Domestic violence is a part of hundreds of thousands of Americans’ lives every day. A woman in the U.S. is beaten every 9 seconds. Legal clinics and shelters like the Family Law Assistance Project and Haven in Oakland County help survivors get away from abusive partners. But divorce can be a painful and sometimes dangerous part of the process.
According to the U.S. Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) domestic violence is “a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner.” That is why 95% of physical abusers also psychologically abuse their victims – because it is really about power.
That power struggle is what makes the divorce process so painful, because it amounts to a tug of war over property and information. Parties hide resources and cast accusations. It brings out the worst in people. When there is a history of violence and psychological abuse, the behaviors often get worse before they get better.
Survivors of domestic violence need to work with their attorneys to protect their safety at key points along the way:
Service of Process
In every divorce, the Complaint for Divorce has to be personally delivered to the Defendant. It often comes as a surprise and can humiliate the abuser. For some, their response to this embarrassment is violence. That’s why it is important to know when the Defendant will be served and plan to be somewhere safe, like with family and friends, at that time.
Parenting Time Exchanges
In non-violent cases, parenting time exchanges usually happen at the parents’ homes. This puts the parent picking up the children in the position of taking the children away from the other parent on a weekly basis. This is a recipe for trouble in domestic violence cases. In those cases, exchanges should occur in a public place or should involve the children’s school (so that one parent drops off and the other picks up) to minimize the survivor’s time alone with the abuser.
Because mediation is inappropriate in domestic violence cases, more domestic violence cases go to trial than non-violent cases. That puts the survivor in the intimidating position of having to testify about the abuser’s behavior in front of him or her. For many survivors suffering from PTSD and anxiety, this experience can be terrifying. A skilled attorney can prepare a survivor and can minimize the trauma. Make sure you take the time to prepare yourself before the big day.
Domestic violence is one of the hardest kinds of divorce. The power struggle, the fear, and the violence can make it one of the worst times in survivors’ lives. But having an attorney skilled in handling these issues can minimize the danger, reduce the fear, and lead you through the process. If you are in a violent marriage and ready to get out, contact Attorney Lisa J. Schmidt for a consultation.