How Will His Abuse Towards Me Affect Our Divorce?
Ending an abusive marriage is incredibly difficult. You have likely suffered emotional, verbal, physical, financial, or other forms of abuse at the hands of someone who was supposed to love and cherish you. Now, as you take steps to leave and file for divorce, you may be wondering – how will his abuse affect our divorce?
While divorcing an abusive spouse adds challenges, with the help of an experienced divorce attorney, you can navigate the process safely. Abuse can impact divorce in several key ways:
If you have children together, proving abuse can help you gain sole or primary custody. The court always prioritizes the child’s best interests, and living with an abusive parent goes against that. By providing evidence like:
- Witness testimony
- Medical records
- Police reports
- Threatening texts/emails
You may be awarded sole legal and physical custody. Your ex could lose all custody rights or only have restricted, supervised visitation. Removing your kids from an abusive environment will be a top priority for the judge.
During divorce, you can request a restraining order to prevent your abusive ex from contacting you or coming near you and the kids. This provides immediate protection. Then, as part of the final divorce decree, the judge can issue a permanent restraining order. Having an official, court-ordered record of abuse can make getting a restraining order easier.
Abuse can affect how marital property and debts are divided. If you faced financial abuse or your spouse’s behavior limited your earning capacity, you may be awarded a greater share of assets. The court views this as a form of compensation for what you endured.
In some states, domestic violence disqualifies the abusive spouse from receiving alimony. Or, the court may order them to pay more spousal support than typical as a consequence of the harm inflicted on you.
Higher child support payments may be ordered from the abusive parent, especially if counseling or therapy is needed to address trauma. The court recognizes that abuse damages kids emotionally even if they weren’t direct victims.
Expediting the Divorce
By providing evidence of domestic violence, you may be able to get an expedited “summary divorce.” This speeds up the process, reducing legal costs and stress.
Documenting the Abuse
Proving domestic abuse in divorce court can be complex. An attorney can help determine the most effective ways to demonstrate what you endured, such as:
- Compiling records like police reports, medical documents, threatening texts/emails
- Photographing injuries or property damage
- Getting witness statements from people who saw the abuse
- Keeping a detailed log of violent incidents, noting dates and details
While emotional abuse leaves no physical marks, a psychological evaluation can assess trauma. Evidence like controlling finances or isolating you from family/friends can also prove non-physical abuse.
Unfortunately, leaving an abusive relationship can increase risk of violence. Your attorney and local domestic violence resources can help you safety plan, whether that means finding a shelter, having an officer escort you to get belongings, changing locks, etc.
Reaching out to loved ones, joining a support group, and seeing a counselor provides critical emotional support. You don’t have to navigate this alone. Look for divorce support groups and domestic violence advocates in your area.
Know it’s Not Your Fault
Abusers are master manipulators. You likely feel confused, depressed, anxious, guilty, or ashamed. But know the abuse was never justified – this is his failing, not yours. With help from professionals and loved ones, you and your kids will heal.
This process is exhausting. Be gentle with yourself and make time for self-care – relax with a bath, get a massage, go for a hike, read an uplifting book. Healthy distractions help manage stress. Let friends and family help with childcare or meals.
Divorce is difficult on its own, and leaving an abusive relationship adds many hurdles. But you are strong. With the right legal help and support system, you and your children will get through this. The abuse was not your fault, and his actions will have consequences. This is another chapter, one where you and your kids feel safe, secure, and surrounded by people who truly love you.
If you or someone you know is in immediate danger from domestic violence, call 911. You can also contact:
- National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233
- DomesticShelters.org: 1-800-799-7233
- Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-422-4453
For a list of domestic violence support groups and services in your state, visit WomensLaw.org.