Abuse can be physical, verbal, or psychological, but no matter which form abuse takes, choosing to divorce an abusive husband is one of the healthiest decisions you can make both for yourself and for your children. Filing for divorce, however, can be dangerous. According to Barbara Hart, Associate Director for the Battered Women's Justice Project, approximately half of the 31,260 homicides of battered women by their abusers from 1976 to 1996 occurred after the women attempted to leave their abusive partners. Divorcing an abusive husband is a good decision but one that must be undertaken carefully to preserve your own safety.
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Consider where you will go after you leave your home before you actually leave. Staying in a location where you are not accessible by your spouse is necessary to ensure your protection throughout divorce proceedings.
Leave home before filing your divorce papers. An abusive husband is likely to be enraged when he is served with divorce papers, and it is much safer for you and your children if you are not present when this occurs.
Request an Order of Protection from your local court system. An Order of Protection is more powerful than a restraining order and, should your petition be granted, your husband will be forced to turn over all guns to the local police department. An Order of Protection also forces your husband to pay you temporary child support until formal child support is established following the divorce.
Hire an attorney. An attorney can walk you through the divorce process and help you fill out all the necessary papers. An attorney can also prevent you from having to represent yourself in court and gives you greater leverage when it comes to establishing child custody.
Document everything. Any harassing telephone calls, letters, or threats of any kind by your husband during a divorce should be documented. This validates your claim of abuse--especially if your husband claims otherwise.
Request that the court waive mediation or the marriage counselling required by some states before a couple may divorce. In abuse cases, this request is often granted to prevent the victim from being psychologically bullied or lulled into a sense of safety that would place her and her children in danger.
Expect your spouse to contest the divorce and be as uncooperative as possible. Although this may not occur, it is best to be prepared for the worst case scenario ahead of time. Inform your attorney so that she can gather the necessary paperwork to immediately file for court subpoenas to acquire information not volunteered by an uncooperative spouse.
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