The question about how psychological domestic violence affects divorce came up in one of our workshops this year, and we felt it important to share some thoughts.
First, domestic violence is an urgent concern. If you are being abused either physically or verbally, it is critical for you to find a safe place to stay for you and your children. You can worry about the legal aspects later. In North Carolina, there were 108 domestic violence-related homicides in 2013 — that’s about two deaths per week.
Second, know that you are not alone. The National Violence Against Women Survey for 2000 reported that 25 percent of women and 7.6 percent of men reported being victims of intimate partner violence at some point in their lives.
Abuse may be physical or psychological or even financial. As one divorce lawyer puts it, check your stereotypes at the door. Domestic abuse affects people of all races, income levels, and ages.
Domestic Violence and Divorce in North Carolina
Once you are safe, contact a lawyer. However, if you and your partner own a home and you are able to stay there safely, it is a good idea to contact a lawyer before leaving. Leaving too soon can affect your alimony and home ownership situation. However, if your life is at risk, the court will acknowledge your situation, so please consider your safety first.
North Carolina’s Domestic Violence Act offers protection for men, women, and children leaving abusive relationships, whether it’s a current or former spouse or a dating partner. This act gives those in abusive relationships options for filing claims, emergency relief (such as leaving a house immediately,) and outlines situations for alimony and child custody. You might be able to file a civil suit to keep your car, your house, and custody of your children while your divorce is in progress. The suit may even include a restraining order for your partner.
North Carolina allows you to file a no-fault divorce or submit grounds (reason) for the divorce. Using grounds may help you gain an advantage when arguing for child custody, property, or alimony.
A few other things to expect:
- Your lawyer may advise you to file criminal charges.
- In some cases, you may not be able to return to the house until the divorce is final.
Abuse can cause real harm. It can lead to depression, neurological disorders, chronic pain, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and higher addiction rates for alcohol, tobacco, and drugs. If you are taking steps toward leaving an abusive situation, you can find help from the following: