Ending a marriage is difficult, but leaving an abusive spouse can seem downright impossible. Abusive partners use the fear of violence to gain and maintain control and sadly, it’s not unique; one in four women experience domestic violence in their lifetime. Fortunately, there are things that you, as an abused spouse, can do to protect yourself before divorcing an abuser.
1. Gather Paperwork
Before filing for divorce, collect documents that pertain to family finances and expenses. Make several copies and remove them from your home, or else an abusive spouse may find them and suspect your plan to divorce. Also, make sure to collect your credit cards, social security cards, birth certificates, and any documents that prove past abuse, such as police reports or medical records.
2. Create an Escape Plan
Another step to take before filing for divorce is to leave the home you share with your spouse. Contact your friends and family and find a safe place to reside so that when your spouse finds out about the divorce, they are unable to harm you. Take your children with you, if possible. If you don’t have a trusted place to go, contact your local police, a domestic violence shelter, or the National Domestic Abuse Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.
3. Apply for a Restraining Order
Once you have fled to a safe place, apply for a restraining order. This will prevent your spouse from contacting you and force them to stay away from your children, new residence, and your place of employment. However, do not completely depend on a restraining order to protect you, as a violation may not always result in an arrest.
4. Find a Lawyer and File for Divorce
Find an experienced domestic violence attorney and file for divorce. Talk to your lawyer about filing on grounds of abuse or cruelty, which can affect how a judge determines child custody and spousal support.
At Tinny, Meyer & Piccarreto, P.A., our Clearwater domestic violence attorneys are committed to helping you seek safety away from an abusive partner and coordinate with the police to file for a restraining order. If you need support, please do not hesitate to contact us as soon as possible.
Call (727) 245-9009 or contact us online to make an appointment. We serve clients throughout Clearwater, St. Petersburg, and Hillsborough Counties.