Domestic abuse is, unfortunately, all too common. Nearly 20 people are physically abused by an intimate partner every minute in the United States. These statistics are jarring and play a significant role in divorce cases around the country.
However, domestic abuse isn’t always manifested in physical harm. Many different types of abuse could occur during a marriage. These types of abuse are listed below and defined by clicking on REACH, an organization aimed at ending domestic violence.
- Physical abuse
- Sexual abuse
- Mental abuse
- Verbal/Emotional abuse
- Financial abuse
- Cultural/Identity Abuse
Dealing with divorce while facing domestic abuse can be especially difficult, and at times may feel like an impossible situation to navigate. However, with the right knowledge and legal counsel, survivors of abuse can gain the support they need.
Survivors often find it either impossible or too difficult to take the steps toward divorce when looking at the legal hurdles on top of the abuse. While separating from an abusive spouse is quite possibly the most challenging aspect of the divorce, it’s the only way to start.
Unfortunately, survivors can become statistics if they do not take the necessary actions toward divorce and possibly legal protections. Domestic violence and murder have a long history together. Nearly half of all women that were murdered in the last decade were killed by their current or former partner.
Therefore, finding the proper protection, advice and legal counsel while in a domestic abuse situation is crucial. If a spouse is violent, contacting the police or a domestic violence relief agency can be life-saving. These public servants and resources provide security, but also possibly shelter until further steps can be taken.
Order For Protection (OFP)
An order for protection is essentially a court-ordered document signed by a judge that issues protections from a certain individual. If the OFP is violated, serious legal action against the perpetrator will ensue. One piece of advice that is common throughout many OFP scenarios is speaking with a victim advocate. These advocates can help a spouse determine if an OFP is in their best interest and help with the process. Here are some quick pieces of information regarding an OFP.
- Reasonable grounds for an OFP include, but not limited to, assault, bodily injury, fear of imminent physical harm, terrorist threats, or sexual assault
- There is currently no cost associated with an OFP
- The petitioner must sign an affidavit
- The petitioner may receive an immediate Order for Protection, which may remain in place for a period of time up to two years.
- Petitions for an OFP will need to be filed in district court
- Petitioners do not need an attorney to file an OFP, but it may help
- Petitioners must attend the hearing, if required by the OFP, or if respondent requests a hearing.
Who May Petition for Protection
A domestic abuse Order for Protection is available to family or household member of an abuser. Family or household members include current or former spouses, parents, children, blood relatives, or significant sexual relationships. In addition, household members may also include individuals who live together either currently or in the past, share a child, or are alleged fathers of a pregnant woman.
Orders for protection are helpful and can be life-saving in any domestic abuse situation, but they are especially powerful in marriage dissolutions involving children. OFPs can include protection for children as well as the child’s parent or guardian. There may also be situations where an OFP is granted solely on behalf of the children. There are additional guidelines for OFP’s on behalf of minor children, and there are additional steps, such as a hearing, that are required to keep a temporary OFP in place. OFP’s on behalf of minor children may be necessary to protect the children within the marriage. Family court proceedings may also be impacted by the presence of an OFP.
There are many aspects of divorce that become increasingly more difficult, complicated, and possibly even dangerous for victims of domestic abuse. It’s for that very reason that having a family law attorney with experience in divorces that involve domestic abuse is so important.
With the right amount of assistance, it is possible for survivors of abuse to dissolve a marriage and move their lives forward. These valuable resources below can help guide the way towards a more supportive process.