Domestic violence in a marital relationship can take many forms, including emotional, physical or mental abuse. For many victims of domestic violence, divorce is the one way to stop the abuse for good.
In the divorce process, there are special considerations that come into play when one of the parties has been a victim of domestic abuse. It is important to address these issues and retain a divorce attorney experienced with domestic violence.
A 209A order can protect you from abuse
When domestic abuse is ongoing, the most important first step is to act to protect yourself, your children or any other potential victims. Under Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 209A, you may seek a restraining order to protect you and your children from further domestic violence. A restraining order will establish a physical and legal buffer zone between you and the abusive spouse. Generally, a court order will be available to you if your abuser harms you physically or tries to harm you physically, makes you afraid that serious harm is going to happen, or threatens, pressures or forces you to have sex.
Create and retain financial documents, records of abuse
Whether or not you get a restraining order, there are other steps you can take that will help you in your divorce if you are experiencing any form of domestic violence. For one thing, you want to keep a copy of all financial records - things like bank statements, credit card records and tax forms. You should keep these records hidden from your abusive spouse, and should not let your spouse know you have made copies.
You also want to carefully document your interactions with your abuser. For example, make a written record of instances of abuse that includes exact dates and times; retain medical records and take photographs of any injury that results from abuse; acquire the police reports and witness statements for any incidents of abuse that are reported to the authorities. These records will help a Massachusetts court determine the terms of a restraining order as well as terms of your divorce, like child custody, visitation arrangements and property division.
Reach out to a Massachusetts family law attorney for help
Abusers often use domestic violence to establish power over victims by making them afraid. This means it is common for abusers to seek control of the marital property and finances, making it difficult for victims to seek help.
But, there is help available for victims. If you retain an attorney and seek legal protections, you can not only end abuse, you can allay your fears of losing custody of your children or sacrificing your economic power by pursuing divorce. You should not be afraid of an abusive spouse in divorce; on the contrary, your attorney can help parlay your spouse's bad behavior into stronger arguments that will bolster your case for custody and a larger share of marital money and assets.
If you've been a victim of domestic violence, it is only natural to feel apprehension, even fear. But, if you are open to receiving help, all it takes is one phone call to get the process moving on your new life. Get in touch with a Massachusetts family law attorney today to pursue the justice you deserve.