse alimony if it is found that their partner did not allow them to work or earn a wage outside the home or if they have otherwise been prevented from gaining the means to support themselves. Generally, if a person can demonstrate that they have been abused by their spouse, they will not have to pay alimony.

Child Custody When Divorcing A Domestic Abuser

Domestic abuse might also have an effect on a child custody case. The safety of the child is the number one priority and, if spousal abuse can be proven, it is possible that a judge will award the victim custodial rights. Generally, an abusive partner might still be allowed visitation, supervised or otherwise, unless it can be proven that they were abusive toward the child as well. In cases where a parent is found to be abusive to the child, they risk having their parental rights terminated.

Emergency Expedited Divorce

Normally, Texas maintains a waiting period of 60 days, known as a “cooling down period,” before a divorce can be finalized. This period is mandated to give the divorcing couple an opportunity to reconcile. In cases that involve domestic violence, however, a judge can waive the waiting period.

Contact Youngblood Law, PLLC

When you reach out to the compassionate team of lawyers at Youngblood Law, PLLC, you can be assured that we will do everything in our power to help you break out of these painful circumstances. As experienced divorce representatives, we have worked with clients who are suffering from abusive situations, and we take each and every case personally. Reach out to us to schedule a free consultation, and we will help you decide on next steps and demonstrate to you how we can help you navigate this legal battle and finally regain your sense of freedom.

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Contact Us Today For A Free Case Evaluation

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