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Divorce Advice for Domestic Violence Victims

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Domestic violence involves physical harm or threats to harm someone who is an intimate partner, a family member, a current or former household member, or someone who is closely related through blood or marriage.

However, under California law, domestic violence is far more than hitting or beating someone. It includes various types of bullying behaviors, which cause intimidation and fear for one’s safety.

Domestic violence includes the following behaviors:

  • Sexual assault
  • Stalking
  • Harassing
  • Animal abuse (family pets)
  • Destroying property
  • Scaring or threatening someone
  • Keeping someone from coming or going
  • Controlling, belittling and manipulating
  • Threatening to hurt someone
  • Physically injuring someone
  • Intentionally or recklessly inflicting physical harm

If your husband or wife is abusing you or your children, it’s critical that you file for divorce, but sinceleaving is the most dangerous time for domestic violence victims, you do not want to do it without help. You must be cautious, calculating, and very meticulous about how you protect yourself, your children, and how you protect your parental and legal rights.

Safety Tips for Domestic Violence Victims

Safety comes first. To protect your family from the abuser, follow these safety tips:

  • If your spouse abuses you, tell your children that their job is to stay safe if you are being attacked. They should not protect you. Find a safe place, such as a locked room or a neighbor’s home if they witness violence. Teach your children to call 911 if your spouse attacks you and tell them what to tell the dispatcher.
  • Hide cash, spare car and house keys, and a bag of clothes at a friend’s house or at your work. If you have small children, hide a bag of clothes, a blanket, or a toy that can help comfort them.
  • This may be hard, but you should tell your employer that you’re a victim of domestic violence. After they’re informed, develop a safety plan at your job as well. Share a photo of your spouse and their description with your colleagues. If you have a domestic violence restraining order, share it with them too.
  • Document the abuse as this is very important, especially if you did not call the police for some reason. To do this, take pictures of the injuries. Take multiple pictures of the abuse and be sure to not only keep them yourself, but send them to a trusted friend or family member for safekeeping.
  • Tell your doctor that you are being abused, and obtain copies of your medical records.
  • If your spouse sends threatening texts or voicemails, save all of them.
  • Detail the incidents in a journal and don’t forget to include dates and times.
  • Contact a divorce attorney for advice on what to do to protect your parental and legal rights.
  • Ask your lawyer about getting a domestic violence restraining order as soon as possible.
  • If there are any guns in your house, make sure they are not loaded.
  • Do not wear necklaces or scarves because these can be used for choking.

Safety Tips for After You Leave Your Abuser

You may obtain a domestic violence restraining order and file for divorce, but that doesn’t mean you’re 100% safe from your abusive spouse. Here’s what to do next:

  • If you still live in the marital home, change all the locks.
  • Install metal or steel doors and a security system.
  • Install an outdoor lighting system.
  • Get a PO Box for your mail.
  • Learn about your legal rights from a divorce attorney. If you don’t know your rights, you can make a regrettable mistake.
  • Inform your friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers that your abusive spouse does not live with you anymore.
  • Make a safety plan and share it with your close friends and family and your kids.
  • Tell your boss and co-workers about your situation and have them: move your desk, change your work hours, and walk with you to your car.
  • Tell your children’s schools about your situation and who can and cannot pick up your children. If you obtain a restraining order, make sure they know all about its existence.
  • When driving to school, work, the grocery store and other places that you go regularly, vary your route in case you’re being followed.
  • Don’t shop late at night or walk in poorly-lit parking lots.

What Can a Restraining Order Do?

A restraining order may not guarantee that your abusive spouse will stay away, but it still offers many legal protections. A restraining order can order your spouse to move out. It can order him or her to pay child support and spousal support and certain bills like the mortgage. It can order them to follow specific child custody and visitation orders.

A restraining order can force your spouse to complete a batterer intervention program. It can make them give up their firearms, and it can order them to stay away from your work and school and your children’s school. And, if your spouse violates any of the conditions of the restraining order, he or she can be arrested, fined, and jailed.

According to Domestic Abuse Intervention Services,“Most domestic violence victims feel very alone and confused as a result of the abuse. Victims often feel they have nowhere to turn – they may worry no one will believe them, they may blame themselves for the abuse, and they may fear their abuser will hurt them, their children, or their pets if they reveal the abuse to anyone outside their home.”

You may be a victim, but you can seek help. You can take steps to protect yourself and your children. It is not your fault and love should never hurt you. For the guidance and support you need during the divorce process, contact Claery & Hammond, LLP today.

Related: What Can a Domestic Violence Restraining Order Do?

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