What if my spouse is violent or harasses me during the divorce process?
Navigating a divorce is challenging enough, but when abuse is involved, the victim may fear backlash and be unwilling to move on from an unsafe situation. Domestic violence is illegal. Unfortunately, however, it is shockingly not uncommon in marriage. If your spouse is harassing you or threatening you with violence, the first thing you should do is protect yourself and your loved ones. As soon as you’re safe, consider filing for a divorce and seek professional legal help immediately. Divorce attorney Brian K. McMahon, PA, will be there throughout the entire process to handle paperwork and disputes, and answer any questions you may have.
How is Domestic Violence Defined in Florida?
Domestic violence or spousal abuse refers to a pattern of violence or threats between people currently or formerly involved in an intimate or familial relationship. It may include physical violence, psychological abuse, sexual violence, emotional abuse, and financial abuse. In addition to different types of physical or sexual assault, domestic violence may also include:
- Destroying property
- Keeping you from leaving the house or taking part in outside activities
- Insults and name-calling
- Injuring family pets
- Threatening you or other members of the household with violence
- Kidnapping a child
While you may regret getting into a shouting match with your spouse, it is important to remember that domestic violence only applies if someone commits a criminal offense against a family or household member. In Florida, this can include your spouse or ex-spouse, people related to you by blood, and people you reside with. Only the mother or father of your baby is exempt from this rule, regardless of whether they lived with you before.
Protecting Yourself When Leaving an Abuser
Before leaving an abusive relationship, it is essential to calmly evaluate your situation and take the necessary steps to protect yourself. Take the following steps to leave a dangerous relationship as quickly and safely as possible.
Prepare an exit strategy
Before discussing divorce with an abusive spouse, you should ensure you have a safe place to go, like your parent’s or a friend’s house. You should not remain in the house after breaking the news, as your spouse may become angered at your decision to leave and lash out violently.
Make a police report
In divorce and child custody proceedings, police reports can be used as evidence. Be sure to keep a record of all reports and case numbers. If you wish to remain anonymous, contact your local police department and request an incident report.
File a restraining order
Consider a restraining order if you fear your spouse will continue hurting you after the divorce. Even if your spouse was never charged, you can still qualify for a temporary domestic violence injunction. A family law attorney can help prove that getting a restraining order is in your best interest and petition the court on your behalf.
Avoid meeting in person
Breaking the news of your divorce to your abusive spouse may result in an unpredictable and potentially inappropriate or dangerous reaction. Prioritize your safety by avoiding meeting with them in person. Consider speaking to an attorney about potential strategies for notifying them.
While it can be difficult to acknowledge that someone you love is behaving violently towards you, the best decision you can make to protect yourself or your children is to speak up and ask for help. Confiding with an experienced family lawyer who can advise you of your legal rights options and assist in developing a safety plan is highly recommended.
How Does Domestic Abuse Affect Divorce?
Florida is a no-fault state, meaning you do not need to prove that your spouse has been abusive to get a divorce and must only claim “irreconcilable differences” when filing. Although domestic violence is not grounds for divorce in the state, a domestic violence claim may directly and significantly impact numerous aspects of divorce, such as marital assets division, spousal support, and child custody. If you are a victim of domestic violence or are being harassed by your ex-spouse, you may be entitled to a more substantial portion of the marital assets.
Get Help for a Divorce Involving Violence or Harassment
When a relationship ends, harassment and violence are unacceptable behaviors that are taken seriously in a divorce proceeding. If you are divorcing an abusive spouse, you should seek assistance as soon as possible. To discuss your divorce and get legal assistance, Call our office at 561-658-1789 or use our online contact form to set up a complimentary case evaluation with our Florida divorce attorney, Brian K. McMahon, P.A.