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What to Do When Your Spouse Has a History of Domestic Violence

upset_child.jpgFor many people, the decision to divorce comes after years of domestic violence — where one spouse has abused the other, as well as the children. For the abused spouse, it is often a difficult decision. He or she may still love the other spouse. The abusive spouse may have left the abused spouse questioning his or her self worth, or fearing that the abusive spouse will come after the abused spouse if he or she tries to get away. While most incidents of domestic violence involve male-on-female violence, there have been increasing reports on female-on-male violence. Also, domestic violence can affect same-sex marriages or domestic partnerships. What can you do if there is domestic violence in your family? In the event of divorce, how does domestic violence affect the spouses’ legal rights?

If I Want to Divorce My Abusive Spouse, What Do I Do First?

The first thing many abused spouses do is get to a safe place and file for a temporary restraining order in family court. A “TRO” can be issued within 24 hours. Whether you are married, divorced, or in a domestic partnership, it can protect you from a wide range of abuse. A TRO prevents the abusive spouse from having any contact with you, your children, or your relatives. It may prevent the spouse from taking your children away. It can be granted without first giving notice to the other spouse, allowing you time to put a safe distance between you and the abusive spouse. The TRO will be effective even if you move.

A TRO usually lasts three weeks, but may be turned into a permanent restraining order. In addition to the above restraints, it may also provide for child support and spousal support. While a TRO or an EPO (an Emergency Protective Order, which can be issued by the police if you need immediate protection from your spouse and lasts five days) can be acquired without an attorney, at some point, you should find a Family Law Practice Overview.

What if My Spouse Was the One Who Earned the Money?

A history of domestic violence is one of the factors the family court considers when it determines spousal support. If you were unable to work during the marriage, the court might decide that you need spousal support until you can support yourself.

What if My Spouse Wants Custody of Our Children?

While there are cases where the abusive spouse gets custody of the children, determination of custody is usually based on several factors. This includes the best interests of the child; whether the abusive spouse has completed a 52-week batterer’s program and not committed any other domestic violence; and whether the abusive spouse has followed court orders to take rehabilitation classes and obeyed the restraining order. Failure to do any of these things would jeopardize your abusive ex-spouse’s claim to custody of your children.


An abusive ex-spouse usually does not get custody, but the court may grant visitation rights.

What if My Spouse Violates Orders Just to Punish Me?

This blog has discussed what to do when an ex-spouse violates visitation orders. If a spouse violates a restraining order, it is considered a crime. You should call the police and your spouse will be arrested.

Family Law Practice Overview is located in Santa Rosa and offers an entire scope of divorce services to clients in Santa Rosa, Petaluma, Cotati, Rohnert Park, Sebastopol, Healdsburg, Sonoma, Kenwood, Glen Ellen, Windsor, Bodega Bay, Ukiah, Willits, Clearlake, Lakeport, Kelseyville and throughout Sonoma, Mendocino and Lake County.

Beck Law P.C. offers a no cost, no obligation initial consultation and can furnish the experience and knowledge to help guide you as you come to the decision to divorce or not divorce.

Making an appointment to meet with us is not a decision to file for divorce. It is merely an investment in exploring what options may or may not apply to your particular situation. Your visit to the Beck Law Offices is confidential, as is the information discussed. You can contact our office at 707-576-7175 or contact us online.

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