The story of meeting your husband or wife may have gone this way: you meet, they put on the charm, your parents approve, you find yourself in love and think this is the one, you get married, and then slowly little red flags start popping up in the form of put-downs, aggression, violence, and anger. By this point, you may feel trapped and unsure of what to do next. Maybe you feel like you have no one to turn to, or are so afraid to leave out of fear that you will harmed even worse than anything you have endured thus far at the hands of your spouse.
Whatever the situation is, it is important to know that you have options. There are many hotlines for domestic violence victims that offer support. Additionally, it can also help to turn to a family lawyer that is knowledgeable about divorce and can tell you what to do when abuse is a factor.
Risk of Domestic Violence Can Increase After Filing for Divorce
In order to prevent yourself and perhaps your children too from suffering violence, it is imperative that you have a plan. Spouses in an abusive relationship are increasingly likely to endure more harm during the period in which they have left the abuser and filed for divorce. This means that you must find housing somewhere the abuser cannot locate you, such as a hotel, batter’s women/men shelter, or loved one that your spouse doesn’t know where they live. Your spouse may try to look for you at places such as your parent’s house, best friend’s home, or a close friend’s residence.
Planning for Divorce and Filing a Restraining Order
Your attorney can talk with you about how to file a restraining order as you are petitioning for a divorce with your county clerk’s office. You can request to the court that a restraining order is enforced out of fear for both you and your children’s safety. It is crucial that you are not living in the home with your spouse after having filed for divorce. By this time, you should be residing at a safe location and not telling anyone except those you trust where you are.
If You Are Staying in Your Home
Perhaps you have called the police and reported an incident of domestic violence against your spouse and have since filed for divorce and requested a restraining order. Your spouse may be in such a rage over being reported that they may attempt to harm you. If your spouse tries to contact you, write down each time and date in which they reached out and what happened. This is key if they violate the restraining order, so you have proof of them overstepping the boundaries. Here are some other suggestions for keeping yourself safe:
- Have the locks changed immediately
- Don’t stay in your home alone
- Don’t go about your safe routine, if possible
- Have a plan for getting help if your abusive spouse shows up
- Contact people you can trust at your children’s school and your workplace, so they can remain on alert to anything unusual