Domestic Violence and Divorce

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 What is Domestic Violence?

The Women Advocate’s organization defines domestic violence as a pattern of behavior in any relationship that is used to gain or maintain power and control over an intimate partner. The abuse can take many forms such as physical, sexual, emotional, economic, or psychological. These actions or threats of action influence another person in a negative way. This includes any behavior that frightens, intimidates, terrorizes, manipulates, hurts, humiliates, blames, injures, or wounds someone.

Domestic violence can happen to anyone of any race, age, sexual orientation, economic class, immigration status, religion, or gender. It can appear in couples that are married, living together, or who are dating. Regardless of any status, domestic violence affects people of all socioeconomic backgrounds and education levels.

What is Divorce?

A divorce is a judgment of the Probate and Family Court that terminates your marriage.
The divorce judgments include:

  • Custody of children;
  • Child support;
  • Parenting time or visitation with the children;
  • What happens to “assets” such as pensions, bank accounts, or stocks;
  • What happens with taxes such as who gets to claim the child as a dependent;
  • Alimony or spousal support;
  • Who receives the personal property such as the car or furniture;
  • Who takes ownership and reside in the family home;
  • Which party is responsible to pay off the debts and;
  • Whether there is a need for an order for protection from abuse.

If you and your spouse can cooperate on these things, you can draft up an agreement and request the judge to approve it. If you can agree on some things but not on others, you will have a chance to explain to the judge your differences. The judge will decide on the issues that the couple could not agree to.

The judge will examine the necessary factors to devise a plan for both you and your former spouse. If you cannot agree on any of these things, the judge will decide all of them at a trial. You and your spouse will be allowed the opportunity to testify. You will also be able to show the court documents and have witnesses testify.

How Does Domestic Violence Impact A Divorce Case?

Divorce attorneys are aware that many cases often include domestic abuse to some percentage based on certain factors. However, the proceedings are typically more complicated because of the allegations of the victim regarding custody, visitation with the child, child support payments, alimony, and other matters.

There are extra steps to consider in divorce cases. Showing evidence that the abuse is valid and has occurred to the spouse may aid in proving that he or she is not fit to take care of the children.

For instance, one piece of indication to show that the spouse is a victim of abuse is providing any record of law enforcement involvement. While this may be nonexistent when the wife or husband refused to contact the police, nevertheless it assists in proving that the claim is valid. Seeking the protection of the law is one way to avoid future violence from the spouse; but in many cases, this may not be a viable option.

Another factor that is important for both the abused and children involved is vacating the residence where the violence is occurring. When the individual remains in the house, this means that more attacks are likely to happen. The affected person and his or her child may be at risk of danger. It is recommended to at least seek help from loved ones for a temporary stay until other arrangements may be made.

Another step in proving that allegations are true is to seek some service through legal channels by obtaining a restraining order from the abuser. While this may only be on paper, it does create a record of the situation and provides legal protection if the order gets violated. Many victims of these situations are unaware that there is financial assistance available through the family court when domestic violence has occurred. It is vital to pursue this when abuse happens. This is beneficial for both the parent and any children involved.

Moreover, the protection of the family is a priority in domestic violence divorce cases. This means that one of the first things necessary to do is ensure the family is being protected. Even if it means moving out of the house, contacting a friend, or seeking legal assistance through a lawyer or law enforcement. The key is ensuring the safety of the children and others affected. The children involved should not be abandoned by the abuser to harm if in the case the abuse has extended to them. Removing them from the residence is considered mandatory to guarantee they are safe and free from injury.

Similarly, other types of damage may be inflicted through these conditions such as psychological and emotional injuries. Long-term abuse often results in hidden scars on children that view these events as either ordinary or traumatizing. Therapy may be necessary for young persons as well as the affected spouse. Detailed conversations address how the abuse is not normal and will not happen again.

Shielding the child as much as possible is crucial in an abusive household. It is suggested that any involved children should not be exposed to the abuse. But oftentimes, the parent suffering from these abuses cannot properly handle caring for the children because of the trauma they are experiencing. Therefore, seeking help early on can be life-changing in these scenarios.

How Do Courts Decide on Domestic Violence Divorce Cases?

If any order regarding domestic violence is granted, or other evidence of domestic violence arises, divorce considerations such as child custody and spousal support may be affected. However, courts have discretion in how heavily judges may weigh the evidence of domestic violence in divorce decisions.

A parent’s child custody rights may be reduced by a finding that domestic violence took place, even if the domestic violence was not perpetrated on or near the child. Usually, most courts will not deny a parent visitation rights unless the domestic violence was directed specifically at the child. A parent concerned for their safety may seek the court to account for those concerns by including protections in the visitation plan, such as a public meeting place or supervised visitation.

Additionally, domestic violence may impact alimony. Some judges may evaluate how domestic violence affected the abused spouse’s ability to support themselves. In cases in which the abused spouse would otherwise be ordered to pay spousal support to their abuser, some states permit a judge to excuse the abused spouse from paying alimony. But, other states altogether prevent anyone convicted for domestic violence from receiving alimony. Keep in mind that not all states allow a judge to consider domestic abuse when determining alimony. It is recommended to research the local state stance on this issue.

Some states provide an emergency expedited divorce in cases of domestic violence. Any person seeking an emergency expedited divorce should investigate the procedural requirements in their residential state. These include whether they may request for the expedition in the initial divorce petition or must file a separate motion.

Jurisdictions may also mandate certain evidence to justify the emergency. An expedited divorce can give relief to individuals experiencing domestic violence by completely removing themselves from their abuser more quickly than most other divorce options.

When Do I Need to Contact a Lawyer?

If you have experienced or are currently experiencing domestic abuse in your marriage and are contemplating divorce, it is highly recommended to seek out assistance from a local family law attorney to guide you through the process.

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