Few things are more difficult for a woman than being trapped in an abusive relationship. A woman who decides to leave a physically or emotionally violent husband must draw on reserves of strength, courage and resolve that perhaps she didn’t even realize she had. This page is an introduction on how to divorce an abusive husband and protect your kids at the same time.
Divorcing an abusive husband when you have been married for a long time can be particularly challenging. Over time, the husband often strengthens his grasp, not only over the children, but the family finances as well, making escape seem impossible.
If you are married to an abusive husband and are seeking a way out, it’s good that you are reading this article. Hopefully this page will get you thinking about the options that are available to women in your situation. But it goes without saying that every divorce case is unique, and no article will be able to completely outline something as complicated as divorce. So, after reading this article carefully, schedule a consultation with our divorce law attorney. Find out how we can help.
Divorce an Abusive Husband – It Won’t Be Easy
As much as we would like to tell you that divorcing an abuser is only a matter of signing a few legal documents, it’s nowhere near that easy. Friends and family might even have told you that you should simply walk away from a bad situation. You already know this is easier said than done. Divorcing an abuser can be especially difficult when children are involved, and you’ve come to depend on your spouse for financial support.
In addition to dealing with the person in court, you’ll also have to contend with the lawyers that represent them. In some cases, it might be necessary to get a protective court order forbidding the abuser from contacting you as your divorce case is heard. It won’t be easy. But with planning and a good attorney on your side, you can successfully divorce an abusive husband, and move on with your life.
How Does the Law Define Domestic Violence?
When it comes to defining abuse in legal terms, California Family Code §6320 refers to some specific behaviors that qualify as domestic abuse. We’ve written an entire page dedicated to domestic violence and what to do about it. If you’re going to divorce an abusive husband, we highly recommend that you read the entire page.
Section § 6320 allows a court to issue a protective order forbidding an abusive person from engaging in these specific behaviors, which include: striking, stalking, threatening, sexually assaulting, harassing, telephoning, and coming within a specified distance of the protected person, in addition to other things. With good cause, a protective order can be extended to cover certain other household family members (such as children).
Punishments for violating a protective order are covered by California Penal Code 273.6(a), which states that any intentional violation of a protective order is considered a misdemeanor.
Violations of a protective order are punishable by a fine of a $1,000, up to a year in jail, or both.
What is Situational Domestic Violence?
This is a term used by family law judges and lawyers to describe domestic violence that is not typically part of a larger pattern of abuse. An incident of situational domestic violence typically occurs in response to a specific incident.
This might include the husband becoming aware of a wife’s infidelity, or vice versa. In cases where a wife decides to leave the marriage, a husband who hadn’t ever been physically violent before might suddenly lash out in physically inappropriate ways.
But just because a case involves incidents of situational abuse doesn’t mean it should be handled any less seriously . Situational violence, if not dealt with, can lead to ongoing physical and emotional abuse.
Handling a Situational Domestic Violence Situation
Even in cases of situational abuse, it can become necessary when seeking to divorce an abusive husband to ask the court for temporary and permanent restraining orders. In many cases, a “cooling off period” is necessary and beneficial in divorce cases to prevent domestic violence.
Handling an Abusive Husband With a Pattern of Domestic Violence
These types of divorce cases present difficult challenges. Often times, when a woman has been stuck in a marriage with an abusive husband, there is usually some degree of psychological control exerted over the woman. There is often alcoholism at play. As a result, the woman feels trapped and fearful that the situation is hopeless, and there is no way out.
In cases where there has been recent documented abuse, obtaining a restraining order will likely be easier. However, even in cases where there hasn’t been any recent physical abuse, there are still court orders that can be sought that limit an abusive husband’s contact with his family. Such order might include supervised or limited visits with children.
Whatever the court’s ruling on a protective order, it is important that the woman get out of the house when divorcing an abusive husband. But don’t do so without first consulting with a lawyer. Only then can she gain the clarity necessary to strategize and prepare for her divorce.
What About Spousal and Child Support?
For many women who have become totally financially dependent on a husband, many thoughts race through a woman’s head. How will I buy food? How will I afford rent? Will I be able to get work? What about my kids? While there is no easy answer to these questions, the state’s family code does provide guidance on the issue of spousal support. We’ve also written an entire page on spousal support (more commonly known as alimony).
When it comes to determining a spousal support arrangement, Family Code §4320 states the court must consider the earning capacity of each party, and whether the amount is enough to maintain the standard of living established during the marriage. The court must also consider things such as the person’s marketable skills as well as the job market.
When determining a child support plan, both parents have a responsibility to provide support to their minor children suitable to the children’s circumstances. Even abusive fathers are not exempt from this responsibility. If a temporary restraining order is in place, the husband can still be required to pay spousal and child support. We’ve got a headline page on child support that we highly recommend that you read.
