Escaping Intolerable Behavior for Freedom
Domestic violence is a terrible crime that, unfortunately, occurs more often than it should. While freedom is possible, achieving that freedom through a divorce can be difficult. Domestic violence can impact several aspects of the divorce process; read on to learn what you need to know regarding this impact.
Grounds for Divorce
Missouri is a no-fault state, which means that one cannot file for divorce based on external occurrences such as adultery or abuse. However, a no-fault divorce is based on irreconcilable differences between the parties, something that domestic violence contributes to. Should you choose to file for divorce from your abusive spouse, you do not need to bring proof that you are suffering from domestic violence and only need to claim irreconcilable differences.
However, filing for divorce from an abuser can be tricky, as they may see it as an opportunity to retaliate against you. It’s important to take as many precautionary steps ahead of time as possible before filing for divorce, such as having a safe place to go to or including a petition for a protective order.
If there is an immediate need to protect yourself or your children because of a potential threat to your wellbeing, you should consider looking into an ex parte order of protection. These can be granted and signed without your spouse’s presence at the hearing.
Note that ex parte orders differ from other orders of protection because of the threat of violence or abuse; with an ex parte order, a situation has been created that threatens the wellbeing of a child, such as a substance abuse issue or domestic violence against a spouse. Other orders of protection serve where abuse or violence has already taken place.
Even though you must file for a no-fault divorce, that does not bar you from presenting evidence proving that domestic violence is occurring. In fact, victims of domestic violence in a marriage will be given the opportunity to present any evidence they have collected, including text messages, photographs, and witness testimony. Perhaps one of the most important pieces of evidence is a police report; while it might be scary to report your situation to the authorities out of fear of further violence, such a report can have a significant impact on your divorce. Without evidence, the argument comes down to your word versus your spouse’s.
Child Custody and Visitation
The presence of domestic violence has a significant impact on the outcomes of both child custody and visitation. One of the factors that influence child custody decisions in Missouri is if domestic violence is present in the relationship between the parents and even in the relationship between a parent and the child. In Missouri, the child’s best interests and safety come first in any custody determination; custody and visitation can only be awarded in a manner that ensures both the safety of the child and the safety of the parent who is the victim of domestic violence.
Should the court find that domestic violence is occurring in some form and that it poses a risk to the child’s best interests and safety, then it is highly likely that the violent parent will see some adjustment to their custody and visitation rights. For example, it is possible for a violent parent to still have some form of visitation; however, it is highly likely that those visitation times will include court supervision to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the child.
Seek the Help of an Attorney
Domestic violence should not be tolerated, yet it can be very difficult to escape. One may fear that their spouse will do more harm than they have before if it is discovered that they are planning on escaping. Know that the team at Rutter and Sleeth Law Offices is here to help. Your safety is important, and we will do whatever it takes to protect you as we help you secure the freedom from violence that you seek.
Learn more about our services or schedule a consultation by calling us at (573) 279-1349 or by visiting our website. If you or a loved one are the victim of domestic violence, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at (800) 799-7233.