Navigating Divorce and Domestic Violence

If you or someone you love is experiencing domestic violence, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at (800) 799-7233 for confidential support. You can also call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at (800) 422-4453. You are not alone.

Deciding to leave an abusive marriage is a brave and difficult one. It takes a tremendous amount of courage and strength to recognize that staying in an abusive or unsafe relationship is not the best option for you or your family. If you are considering leaving an abusive spouse, know that there are resources available to help support you through this very difficult time.

If your partner has been physically, emotionally, verbally, financially, or sexually abusive towards you, know that you do not deserve this kind of treatment. If you choose to leave, it’s important to understand that divorce can provide protection from further abuse. However, it's also important to keep in mind that divorce can be challenging no matter the circumstances, and having an experienced divorce attorney by your side can help you navigate the unique challenges of divorcing an abusive spouse.

If you are navigating a divorce from an abusive partner, here are some critical steps you need to consider:

Make a Plan

Making a safety plan when leaving an abusive ex is an essential step in ensuring your safety and that of your children. A safety plan is a personalized set of instructions tailored to your specific situation that helps you prepare to leave safely and quickly. Every person’s plan will differ according to their circumstances, but it can help to know the general steps you will want to consider while you’re making a plan.

Here are some key steps to consider when making a safety plan:

  • Identify safe places to go: Identify trusted friends, family members, or shelters where you can go if you need to flee your home suddenly. You should also have a plan of where or with whom you can stay while you get back on your feet.
  • Keep important documents safe: Gather and keep your important documents, such as passports, birth certificates, and social security cards, in a safe, discreet location outside of the home. If you can’t safely take the originals, make copies to store in a safe place.
  • Set aside emergency cash: Set aside some emergency cash in a safe location where your partner cannot find it. You may need this to pay for transportation or other immediate needs.
  • Create a code word: Create a code word with your trusted family members or friends that will signal to them that you need to leave your home or are in danger. They can then alert the authorities or come and get you.
  • Change your routine: Vary your routine to make it more difficult for your partner to track your movements. Use different routes home or to work and change your schedule if possible.
  • Have an escape plan: Identify escape routes and create an escape plan that includes a safe meeting place and contacts that can be reached in case of an emergency.

By creating a safety plan, you can take control of your safety and that of your children when leaving an abusive partner. Remember, everyone's situation is different, and there is no one-size-fits-all plan. Seek help from a domestic violence advocate or hotline if you need support or guidance in creating a safety plan.

Gather Evidence

When divorcing an abusive ex-spouse, gathering evidence of domestic violence is essential to protect yourself and strengthen your legal case. Domestic violence can take many forms, including physical violence, emotional abuse, sexual coercion, and financial manipulation. By documenting the abuse, you can provide tangible evidence to support your claims in court. To create a strong case, it's important to document as much of the abuse as possible.

This could include:

  • Keeping a journal detailing all incidents
  • Saving emails and text messages
  • Taking pictures of any physical injuries or damage done to your property
  • Recording dates and times of incidents
  • Keeping medical records
  • Collecting police reports

If you have children with your partner, enlist help from professionals who can provide evidence of how domestic violence has affected them. For example, having a mental health professional write an expert opinion on how the abusive behavior has impacted the children’s well-being can be used in court.

Evidence of domestic violence can help protect you and your children during custody arrangements. Courts prioritize the safety and well-being of the child when it comes to assigning custody. Domestic violence is considered a significant factor in determining custody, and evidence of abuse can be important in securing custody arrangements that are in your child's best interest.

It is critical, however, to keep this information in a safe place away from your abuser, especially if you are still living with them. If you are in an unsafe environment, it is best to work with a domestic violence advocate or lawyer who can help keep your evidence secure and out of reach of your abuser.

Filing for a Restraining Order in California

If you are leaving an abusive partner, filing for a restraining order can be a critical step in protecting your and your children's safety. A restraining order is a court order that orders the abuser to stay away from and have no contact with you or your children.

In California, there are three types of Domestic Violence Restraining Orders (DVROs):

  1. Emergency Protective Order: When a victim calls 911, the police can ask a judge to issue an immediate emergency protective order that lasts up to 5 business days or 7 calendar days. It requires the abuser to stay away from and have no contact with the victim.
  2. Temporary Restraining Order: A temporary restraining order is issued by a judge when you file for a restraining order and typically lasts up to 15 days or until your court hearing takes place.
  3. Permanent Restraining Order: A permanent restraining order may be issued if the judge finds evidence of domestic violence during your court hearing. It can last for up to 5 years, but it must be renewed after that period has expired for it to remain in effect.

In California, DVROs are available for victims of abuse, whether you are married to your abuser or not. It is important to remember that filing a restraining order does not mean that the process is over; it only means that the perpetrator will be legally required to stay away from you and/or your children. If they violate the restraining order, they can face criminal consequences.

Navigating divorce with an abusive partner can be difficult and scary. However, there are many resources available to help support you through this process. Remember to make safety a priority and reach out for help if needed. With the right guidance, resources, and support, you can get the protection and peace of mind you need during this trying time.

Obtain Legal Support

Divorcing an abusive ex-spouse can be difficult, especially if the divorce involves child custody arrangements. It is important to seek legal advice from a family law attorney who has experience with domestic violence cases so that you have the support you need during this process. An experienced divorce attorney will be able to provide personalized guidance on how to file for divorce and what steps need to be taken when obtaining a restraining order or settling custody arrangements in your child’s best interests.

Navigating divorce from an abusive ex is never easy, but it is possible to move forward with your life in a healthy and safe way. At Burch Shepard Family Law Group, we are here to provide you with the legal support and guidance you need both during and after divorce. We understand the challenges that come with navigating divorce and domestic violence, and we are committed to helping you get the best possible outcome in your case.

If you need assistance filing for divorce or obtaining a restraining order, contact us online or call us at (949) 565-4158 to discuss your situation. Our experienced attorneys are here to help you navigate this difficult time.