Are you trapped in an abusive marriage? If you want to get out of the relationship, but have fears about how your spouse will react, you are not alone. Studies show that roughly 40% of women in California suffer from physical violence with an intimate partner at some time in their lives. If you find yourself in such a situation, an experienced, discreet attorney may be able to help.
Facts About Abusive Marriages and Domestic Violence
- Women aged 18-24 are 11% more likely to have experienced physical violence in the past year than their older counterparts;
- Women who were pregnant in the past five years are 12% more likely to experience violence than those who have not been pregnant;
- Three-fourths of women who live in violent homes have minor children living in the home;
- 5% of homicides statewide were related to domestic violence in 2008, with a total of 113 fatalities;
- Of those fatalities, 88% were women.
Divorcing an Abusive Spouse – What You Need to Know
If you wish to extricate yourself from and abusive marriage, you may face an angry spouse who threatens your safety and that of your children. Be aware of several key points:
- A contested divorce will take at least six months;
- Courts are more likely to consider physical and/or sexual abuse than emotional abuse, which is an issue when seeking Abuse Prevention Orders;
- The court can impound your address, meaning it will be blacked out in all court documents so your spouse will not know where you live;
- Restraining/protective orders can be issued requiring your spouse to stay away from you and your children;
- If there is not documentation of your injuries, you may be regarded as hysterical, or worse, vengeful in your pursuit to defame your spouse;
- You may be asked to go through mediation prior to getting your divorce granted;
- Your abuser will likely have some form of visitation rights with your children, meaning you may be in contact for years to come.
Protect Yourself Right Now
The National Domestic Violence Hotline is 1-800-799 SAFE. They can tell you about resources and local agencies that are set up to help women and children who need protection from abusers. In the meanwhile, here are some things you should be doing:
- Keep your plans hidden. Do not keep phone numbers, filers or other information related to domestic violence in the home where your abuser may find them;
- Have an emergency plan to escape during an violent emergency; keep an overnight bag with prescriptions and other essentials ready to go if you can safely hide one;
- Make your plans to leave permanently during an open window of time when your abuser will not be around to stop you;
- Try to hide some money or get your own credit card, but make sure you have a PO Box to receive mail;
- Find out about shelters that could accept you and your children;
- Leave your cell phone behind so your abuser cannot track you;
- Keep a journal, pictures, medical bills, and any other documentation if you can do so safely;
- Keep online information safe;
- File formal charges and get a protective order.