Protecting Yourself When You File for Divorce from an Abusive Spouse
Divorce is never easy. However, divorcing an abusive spouse raises serious concerns for the safety of the spouse filing for divorce and any children who are involved. If you are divorcing an abusive spouse, you’ve taken an important first step in the right direction, but there is more that you need to know to ensure you and any children you may have are protected.
Is Abuse Grounds for Divorce in Florida?
Florida is a “no-fault” divorce state, which means in order to file for divorce you do not have to prove that some fault exists in your partner. However, when you are filing for divorce, you may want to indicate that the reason for filing is irreconcilable differences, as abuse is an important factor when the court considers child custody agreements and any financial matters. In particular, the court may consider any history of abuse when determining equitable distribution of property and alimony.
Your Safety is Important
Abuse is about power and control, so when a spouse tells their abuser they are severing that control by means of divorce, abusers can react in dangerous ways. Before you leave your spouse and tell them that you are filing for divorce, you need to make a safety plan to maximize your freedom from your spouse.
First, you need to figure out where you will be living. Staying in the home you share with your abuser is likely to result in more abuse, and perhaps more severe abuse, once you tell them you are divorcing them. Additionally, your abuser is unlikely to let you have the house if you ask them to leave. Is there a trusted friend or family member who can take you in? Reach out them and ask them to meet you in person to discuss something important. Once they agree to take you in, pick a date to move out and ask them to be physically present to help you do so.
Once you have identified a place to live, you need to take stock of your financial situation. Does your abusive spouse control your finances? If so, try to find a way to shift some finances over to an account your abuser does not control, or to open a new account your abuser does not know about. Money is one of the biggest ways abusers control their partners, so you need to make sure you are in a position where you will not find yourself going back into a dangerous situation for financial reasons.
You may also want to consider getting a new cell phone. Unfortunately, more and more abusers are using the location and tracking information on smart devices like phones, tablets, and computers to determine where their former partners are at any given time.
Finally, one of the most important steps you can take is to contact an experienced divorce attorney. They can tell you what legal options you have, and can talk with you about protective orders and other legal filings that can keep you safe during this difficult time. The attorneys at Blair H. Chan III, PLLC, are experienced in handling divorces from abusive spouses and are ready to protect you and any children you may have during this process. Contact them today.