Because this issue is so complex, it is highly recommended you speak to a family attorney if you have questions about your specific spousal or child support situation. Divorcing an abusive husband when children are involved needs to be handled by someone with strength, creativity, and tact.
Gathering Evidence to Support a Domestic Violence Case
Whether you are seeking a divorce against a husband who has been a long term abuser, or is a situational variety abuser, it’s important that you document the evidence of the abuse whenever possible. Such evidence can include the following:
- Photographs of injuries, shattered windows, or holes punched into walls
- Text messages, emails and angry letters written by the abuser to his spouse
- Eyewitness testimony from family, friends or neighbors. It’s a good idea you keep a list of potential witness.
In cases where the woman hasn’t documented any abusive events prior to seeking a divorce, it’s important to remember that abusers don’t stop their nasty behavior, even when it’s in their best interest to do so. If you are seeking to divorce an abusive husband, or have already filed for divorce, be sure to begin documenting any inappropriate behavior as soon as possible. It might prove useful at a later date, especially if you report the domestic violence to the police.
After discussing the case with your lawyer, there may also be an opportunity to retrieve past evidence of abuse. This might involve searching an icloud or email account, or perhaps locating video footage shot on a cell phone.
Will I Be Able to Get Sole Custody of My Children?
While the law seeks to maintain contact between both parents and their children following a divorce, there are circumstances under which that contact can be limited. We’ve written an entire page on domestic violence and child custody. Also, California Family Code § 3044 states the following:
“Upon a finding by the court that a party seeking custody of a child perpetrated domestic violence against the other party seeking custody of the child or against the child or the child’s siblings within the previous five years, there is a rebuttable presumption that an award of sole or joint physical or legal custody of a child to a person who has perpetrated domestic violence is detrimental to the best interest of the child…”
At this point, many folks ask what a rebuttable presumption is. This simply means that under these circumstances, the court assumes that giving the abuser custody would not be in the child’s best interest. While there are legal steps an abuser can take to regain custody of his children, it might be in the kids’ best interest to try to limit that custody.
Gaining the Courage To Divorce an Abusive Husband
In many cases, seeing a qualified licensed therapist will be helpful when it comes to processing emotions built up over many year. This may be the best way to find the courage to to divorce and abusive husband, and begin the healing process. Therapy can also be helpful for women who have taken the plunge and are in the process of divorcing their abusive husband.
Other articles that may be helpful include:
Consulting a Family Attorney
If you’ve been trapped in an abusive marriage, and are looking for a way out, it might be time to discuss your case with a qualified family lawyer. Divorce cases are never easy, and dealing with an abusive husband compounds an already difficult problem.
It can be so difficult in fact, that you will also require help from a licensed therapist. The important thing to remember is that you shouldn’t try to go it alone. A good lawyer will be able to approach the facts of your case with an objective legal mind, and help you decide on the best strategy forward. There are many ways to successfully divorce an abusive husband, and your lawyer can be invaluable in helping you to decide how to do it right.
Don’t hesitate to interview multiple attorneys before signing an agreement. Keep in mind that a lawyer should be an excellent communicator. This applies whether your attorney is presenting your case in court, helping you deal with law enforcement, or simply explaining to you the latest updates in your case.
A potential lawyer should clearly explain to you the fees being charged so that you don’t receive any unexpected bills after the finalization of your divorce.
Every divorce case is different. It’s important to remember that no webpage can adequately discuss all the nuances and subtleties of each a case. If you are involved in an abusive marriage, and are seeking a divorce, consider scheduling a consultation with our family attorney.
Abusive Husbands in the Media
Sadly, criminal courts, jails and cemeteries are filled with stories of women who waited too long to divorce an abusive husband. One story, written in the Los Angeles Times in 2003, detailed an incident occurring that year in Santa Ana, Orange County. The case involved a 38-year-old woman who had been married for 20 years to a violent husband. The couple had several children together, ranging in age from five to 19. Family members told reporters that the husband had been jealous and physically abusive for years.
While the wife was in the process of divorcing her abuser, and they were separated, the husband continued to stalk her, even going so far as assaulting her outside of a restaurant. The woman had obtained an emergency protective order prohibiting her husband from coming within a specified distance of her. However, she didn’t follow up with the court to attempt to have the order made permanent.
One day after the order expired, the husband showed up at the wife’s house where the two argued. Neighbors later told police they saw the husband walk into the backyard and retrieve a handgun. He shot his wife multiple times in the torso, killing her before turning the gun on himself. Speaking to reporters after the incident, the woman’s brother said, “They had separated, they were going to divorce, they were going to sell the house…but she waited too long.”
While this story is extreme, and incredibly tragic, it is not intended to instill fear in the reader. Hopefully this story, and the many other stories like it, illustrates the importance of remaining vigilant and proactive when seeking a divorce. You must never let up.
In some cases, your life could depend on it.