As if divorce were not difficult enough, leaving an abusive marriage makes it even more so. You are likely to face more hurdles not only from your vengeful spouse but also from the judicial system. You may not fit the stereotype of an abuse victim. You may not be meek, fearful and dependent but outspoken, angry and independent instead. You may be wealthy or suffer from a mental illness. You may experience verbal abuse, not physical.
Any of these circumstances can cause a judge to believe your allegations of abuse are false. Knowing how to approach your divorce involving domestic violence can lead to better protection for you and your children.
How you can protect your children now
It is important that you use appropriate methods of child protection to ensure the court does not misinterpret your intentions and take away your custody. Keeping your children completely away from the abuser may be in their best interest, but it can also lead to accusations of parental alienation. This refers to when one parent turns children against the other parent through brainwashing and separation from the other parent. If a judge believes you are doing this, it can complicate your case.
You should also not take the children and leave, because it is considered kidnapping. Instead, you can file for a temporary protective order that prevents your spouse from having any contact with you. You can also request temporary sole custody of the children. It is best to take these actions with the assistance of a family law attorney experienced in domestic violence cases. In the meantime, carefully document all instances of abuse.
How Georgia law can protect you
Georgia law factors in domestic violence in divorce proceedings in the following ways:
- Children witnessing abuse is just as significant as being victims of it.
- If you leave without your children for a reasonable amount of time to avoid abuse, the court cannot consider it abandonment and use it against you in determining custody.
- The court must consider the safety of you and your children in its custody decision, as well as the abusive or criminal history of your spouse.
- Children 14 years and older may choose which parent to live with.
- The judge can order supervised visitation, a safe location for drop-offs and pickups, and certain requirements the abuser must meet before receiving custody or visitation rights.
Domestic violence is a serious issue that needs careful and secure handling. Speak to a family law attorney to find out how best to protect your children during your divorce.