If you face violence in your relationship please get help immediately. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline for immediate, confidential advice from a professional: 800-799-SAFE (7233) or 800-787-3224/TDD.
To safely and successfully leave an abusive relationship a plan is essential. If you are in an abusive relationship but your physical safety isn’t being imminently threatened, develop a safe exit strategy before leaving your marriage. Include in your strategy the applicable action items listed below and any others your lawyer or domestic violence counselor recommends.
If you aren’t sure yours is an abusive relationship, read Identifying Domestic Violence, visit Womenslaw.org for more information about domestic violence, or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline to discuss your relationship. Ultimately, you know your situation and if you’re being abused professionals will help you recognize the abuse and help end it. Abuse has many faces; don’t’ be fooled into thinking it’s okay.
- Find a family lawyer experienced in domestic violence. Ask him or her for advice about the safest way to leave your spouse. If you don’t have financial resources most states offer legal aid and many lawyers offer pro bono (free of charge) representation or advice. People in domestic violence situations can almost always find a lawyer to represent them or get legal advice for free or greatly reduced costs. Don’t let finances stop you from leaving an abusive marriage.
- If appropriate, get a civil temporary restraining order and/or criminal restraining order. The lawyer or domestic violence counselor you contact can assist you with this as well as the local police department. Protect yourself today.
- Find a woman’s shelter, a friend’s home, or a new home of your own. Safely time your move and keep your new address from your spouse. There are numerous resources available for people seeking to leave abusive situations.
- Gather the following information and have it ready to take with you when you leave your spouse:
- Important documents, including your birth certificate, driver’s license, passport, green card, work permits, social security card, health insurance card, automobile title and a copy of your property deed
- Copies of all restraining orders in force against your husband
- Money, checkbooks and credit cards
- Bank cards and statements
- Clothing, jewelry and personal effects
- Your children’s clothing, favorite blankets, and stuffed animals
- Copies of unpaid bills
- Get a cell phone. Don’t give the number to your spouse. Block your number so it isn’t available to people you call. Only give your number to trustworthy family and friends. If you can’t get credit or afford a plan, get a pre-paid phone available without credit and for reasonable prices.
- If you’re moving into a new home by yourself, install exterior security lighting and an alarm system. Get to know the neighborhood and be watchful for unusual activity.
- Get a new post office box and forward your mail to your new address before you leave. Don’t forward your mail to your new home. Keep the post office box for a period of time even beyond a cooling off point. Make sure the post office won’t give the P.O. Box address to your spouse.
- File copies of your restraining orders with your children’s schools. Talk to school counselors to assist you in helping your children during this transition.
- Talk with your employer about the situation to prevent the inadvertent disclosure of personal information to your spouse. Express the need to keep the information confidential, disclosing it only to those who would potentially have contact with your husband.
If you’re living with domestic violence chances are it won’t end. Statistics show that abuse usually gets more frequent and more severe with time. Many spousess keep their partners feeling trapped in abusive marriages by intimidation, threats, and financial control. Although it may not be easy to leave, especially if your self esteem is low, you can do it. Keep in mind that thousands of people before you have left, survived, and become happier, healthier people as a result.
The awareness of domestic violence has grown dramatically in the past few years. As a result there are many resources, both government and private, to help a person trying to leave an abusive marriage. Centers such as The National Domestic Violence Hotline often have lawyers, counselors, and financial advisors on staff or volunteering who will give you the information and support you need. They can put you in touch with resources in your local area that will help you get out.
Change is never easy; especially if you’ve been mentally and physically beaten down, you may not believe you can do it. Look to stories of people who’ve made it out for inspiration, call centers staffed with people to help you, make a plan, and take action when the time is right. Don’t wait, call now; help and support are there for you! You can do it!
This article is not legal advice. You should consult an attorney if you have legal questions that relate to your specific divorce.