Prioritize Your Safety As You Divorce an Abusive Spouse

Making the decision and taking active steps to divorce from an abusive spouse can be a scary step towards a future of freedom. There is actually research that supports this feeling that many spouses get when fleeing from a harmful partner. Research suggests that if a couple has a history of domestic violence during the relationship, violence can intensify up to a year after the separation. It is important that the victim spouse gets legal help and enlists support from trustworthy family and friends during this very sensitive and scary time. 

 

Creating a Safety Plan

One of the first steps abused spouses must do is speak with a divorce lawyer in Tampa, FL who is experienced in handling divorce cases with the added element of domestic violence. Your attorney can provide resources to assist you as you create a safety plan and prepare to file for divorce. An example of a personalized and practical plan that you and your attorney may make together include: 

  • Safety while living with an abusive partner. Consider the safest areas in your home and how you can get out of the home safely if you are in danger. You may want to take steps to keep weapons locked away or contacting an agency about the use of unregistered firearms.
  • Safety planning with your children. If you have children, create ways to keep them safe by teaching them how to use a phone and call 911 for help, and deciding upon a “safe spot” for them to hide in case violence occurs. Your attorney can also talk with you about how to file for child custody and immediate court protection for you and your child during this time.
  • Safety planning during pregnancy. You may want to consider opening up to your healthcare provider at a pregnancy check-up appointment about the abuse. They can give you support and steps to take to protect you, your children, and your unborn child.
  • Safety planning for your pets. Pets often become a core family member, who we love and care for dearly. Unfortunately, sometimes pets can get harmed due to a violent spouse. Safety planning for your pet may include preparing or changing documentation to show you have ownership, finding a temporary safe place with a trusted family member or friend, or talking with an animal shelter who accepts surrenders. 

 

Protecting Yourself and Children

After establishing a safety plan, prepare a packing list for you and your child. In your getaway bags, you should have documents such as a driver’s license, birth certificates, money (cash, credit cards, checkbooks, debit cards, etc.), safety deposit keys court records, cell phone, and medications. You can also talk with a trusted friend or relative about keeping a bag of clothes at their place, just in case you have to vacate the home and don’t have time to pack. It can help to have a code word or sentence that you use to alert your children, family, and friends when you are in danger and they need to call for help. 

 

Thanks to The McKinney Law Group for their insight into family law and divorcing an abusive spouse.