Dealing with domestic abuse can be upsetting and dangerous. Whether the
abuse is emotional, physical, or verbal, it can cause serious harm to
everyone in the household. Domestic violence often takes places between
spouses, but the abuse can also affect children, stepchildren, and anyone
else within the family. If you are in an abusive relationship and you
are ready to get out, make sure you know how to escape the situation safely
To divorce your domestic abuser, follow these steps:
1. Tell Someone
Talk to someone you trust about what you’re going through. Reach
out to a close friend, a family member, co-worker, or someone else who
you trust and know will listen to your concerns and help you. Speaking
about your abuse can be helpful on both an emotional and practical level.
Whoever you tell can offer you the emotional support you need and they
might also be able to help you as you get out of your dangerous situation.
2. Protect Yourself
The most important thing to focus on while getting out of an abusive relationship
is to keep yourself and your family safe. Even if your spouse has only ever
threatened to harm you, he or she could become violent at any time. For this reason,
it’s usually best to leave your abuser before telling them about
your intention to file for divorce. Before you leave, however, make sure
you have a plan to protect yourself and your children. Speak to your closest
friends or family members to see if you can stay with them temporarily
while you handle the most immediate concerns. If you have nobody to stay
with, contact a local domestic abuse organization and learn more about
your options through them. Many organizations offer free housing for victims
of domestic violence.
3. Leaving Safely
After you’ve done your research and know what you need to do, make
sure you have a plan. Leaving is usually the most dangerous part of ending
a violent relationship, and your abuser will probably not cope with the
loss of control well. So, to stay safe, find a time to leave when your
spouse is not home. Gather your most essential belongings, including important
documents, and take your children with you when you leave. Never leave
your children with your abuser, even if they have never been harmed by
your spouse in the past. Unfortunately, your spouse may attempt to use
your children as leverage against you. If you feel you are in immediate
danger at any time throughout this process, call 911.
4. Inform Your Spouse
Once you’ve removed yourself from immediate danger, contact a divorce
attorney who has experience working on cases involving domestic violence.
You will need to inform your spouse that you intend to divorce them, but
in abusive situations, it is often much safer for the news to be delivered
by a third party, rather than you.
5. Know Your Legal Options
When you talk to your attorney about your situation, they’ll let
you know what your legal options are. In most cases, the most important
thing to do is to file for a temporary restraining order. This can help
protect you from your abuser, preventing him or her from contacting you,
visiting your home, place of work, or any other place you frequent. Also,
if you left your home, you may be able to obtain an order from the court
allowing you to return to your home with your children while also keeping
your abuser away. In certain cases, a police officer may supervise this
transition to ensure your safety. If you have children, you can also discuss
your temporary child custody options.
For more long-term solutions, like property division, child custody, spousal
support, and permanent restraining orders, your attorney can walk you
through your options and discuss a potential timeline.
Are you ready to file for divorce from your spouse? Contact the Law Office of Kathryn Marteeny
to discuss your options with our Houston divorce attorneys.