Divorcing a Physically Abusive Husband

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Divorcing a Physically Abusive Husband

Your rights to divorce after physical abuse

Spouses should never have to live in fear of physical harm from their spouse. Any spouse who is being assaulted or physically abused should immediately contact the police to have them intervene. In many cases, the police will arrest a physically abusive spouse for domestic violence. In addition to criminal penalties, a family law judge may issue a restraining order. Divorcing a physically abusive husband is also something you should consider.

Is physical abuse grounds for divorce in New Jersey? Can you divorce a physically abusive husband?

Yes.  New Jersey has no-fault and fault-grounds for divorce. Fault grounds include “extreme cruelty,” adultery, abduction, addiction, and other grounds. Extreme cruelty includes physical cruelty (physical abuse) and mental cruelty (verbal and emotional abuse).

The New Jersey Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 1991

This law was enacted to help protect the thousands of people in New Jersey who are beaten, tortured, and sometimes killed by their spouse – including many pregnant women. There is often a correlation between spousal abuse and child abuse which can cause a lifetime of emotional scars in addition to physical harm.

The law defines domestic violence as one or more occurrences of any of the following:

  • Homicide
  • Assault
  • Terroristic threats kidnapping
  • Criminal restraint
  • False imprisonment
  • Sexual assault
  • Harassment
  • Stalking
  • Contempt of a domestic violence order
  • Cyber-harassment
  • Crimes involving risk of serious bodily injury or death to a person protected under the Act
  • Other defined offenses

Violations of the Act can also include verbal abuse such as constantly criticizing or humiliating a spouse and emotional abuse such as isolating a spouse or threatening to take away things that are important to you.

Police officers who have reasonable grounds to believe your husband violated the Domestic Violence Act should arrest your spouse.

Generally, the police must make an arrest of a physically abusive husband if:

  • It appears that you or a child was injured
  • An existing restraining order is violated
  • There’s an outstanding warrant for your spouse
  • There’s reason to believe your spouse used a weapon in the domestic violence incident

How does an experienced family lawyer help spouses considering divorcing a physically abusive husband?

Our skilled New Jersey divorce lawyers help spouses considering divorcing a physically abusive husband in several ways:

  • We represent you at the criminal hearing against the husband to help you gather the evidence you need to help the prosecutor – such as photographs showing the harm and medical bills and reports confirming the seriousness of the injuries.
  • Help persuade the trial judge that a restraining order is necessary. A restraining order can order that your husband stay away from the marital home, avoid any contact with you, and forfeit any firearms they may possess.
  • Arrange to obtain a child support order against your husband while he is away from the marital home.
  • Explain your rights regarding divorcing a physically abusive husband

We also assert that the evidence of physical abuse should be considered in the following key divorce issues:

  • Equitable distribution of property. Your physical and mental health is a factor in the percentage of marital property you’re entitled to. Equitable distribution due to divorce after domestic abuse also considers that you and your children need to stay in the marital home because of your concerns about physical abuse.
  • Child custody. Physical abuse by your husband should be considered in awarding sole legal and/or sole physical custody. If you are divorcing a physically abusive husband, then the visitation order or agreement should provide protections for you and your child such as arranging for a trusted person to exchange the child.

Divorcing a physically abusive husband may also affect alimony pendente lite and the various forms of post-divorce alimony because worries about your safety may affect your ability to earn a living.

What to do if you want a divorce but are scared of your husband?

If you want a divorce but you are scared of your husband, it is imperative that you understand your rights and domestic violence law in New Jersey.

If your spouse is violent, take immediate action

Identifying abuse in a marriage can be a very scary process. Help is available.  If you are in a dangerous situation and don’t know where to turn, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline: call 800-799-7233. 

If you fear for your safety, leave the house; otherwise, talk to a lawyer first

Why am I so scared of my husband? Some warning signs of abuse in a relationship can include unpredictability, extreme jealousy, and possessiveness. If you want to divorce, but you’re scared of your husband, understanding how the divorce process works is important for you to have the information you need if you want to end your marriage. If your husband scares you and you’re scared to file for divorce plan ahead for your own safety. Reach out to family members, friends or colleagues at work to help you. 

If you want to prepare because you think about divorce every day and you want a divorce but you’re scared of your husband working toward establishing financial independence will allow you to move toward your ultimate goal of obtaining a divorce. Often abusers seek financial leverage as a way to continue to control their spouse.

How do you divorce when you are so scared?

The divorce process can be overwhelming. It is important that you understand your rights and familiarize yourself with the legal protections available, if you are considering divorcing an emotionally abusive husband. Here at DeTorres and DeGeorge, we work to provide our clients with a level of representation that will ensure that they can protect themselves and their children. Contact us today. We are here to help.

 

Rosanne S. DeTorres
Ms. DeTorres is the managing partner and co-founder of DeTorres & DeGeorge Family Law. She is also only one of 150 attorneys in the State of NJ that is certified by the NJ Supreme Court as a Matrimonial Law Attorney. Ms. DeTorres graduated...
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