Divorce and Domestic Abuse

Divorce After Domestic Abuse

Many individuals seek a divorce after experiencing domestic abuse. As compassionate and caring attorneys, safety is our number one concern and we know how to help you work through the additional challenges that come with divorce after domestic abuse.

What counts as domestic abuse?

Domestic abuse is a serious and complicated matter that often includes more than physical assault. Abusers use a number of tools to keep control over their victims including: emotional abuse, assault and battery, control of money, sexual assault, stalking, and more. If you believe you are the victim of domestic abuse, we will work carefully with you to end the abuse, end the relationship, and keep you safe.

Safety Plans

The first step to preparing for a divorce after experiencing domestic abuse is to create a safety plan, either with your attorney or domestic service center. Often, there is a very real risk that filing for divorce could inflame your spouse and escalate the domestic violence. Thus, a well-developed safety plan is necessary. Your safety plan will include finding a safe place to live while the divorce is pending, establishing emergency contacts, creating a secret email so your spouse is not aware that you have sought our legal advice, and more. Your safety plan may also require filing a Personal Protection Order (PPO). A PPO is an order that protects you from continued abuse by your spouse. By issuing a PPO, the court will prohibit your spouse from engaging in specified actions. With a PPO, the court can limit your spouses’ physical contact with you, prevent them from entering your home, and prevent them from calling or texting you.

A safety plan will also be beneficial as the divorce progresses. In most divorces, spouses are required to attend mediation. Mediation is a process in which a third party meets with both spouses to settle all issues in the divorce and avoid a long and costly trial. However, in cases of domestic abuse, mediation is typically avoided, as abusers have unequal bargaining power. Informing your attorney that you have suffered domestic abuse will help them to ensure that mediation and other forms of settlement are handled in the appropriate manner, keeping you safe and preventing unequal bargaining.

Tort Actions

Once you are safe, the next step is to consider filing a tort action against your spouse in addition to the divorce. A tort claim can be added to your divorce action or can be filed as a separate action. According to Nick Roumel and Lillian K. Saba in Marital Torts Can Be a Valuable Tool in a Divorce Case, a tort claim against your spouse “can increase your bargaining power and provide significant compensation for abuse or fraud” in your divorce case. Combining a tort claim with your divorce also prevents you from having to go through the entire process again in criminal court. If you are considering filing a tort claim against your spouse, make sure to discuss it with your attorney before you file for divorce, as timing will impact whether you can file the action with your divorce, or whether you have to pursue it in a separate action.

If you do not wish to pursue a tort claim against your spouse, there are other ways to inform the court of your spouses’ abusive actions. When filing for divorce, your attorney will include your allegations of domestic abuse in the initial filing, ensuring the court is aware of your spouses’ heinous actions.

Child Custody

Domestic abuse is also a key factor courts consider when determining who will have legal and physical custody of your children. For instance, courts are more inclined to limit the parenting time of the abuser in order to protect the children. Aside from merely limiting parenting time, courts may also require supervised visitation or may bar your spouse from seeing the children at all. Even when the court is not concerned that your spouse may abuse the children, allegations of domestic violence will still play an important role in custody. For instance, a court may order you and your spouse to meet at a police station or other safe location when you exchange your children.

If you are experiencing domestic abuse, click here for help.

For assistance with your divorce, please contact the Milford, Michigan law office of Kathryn Wayne-Spindler & Associates at 248-676-1000 for a free consultation. Wayne-Spindler regularly reviews clients’ divorce paperwork. She can also help couples keep their attorneys’ fees down by offering mediation or collaborative divorce options. She assists clients with low-cost divorce, child custody, division of assets, alimony, and divorced estate planning. The firm handles cases throughout Southeastern Michigan include the five counties of Oakland, Washtenaw, Wayne, Genesee and Livingston. The experienced attorneys of Kathryn Wayne-Spindler & Associates work with clients in Milford, Highland, Hartland, Commerce, Walled Lake, Waterford, Wixom, Howell, White Lake, New Hudson, Linden, South Lyon, Grand Blanc, Holly and many more local communities.


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