During COVID, there has been an exponential increase in the number of domestic violence and divorce cases. We know that partners and spouses who are cooped up in the same home for a long period of time provide a breeding ground for poor behavior to turn into domestic violence. We often see victims of domestic violence that don’t even understand that the experience in the home is considered domestic violence and that they can seek protection from the police and the court without their abuser knowing about it.


Domestic Violence and Divorce 

Domestic violence includes more than physical abuse – it can cover harassing behavior, economic control and isolation, isolation from family and friends, following you from room to room, name calling and vulgarity, threats of harm to you and to themselves, not letting you leave, stealing your wallet/handbag, cell phone, or car keys, etc. Domestic violence often leads to divorce but can occur even when people are separated.


Spousal Violence After Marital Separation

Domestic violence separation does not physically guarantee your safety or that you will not suffer future acts of spousal violence. Being separated certainly helps but it is no guarantee. If you are concerned about domestic violence from your spouse or partner even after you separate, there are things you can do to stay safe:


o   Secure your Home: Make sure all doors and windows lock. Peruse the perimeter of your home – is there any place an abuser could hide without you noticing? If so, remove that obstacle. If you have to leave your home in a hurry, could you exit your home and or driveway safely?

o   Children: If there are children in the home, make a safety plan with them.

    • Instruct them to leave the home if possible when things begin to escalate, and where they can go
    • Come up with a code word that you can say when they need to leave the home in case of an emergency — make sure that they know not to tell others what the secret word means
    • In the house: Identify a room they can go to when they’re afraid and something they can think about when they’re scared
    • Instruct them to stay out of the kitchen, bathroom and other areas where there are items that could be used as weapons
    • Teach them that although they want to protect their parent, that they should never intervene
    • Help them to make a list of people that they are comfortable talking and expressing themselves to
    • Enroll them in a counseling program (local service providers often have children’s programs)

o   Pets: Abusers often take their aggression or threats out on the animals, as a way to keep you in line and to warn you that harm will befall you and the animals unless you comply with the abuser’s demands. Make sure to pack a few days’ worth of food for your pet in your safety kit, the collar, leash and vaccine records

o   Teens/College Students: has created comprehensive safety plans both for teens and for college students who are currently dealing with an abusive partner.

o   Pre-Packing: Finally, when packing a bag, consider including keepsakes, journals or other evidence of abuse, spare car keys, phone chargers, and other essentials you may need once you leave. It’s important you keep this bag in a place where your abuser wouldn’t look for it, such as at a friend or neighbor’s home, or at your place of work.


Of course, if your abuser has scared you in any way, you can always call 911 or your local police to take out a temporary restraining order.


Domestic Violence Divorce Settlements

Divorce for domestic violence victims is different from divorce for spouses who do not experience domestic violence.  Divorce after domestic violence can change how your divorce is resolved. Alimony in a divorce due to domestic violence can be impacted if you were forced to flee your home or work to escape an abuser. Domestic abuse can significantly impact the abuser’s custody and parenting rights. Divorce after domestic violence can also impact the distribution of assets and debts of the marriage in some cases.


Filing For Divorce due to Domestic Violence

There is no impediment to seeking divorce in New Jersey. Your abuser cannot stop you from divorcing them. You can absolutely file for divorce due to domestic violence under the “extreme cruelty” ground for divorce. This would require you to state in your complaint for divorce certain facts to support the extreme cruelty allegation – but this is easy to do. Also, in severe situations involving divorce after domestic violence, you may also be able to seek monetary damages in your divorce from your abuser for the abuse if you have suffered emotional or physical harm from that abuse.


At DeTorres & DeGeorge Family Law we have helped literally hundreds of victims of abuse move on from their abusers and divorce after domestic violence. We are particularly sensitive to the needs of a domestic violence victim and would be happy to guide you through your domestic violence and divorce case. Give us a call today to schedule your consultation.

Caitlin DeGuilo Toker
Caitlin DeGuilo Toker joined DeTorres and DeGeorge as an associate attorney in June 2014 and was named a partner of the firm in May 2019.Prior to joining the firm, Caitlin was associated with law firms specializing in the practice of family ...
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