Physically and emotionally walking away from an abusive relationship requires courage and support from many different sources; you may want to seek the help of a domestic abuse family law attorney to protect your rights and those of your children. Statistically speaking, the most dangerous time for a battered spouse is when they leave the relationship as the abuser becomes insecure and afraid of losing the relationship.
If at all possible, it is important to plan ahead for safe housing such as in a battered women’s shelter, a hotel or the home of a friend that the abuser doesn’t know. Going to your parent’s or a best friend’s house could be dangerous since the abuser is likely to find you there. Before leaving, setting aside money, clothes and other important items at a trusted friend’s in the event you need to leave on short notice. Keep records of every incident of physical or emotional abuse involving you and your children. This will make it easier for the courts to make a decision when awarding custody, for police to arrest and charge your spouse, or for you to setup a restraining order.
The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) is an excellent resource for victims of domestic violence and recommends that you:
- Make a list of safe people to contact
- Memorize phone numbers of people or places you could call for help
- Keep change (for a pay phone, as you may end up without a cell phone) with you at all times, as well as cash for living expenses, and
- Establish a code word with family, friends, and coworkers so that you can tell them to call for help without alerting the abusive partner
- Set aside important paperwork; the right documents can help you take legal action with the help of a family law attorney or apply for government benefits after you leave. The NCADV offers good advice, suggesting that you take:
- credit cards and checkbook
- social security cards
- birth certificates
- copies of deeds, leases, and insurance policies
- proof of income for you and the abusive spouse or partner, such as pay stubs or copies of W-2 forms
- copies of bank or credit card statements if you cannot easily access them online, and
- any documentation that proves past abuse, including photographs, police reports, or medical records.
If You Don’t Have Time to Plan
The first thing to do is go to a court to apply for a protective order and full custody to keep the abuser away from you and your children. Without a custody order you could be accused of kidnapping the kids. Seeking the help of a domestic abuse lawyer at this time would be extremely beneficial. If you cannot afford a lawyer, you may be able to seek legal help through a battered women’s shelter or through information packets at the courthouse. The local sheriff’s office will likely be in charge of serving the paperwork which is required before any restraining order or child custody ruling takes effect.
Steps to Safety after You’ve Left
- Change your phone number and keep it blocked and unlisted
- Never answer the phone unless you have caller ID
- Rent a post office box or have mail delivered to a friend or family member
- If you are contacted by the abuser write down when, how and what happened
- Keep the restraining order with you at all times
- If you believe the restraining order has been violated or you feel un-safe in any way, contact the police, the court and/or your domestic abuse lawyer immediately
More Suggestions from the NCADV
- If you are staying in your home, have the locks changed
- Have someone else with you at all times
- Change your routine frequently
- Think about how you’ll get away if the abuser confronts you
- If you have to meet the abuser, do so in a very public place
- Alert trusted co-workers, your boss and contacts at your children’s school so they can lookout for unusual behavior
Child Custody and Visitation
If you share legal custody of your children, make plans for neutral and public pickup/visitation sites or preferably for others to pick up and drop off your kids. In certain cases you may be able to require a court appointed supervisor for visitation. If you have sole custody but your spouse was awarded some type of visitation, put legal conditions on the meetings such as a requirement for supervised visits, no drinking or drug use while with the kids, and if necessary that certain friends or family members of your spouse can’t be around your children.
There is Help Available
- You will find caring and effective family law attorneys at Tario & Associates, P.S. Please contact us today to protect your rights and your safety.
- Do an online search for “domestic violence” to find local support agencies, or contact one of these national resources for advice and help locating services in your area.
- The National Domestic Violence Hotline, 800-799-SAFE (7233), provides advice and assistance.
- The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 303-839-1852, has a list of state coalitions that can help you find local services.
Please contact the Bellingham family law attorneys at Tario Law & Associates, P.S.for help in your family legal needs. We are here to help.