If your spouse has become physically violent or threatening toward you or your children, you may reach the conclusion that divorce is the only realistic way you can protect yourself and your kids. However, a divorce that stems from abuse can quickly become more complicated than a standard divorce.
First of all, you will likely worry about your children being alone with your ex for parenting time. Whether the children have only witnessed violence or have been victims of violence, you want to protect them from their other parent’s instability. Secondly, you may worry that custody exchanges could put you in a vulnerable position for violence or verbal abuse.
Demonstrating to the courts with evidence that your spouse has abused you or the children can make it easier to secure sole custody of the kids, but just making verbal accusations won’t be enough to convince the courts to rule in your favor. Instead, you’ll need evidence to substantiate your claims.
Get copies of any official records that validate your allegations
Perhaps the easiest way to prove that a relationship has turned abusive is to supply the courts with either medical records from a hospital or police records from a visit or arrest related to your spouse’s abusive behavior. Even a single police report substantiating allegations of violence can be enough to convince the courts to err on the side of caution to protect you and the children.
If you can prove that you suffered serious injuries or that law enforcement had enough reason to arrest or remove your spouse from the family home, that could motivate the courts to grant you temporary custody and a domestic violence protection order.
Build a cache of less formal evidence
If intimidation from your spouse or fear of repercussions kept you from seeking medical treatment or calling the police to report the abuse, you will need to look for other kinds of evidence to support your claims.
Testimony from witnesses, especially those who don’t have a direct historical relationship with you, such as neighbors or even co-workers who saw you after an abusive episode, can convince the courts that something happened. Testimony from your family members and closest friends will do less to convince the courts then testimony provided by those who don’t have a direct motivation for supporting you in divorce.
Electronic communications and digital pictures can help
When a person engages in abusive behavior, they often do so in a variety of formats. A spouse who is physically abusive and controlling may also send threatening, angry or belittling messages to their partner on social media. Records of nasty messages, as well as digital pictures of injuries or damage to your home or possessions, video recordings of abusive outbursts or even audio recordings of threats against you or the children could all help substantiate your claims of domestic violence.
Beginning to gather that documentation before your spouse knows you want to file for divorce is usually in your best interests, as abusers often show up on their best behavior to court.