If you or someone you love is experiencing domestic violence, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at (800) 799-7233 for confidential support. You can also call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at (800) 422-4453. You are not alone.
Divorcing an abusive spouse can be emotionally and practically daunting. It’s critical that you protect and prioritize you and your children’s safety and mental well-being during the divorce process.
If you are considering or already navigating divorce with an abusive ex-partner, know that you are not alone—there are resources available for support throughout the process.
Creating a Safety Plan
When navigating divorce with an abusive ex-partner, it is essential that you implement a safety plan to help ensure your wellbeing during the process. If you still live with your spouse, begin to visualize the steps you will need to take to leave. This might include:
- Preparing an emergency bag with money, IDs, medications, change of clothing, spare keys, and necessary items for your children.
- Storing that bag in a safe plan, perhaps at a trusted friend’s house.
- Finding a safe place you can go, whether that’s a friend’s home or a local domestic violence shelter
- A believable excuse to leave the house with your children.
- A code word that you can use to tell a loved one that you need help.
Keep your contacts on hand so you can reach out to a loved one for help if needed. It can be hard to ask for help, but it’s important to remember that your safety is more important than anything else.
If you are remaining in your house, you might look into changing your locks and obtaining copies of shared bank statements and credit card accounts before separating.
Knowing Your Legal Rights and Options for Protection
When navigating divorce with an abusive ex-partner, it is important to understand your legal rights and options for protection. Knowing the resources available to you can help you feel more secure during this vulnerable period. Reaching out to a knowledgeable divorce attorney who can help you navigate this process can help ensure that you are protected during this time.
Claiming Grounds for Divorce
Although Texas is a no-fault state, domestic violence can be used as a grounds for divorce in Texas by claiming cruelty. Cruelty is one of 4 fault-based options for divorce in Texas. In cases where cruelty is given as grounds for the divorce, the judge is permitted to consider this in their deliberations about how to fairly divide the couple’s property. In some cases – such as, if the couple has very few marital assets – it may not be worth pursuing this option. It is important that you consult with your attorney to decide how best to proceed in your case.
Notifying Your Spouse About the Divorce
Notifying an abusive spouse of divorce proceedings can can be extremely difficult and even dangerous. It is to your benefit to work with a divorce attorney who understands the risks involved for people who are dealing with domestic violence and can help ensure that your spouse is notified without risking your safety.
Getting a Protective Order
When your attorney files for divorce, they can also apply for a temporary restraining order (TRO) and reapply to have the TRO renewed as needed. This type of court order prohibits contact between yourself and the abuser, as well as any other persons listed on the document (such as children). According to Texas Family Code 83.001, the judge does not need to speak with the abuser and can issue the TRO without a hearing, if necessary. If the abuser violates the restraining order, they will be criminally liable for doing so.
Your lawyer can also request a hearing for a final protective order that will last up to two years.
Protecting Your Children
If there is a proven pattern of abuse either against a spouse or their children, your spouse will not be granted sole custody of your children. They will likely still be granted some sort of visitation, possibly supervised. It is critical that you work with an experienced and compassionate divorce attorney who can help advocate for the safety and protection of you and your children.
Waiving the Waiting Period
Texas law typically requires that couples wait 60 days from the date they file to finalize their divorce. However, if you have filed a restraining order against your spouse or they have been convicted of domestic violence, that waiting period can be waived at the judge’s discretion.
Hiring an Attorney
Navigating divorce with an abusive ex-partner can be a daunting task, and it is important to have the right resources in place to ensure your safety and wellbeing throughout the process. It’s important that you hire a divorce attorney who has experience with representing cases that involve domestic violence. Not only can an experienced attorney provide legal guidance and advocate for you during your divorce proceedings, but they will be familiar with Texas’s laws related to domestic violence.
At Cynthia Tracy, Attorney at Law, P.C., we know how important it is to have a knowledgeable attorney by your side during this challenging time. Attorney Cynthia Tracy has over 30 years of family law experience and is Board Certified in Family Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. We can help guide you every step of the way and help ensure that you and your children are safe and protected – physically, financially, and legally.
If you want to pursue a divorce against an abusive spouse, contact us online or call us at (281) 612-5443 to schedule a consultation so that we can discuss your situation.