Divorce can be difficult for any person, but if you are the victim of domestic violence or abuse, you could be particularly fearful about the process. Will you be safe? Will you have to sit in a room with your spouse and have to negotiate a settlement? How will you be able to support yourself when your spouse controls the finances?
These are just a few questions victims of violence need answered if they are ready to end a marriage. And while every case is different, there are some general things that people in this situation should know about divorcing as a victim of domestic violence.
You can ask to keep your former partner away
One option victims of violence often seek is a protective order. These prohibit a potentially dangerous party from contacting a person and visiting certain places. Should a person violate these orders, they can face penalties.
If there is a risk that your ex may not comply, you can take steps to conceal critical contact information. For instance, you might include P.O. Boxes on your legal forms to prevent disclosure of your address. Arizona residents can also apply for address protection in two other ways, including application to the Secretary of State’s Address Confidentiality Program (https://azsos.gov/services/acp) or a motion to the court itself requesting address secrecy under Family Law Rule 7.
If children are involved, you can seek protection for them, too. It is important to remember, though, that a domestic violence order of protection – while suitable for emergencies – cannot take the place of a family court order for legal decision-making or parenting time concerning the children. In fact, most judges prefer handling even emergencies through the family court process, and they can override an order of protection with respect to minors if they believe it should be amended.
Laws are in place to protect victims
In determining parenting time and rights, the courts consider numerous factors, including incidences of violence or abuse. If a parent poses a threat to a child’s safety, the courts may not award him or her legal decision-making rights.
No one has to go through a divorce alone
Survivors of domestic violence can feel isolated and hopeless; they might feel like a violent partner holds all the control, even when the relationship is ending. However, you do not have to navigate the legal system or pursue a fair settlement alone.
In addition to your family and friends, there are professionals who can help you get through this difficult situation. You can work with an attorney, financial counselors, therapists and others who have experience in helping people divorce safely and justly.