If you are divorcing an abusive spouse, it is vital that you plan your exit carefully, especially if you have been threatened with physical harm as an attempt by your abuser to control you. As frightening as this situation is, you — and your children, if you have them — are likely to be in greater danger if you remain in your current situation. Here are 5 steps to help you exit your abusive marriage safely:
- Call a domestic violence hotline.
Counselors who are experienced with domestic violence situations can help you come up with an exit plan. They will let you know what you need to take when you go, and where to get support and shelter. This knowledge can help you overcome your fear about leaving and feel empowered to better your situation. New Jersey has a 24-hour domestic violence hotline at 800-572-SAFE. There is also a national domestic violence hotline at 800-799-7233.
- Talk with a family law attorney.
Most family law attorneys provide free consultations. They can help you with filing a restraining order against your abuser as well as prepare the necessary documents to request alimony, child custody, child support, and legal fees.
- Collect evidence.
Keep a journal to record evidence of abuse and take photos of any bodily injuries, noting the dates and circumstances of each incident. This information will help your attorney in preparing your case. Be sure you keep your journal in a safe place.
- Protect yourself.
You likely already know that you will need to keep your plans a secret from your abuser. Using your own phone or computer to conduct research or make calls is not a good idea, so ask a family member or friend to use their phone instead. You can use a public computer at the library if you don’t have access to one through a trusted person.
- Prepare your children.
While you do not want to tell your children about the plans to leave until it’s the right time, you do want to tell them what to do in case of emergency. Present this information as part of basic safety information — call 9-1-1 or go to a neighbor’s house.
Protecting your interests and achieving results that support your needs is what you can expect from Cistaro Law. Contact us today for your free consultation.