How to Protect Yourself from a Violent Spouse During a Divorce
Recognizing a marriage as abusive can being difficult. Leaving and staying gone is even more daunting. But staying gone, and staying safe will give you what you need to start a happier chapter of your life. Here are some tips to help you through this challenging process.
Get a Lawyer
If you expect a battle for family resources or custody, you will want a well-equipped advocate to fight for you. If your partner tries to harm you during the process, a lawyer will know exactly how to bring it up during proceedings. Divorce is a civil matter so that you won't be assigned a lawyer like in criminal court. You'll have to find a lawyer yourself. If you cannot afford a lawyer, you can find pro bono or subsidized lawyers through your local bar association, or local domestic violence charities. That said, domestic violence is also subject to criminal charges. The Law Office of Eric Harron explains that the penalty for spousal abuse can range from $4,000 and one year in jail to $10,000 in fines and 20 years in prison.
Make sure you have all documents identifying you and your history. Relevant documents include social security cards, birth certificates, titles and deeds, tax information, and bank statements. These documents are essential to securing loans, housing, and other things you'll need while leaving.
Get a Home Security System
A home is supposed to be a safe place, but did you know that home intrusions are very common? In the US they are committed roughly every 13 seconds. Violent spouses are particularly suspect if you are going through a divorce. According to ADT-FL, 60% of convicted burglars stated the presence of a security system made them target another home. Though your spouse might not a burglar, they might be deterred knowing you have an active security system in your home. And if you have a restraining order, even approaching your residence can be used against them in court, and you can capture that with a decent security system.
If you still live with them, cameras are always going to be your best weapon, which you can use against your abuser is evidence while in court. If you have a home security system with cameras, you can potentially capture video evidence and use it against them in court. Having records also means your abuser can't accuse you of making things up later.
Store or Record Property
According to Verbal Abuse Journals, some abusers seek retribution by destroying valuable or sentimental items. Make recordings of your valuables. Photographs work, but video is better. Make sure there is a record of the date in your recording. You can enable date settings on your camera, or put a dated newspaper next to each item as you document it. If an object suddenly goes missing, you can prove the condition it was in before you left.
If you fear for the immediate safety of you and your children, call the police and leave. Don't let your partner take your children and run. Try to get your spouse to leave the house, so you and the kids can stay at home. If you fear calling the police or can’t leave right away, try a hotline to see what help you can receive. Talk to a lawyer, and you may be able to gain temporary custody. If this is not an option try to arrange a safe place for the kids to stay, preferably with other family members, or somebody you trust.
Divorce is never easy, and escaping from an abusive situation is also incredibly difficult. Even marriages that had been civil can turn violent when emotions run high. At Royal West Martial Arts, we are strong advocates of self-defense. At the end of the day, a restraining order is nothing more than a piece of paper. It's unpleasant to talk about, but knowing how to defend yourself from a stronger, heavier attacker may make the difference between surviving a nasty divorce and not surviving it.