“I don't feel safe with my spouse. How do I protect myself and my children once I file for divorce?
That is a particularly common question among women (and men) who may be enduring physical and/or emotional abuse. In these situations, the very act of meeting with a divorce attorney and filing for divorce represents a tremendous act of courage. You have begun the process of extricating yourself from an abusive situation and likely fear retaliation from the spouse you just served with divorce papers.
Are you in an abusive relationship?
As defined by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), "domestic violence is the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior that is part of a systematic pattern of power and control perpetrated by one intimate partner against another. It includes physical violence, sexual violence, threats, economic, and emotional/psychological abuse.”
If you are in an abusive relationship and live in New York, you are not alone.
According to the NCADV, in New York, 31.7% of women and 29% of men have experienced intimate partner violence, intimate partner sexual violence, and/or intimate partner stalking in their lifetimes. Even before the pandemic, New York City law enforcement responded to more than 250,000 domestic incident reports in 2018. By December 31, 2019, New York state had submitted nearly 62,000 active protective order records to the state's National Crime Information Center. Nationwide, in nearly 20 % of all marriages and intimate partnerships, couples slap, shove, hit, or otherwise assault one another. Emotional abuse, whether verbal threats, humiliating or degrading remarks, and controlling behavior, is even more common.
How can you protect yourself from an abusive spouse during a divorce?
First and foremost – call 911 in any emergency. Then call an attorney and ask whether an order of protection can be filed against your husband, partner, or wife who has committed domestic violence, or in certain cases, threatened you with violence.
What can the police do?
Under New York Law, if you are the victim of domestic violence, the police can:
- Help you find a safe place to stay;
- Explain how the New York courts can protect you;
- Help you and your children get medical care for any injuries;
- Assist you in securing necessary belongings from your home;
- Provide you with copies of police reports about the violence; and
- File a complaint in criminal court and tell you where your local criminal and family courts are located.
You have rights in court
If the person who harmed or threatened you is a relative by blood or marriage, is someone you've had a child with, or someone with whom you have or have had an intimate relationship, you have the right to take your case to family court, criminal court, or both.
You and your attorney can file the necessary forms, and the court can decide to provide a temporary order of protection for you, your children, and any witnesses to the abuse who may request one. You also may be able to secure an order of temporary child support and temporary custody of your children.
Ask for help.
If you are in counseling, ask your therapist to recommend a divorce/family law attorney. Then make that call. You have options. If you'd like to speak about how you can legally protect yourself as you leave your abusive marriage, let's talk. I'm Dan Stock, and you can call me at 475-232-4105 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a consultation.