Its an unfortunate reality that domestic abuse exists in some relationships and marriages. In these situations, safety should be your first and foremost priority. If you are in circumstances that are threatening and abusive, remaining in the marital home while you contemplate the divorce process is not only ill-advised – it is potentially very dangerous, for you and for your children. Always trust your instincts, and if you feel that you need to leave immediately, you should do so.
In a situation involving domestic abuse, it is critical to act first and contemplate matters later. If you are a victim of domestic abuse and are considering divorce, it can be very helpful to make a safety plan if you have the ability to do so. If you are in imminent danger, of course you should leave immediately. If you have time, however, taking the following steps can be helpful to protect yourself and your children:
Gathering this documentation can give you peace of mind, not to mention that it could be very helpful in a divorce case in the future.
If you find yourself in a situation involving domestic abuse, after securing your safety and the safety of your children, it can be helpful to think about how you might approach the divorce process itself. Throughout this guide, we try to advocate cooperative divorce resolution methods – typically, the process proceeds more smoothly and is easier for all involved with the parties can work together toward solutions that are satisfactory for everyone.
Unfortunately, however, in situations involving domestic violence, this sort of cooperative negotiation is simply not possible. Throughout the divorce process, your primary emphasis should be on your safety, and on protecting your interests and those of your children. Often, spouses who are controlling and abusive are difficult to negotiate with, and attempt to use the divorce process as a way to punish or prolong their control over the abused spouse.
In those situations, it is important to retain the services of an attorney who understands some of the psychology involved in abusive relationships, and who can advocate for you in a way that will ultimately be effective in pursuing and protecting your interests. This may mean that methods of negotiation like mediation, or collaborative law may not work well in your particular set of circumstances – and that’s okay. Allowing a court to resolve your issues may very well be the best solution, because it will provide the formal distance between you and your spouse that is necessary for your safety and for you to assert your rights without fear of manipulation or verbal abuse. Regardless of how you choose to proceed with resolving the issues between you, it is important to have the services of a knowledgeable and experienced attorney on your side.
As a few final reminders on the subject of domestic abuse, before any other considerations, safety should come first. As a victim of abuse, you should know that you are entitled to feel safe and to live a life free of intimidation and fear. This may mean involving the authorities, if necessary. If you, or your children are suffering from domestic abuse, do not hesitate to call the police if necessary. You may need to file criminal assault charges, or obtain an emergency protective order or a restraining order. Doing so is your right under the law, and it may be necessary. Never hesitate to do what you need to do in order to best protect yourself and those you love. This should always be your first priority.
If you need to speak with an experienced family law attorney regarding domestic violence, please contact Adkins Law to arrange a consultation.
Beyond simply contemplating and envisioning life as it would be after a divorce, some couples who are having ongoing difficulties in their marriage consider separating on a trial basis to actually try it out and experience that reality for themselves. A trial separation is a decision made by couples to take some time apart prior to making the decision to divorce. We would note that importantly, this is different from a legal separation, which is a decision made after a couple has definitively decided to divorce.
Often, it is difficult for some to envision what life might be like after a divorce, and a trial separation is a way to briefly experience that reality prior to definitively making a determination as to whether or not divorce is the best choice. Some couples may also see it as a helpful way to have some space from one another to reduce the intensity of the conflict between them while they work with a counselor in an attempt to decide whether to remain married or pursue a divorce.
While trial separations are a nice idea in theory, we would note that in the majority of situations, couples do not get back together after separating. This may be because one person in the couple feels such a relief in their stress levels after separating that they don’t want to return to difficult emotional circumstances. In other cases, couples who are already facing challenges in improving their relationship may find that they face even more challenges in doing so when they are apart. After separating, couples may only see each other at counseling, and it is difficult to apply the skills and advice from counseling sessions when you are living apart.
Occasionally, some attorneys will suggest that a client who wants a divorce suggest a “trial separation” to the spouse that does not want the divorce as a way of making it easier to ultimately move forward with the divorce process. While this may ultimately be effective in some circumstances, we believe and advise our clients that honesty is best. Being deceitful at the outset of the divorce process sets a bad precedent, and can hurt your credibility for future negotiations with your spouse on important issues that matter.
For those couples who do decide that going forward with a trial separation is best, and if both spouses agree, it can be a wise decision to put into writing the terms of your separation. Consider matters like:
While putting your plans into writing is certainly not required for a legal separation, doing so can nevertheless be helpful in avoiding any issues that may potentially arise.
If you would like to discuss separation and divorce with a family law attorney, please contact Adkins Law to arrange a consultation.
For many, when contemplating divorce, it is only natural to focus on the emotions you may be feeling, particularly if you have been having difficulty in your marriage for some time. While this is understandable, it’s also important not to focus entirely on your emotions during this time. It’s also important to really think through the practical ways that life might change after a divorce. For many, this means making a thorough, honest assessment of your family’s financial situation.
A simple truth in today’s society is that many middle-class families spend as much, or in some cases, even a little more than they earn each month. Living paycheck to paycheck is a reality for a large portion of our population – and if you find yourself in that situation, you are certainly not alone. Divorce can have a significant effect on a family’s financial situation, as when a couple divorces, their expenses understandably increase. Beyond the cost of the divorce process itself, it is important to consider the fact that during separation and after divorce, instead of maintaining one household, the family is now maintaining two. Two mortgages, two sets of utility bills, two sets of property insurance bills- all of these things add up quickly – and though expenses have increased, the salary of each spouse often remains the same.
While this doesn’t necessarily mean that divorce is the wrong choice for your family, it is certainly worth considering all of its implications. It may mean downsizing to a smaller home, reducing costly leisure activities, or that a stay-at-home spouse returns to work in order to make ends meet. Prior to deciding upon divorce, thinking these matters through is important. If you find yourself genuinely contemplating divorce, it is important to try your best to be financially savvy about the choices you make leading up to, and throughout the divorce process. Some of those steps can include:
Tracking your expenses, obtaining important financial documentation, and understanding your overall financial picture will be helpful in anticipating future expenses as you think of moving from one household to two. It could also serve as a helpful way for your attorney, and potentially a judge, to decide how best to divide assets and debts your divorce case, as well as to make important determinations on matters like alimony and child support, among others.
It should also be noted that the financial aspects of the divorce process can be among the most stressful and the most contentious. Unfortunately, it is not unheard of for one spouse, out of anger or a desire for revenge to try to hurt or control the other financially. Even though it may seem highly unlikely to you that your spouse might ever behave in these ways, it is important to keep in mind that divorce can cause people to act in very uncharacteristic ways. Some spouses try to restrict the other spouse’s access to funds, empty bank accounts, or make expensive purchases that they would not otherwise make in an attempt to harm the other spouse. As a result, it is important to be prepared for this possibility, and to make sure that you have adequate access to funds prior to and throughout the divorce process, should you need them.
Even if you have not definitively made the decision to proceed with divorce, it would still be a wise step to consult with a knowledgeable and experienced divorce attorney regarding how divorce might affect your financial situation, and how you can adequately prepare financially prior to beginning the process. If you suspect that your spouse may hide or deplete marital assets or otherwise try to control you from a financial perspective, it is important to also mention this to your attorney if you have one.
Your attorney should be able to help advise you as to measures you can take to protect yourself financially during this time. Some people also choose to consult with a certified divorce financial analyst. These professionals specialize in reviewing a couple’s finances during the divorce process. A qualified analyst can help you to gain a more realistic picture of your expenses and your budget, in addition to planning for what your financial future might look like.
If you would like to speak with a family law attorney regarding separation and divorce, please contact Adkins Law to arrange a consultation.