Divorce Guide :: Marriage and Separation Advice :: Divorcing an Abusive Spouse
Divorcing an Abusive Spouse E-mail

Living with an abusive husband is difficult and dangerous, but filing a divorce can oftentimes pose a big problem. Many women want to go through with a divorce but are afraid of many things that could work against them.

Here are common questions and divorce advice for women who want to leave their abusive husbands:

Q: I am afraid to file for a divorce because my husband is physically abusive and has made threats to me. I am scared. What should I do?
A: It's important, first and foremost, that you remove yourself from a situation that can get dangerous very fast. Men who are physically violent can be pushed over the edge when they feel they're not in control anymore. If you feel you are in immediate danger, call 911 for help. Otherwise, it's best to contact the local domestic violence shelter in your area and ask them if they can provide an escort so that you can get out of the house safe.

Q: My husband is not physically abusive but he is intelligent, manipulative, and emotionally abusive. He constantly threatens me when I tell him that I want a divorce. What should I do?
A: One doesn't have to inflict physical harm to be called an abusive spouse. If you feel threatened, it's still best to go to a local domestic violence shelter and get counseling while you're in the process of filing a divorce. You shouldn't stay in a marriage only because you're afraid to get out of it. Emotional abuse is as damaging as physical abuse.

Q: My husband keeps on making nasty phone calls to me at home and he keeps on showing up at work even after I asked him not to. Is there anything I can do about this?
A: The best recourse for people whose spouses won't leave them alone after they've separated is to get a restraining order. Don't feel pressured into talking to him if you don't feel okay with it and especially not if you feel unsafe while talking. It would also be good if you can change your phone number and not have your name listed so he won't be able to call you. Ask your family and friends not to give your number out and be very discriminate who you share your new number to. If you're not able to get a restraining order yet and your ex visits you at work, trying to cause trouble, you'll have to take up this issue with your employer.

Q: I have no work, very little means, and my husband controls the finances at home. I want a divorce and I want to take my children out of the house but I don't know where to start. What should I do?
A: It's difficult to move around without transportation or money, but your immediate concern should be the safety of your children and your self. If you want to leave home and file for divorce, you may want to try and check with the local domestic violence shelter and see if they can help you move out with the children. You'll want to file for an order of custody and temporary spousal and child support in family court. To address your financial concern about filing divorce papers, you may want to learn about DIY divorce. It will definitely save you a significant amount of money from legal fees. You may also consider exploring alternative sources for funding such as your family and close friends. You may also want to look for a lawyer who will agree to an installment payment structure for your legal fees.

Q: Is it possible to request that supervised visitation be a part of the custody agreement?
A: Yes, you can file for this order in court, whether he likes it or not. If there is domestic violence involved, it's likely that the judge will approve the supervised visitation order.

Q: My husband tells me that I have no proof of the abuse he's subjecting me to and nobody would believe me in court. Is that true?
A: Your testimony is the primary proof that you will need. It's best if you kept a journal to make an account of what kind of abuse he subjected you to, what sort of words or physical assault he made, the people who witnessed the abuse (if any), dates, places, and other key information. It's also best that if you were physically assaulted, seek medical help and keep your medical records.

Q: My physically abusive husband refuses to leave the marital home which I pay for every month because my name is on the mortgage. Is there anything I can do to get him out of the house while waiting for the divorce to be finalized?
A: You can ask your divorce lawyer to file for an order of exclusive residence or occupancy of your family home. You can then start the divorce proceedings and request another court order that you may be allowed to continue the same living arrangments while the divorce is ongoing.

Q: I am afraid that if I move out of the house, I'll lose my rights to it. Will I still be able to claim my rights to the home during divorce settlement?
A: If you leave the marital home, you may lose the chance to reside in the home while the divorce proceedings are ongoing. However, this may not be the case if there's domestic violence involved. Property division will still be determined by the court, no matter what your husband says to threaten that you won't get anything out of it.

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