Breaking the Pattern: How to Deal With an Abusive Spouse During a Divorce

Breaking the Pattern: How to Deal With an Abusive Spouse During a Divorce

Even when the answer is apparent to everyone else, most victims of psychological and physical abuse have an extremely difficult time coming to the conclusion that it’s time to part ways with their abuser. Oftentimes, the abuser has manipulated the victim to the point that they’ve become emotionally and financially dependent upon him or her—and then, of course, there’s the fear. For abusers, relationships are about the control of their spouse or partner, and intimidation is a potent weapon in their arsenal. When the victim begins to resist this power, the abuser can become erratic and violent.

This is the terror that keeps abuse victims from leaving their homes, contacting police, or hiring divorce attorneys. Even when the victim does take these measures to combat the abuse, they often backtrack or reverse their decision. The victim might feel that he or she is to blame for the abuse. Or there might be children that anchor the victim to the abuser. No matter what the victim’s reasons might be for staying, the abuser is bound to exploit them to his or her advantage. When it comes to married individuals—particularly ones with children—one of the most common reasons that abuse victims stay is their relationship is the perception that divorce is a time-consuming and cumbersome process.

Many individuals are more afraid of angry reprisals during the divorce process than they are of the occasional episodes that are already occurring. However, a licensed, qualified family law attorney can advise his or her clients of measures they can take to ensure the their safety even during the most contentious divorces. The safety of the client should be a top priority, and any advice that a divorce lawyer provides should reflect this. Never be afraid to obtain legal advice in a bad situation. Information is power.

Divorce attorneys generally recommend the following if you feel your safety is at issue:
  • Document all past and present domestic abuse on a police report. Even if criminal violence didn’t occur, the police can document verbal abuse as well. Be sure to get the name and contact information of the responding officer to use in the future.
  • Relocate to a safe location: family, friends, or a domestic violence shelter.
  • Obtain a restraining order personally or through the services of an attorney. Your lawyer can explain the service process. Sometimes it’s possible to remain at your marital residence under the protection of the order.
  • Have your attorney request that the courts allow only supervised visitation with any children. If the request is denied, arrange for the drop-offs and pick-ups to occur at the local police station.
  • Report any unauthorized contact to the appropriate police agency.

Once you’ve left your abusive spouse, there’s no legal reason why you ever have to be alone together again. Your family law attorney can show you how to safeguard your life and the lives of your children. If you’re married to an abusive spouse, leave at your earliest convenience. Then protect yourself by hiring a reputable family law attorney.

Virginia Divorce and Family Law Attorney Claudia Zucker

Do you need a divorce attorney? Do you have questions about how to deal with spousal abuse during divorce? We invite you to contact us today at (703) 596-1005. We're always just a phone call away.

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