People get divorced for a broad range of reasons. Some couples just grow apart over the years. Other times, there are more serious issues, including addiction, gambling problems or abuse. If you plan to divorce your spouse due to a pattern of abusive behaviors, it is totally reasonable to wonder how that abuse will impact the outcome of your divorce.
There are many factors that contribute to how abuse affect your divorce, ranging from whom your spouse targeted to what form of abuse you had to endure. While every case is different, there are some general standards in place as far as spousal abuse with California family courts and divorce.
You need to have documentation of the abuse for the courts to take it into consideration
Worries about false allegations have led many courts to err on the side of caution when it comes to claims of abuse in divorce. In other words, you need to have some kind of evidence other than your own word about what has happened inside your marriage.
This can often prove difficult, as spousal abuse victims tend to spend years covering up for their abuser. They may not tell friends and family about what has happened or call the police. However, documentation is critical to helping protect yourself and your children in a divorce. Statements from therapists, images of injuries and other evidence can help you substantiate claims of physical or emotional abuse.
If you have not yet moved out, prepare yourself to call the police the next time an altercation turns physical. That way, there are formal records of what has happened. Any medical records that you have supporting claims of serious injuries that resulted from physical abuse toward you or your children can also help. The evidence can be sufficient grounds for seeking a protective order, which can help keep you safe during the divorce.
How can abuse affect the outcome of divorce?
In the vast majority of cases, abuse will only impact the custody arrangements or your privacy in a divorce, meaning the judge may agree to keep your new address confidential. California asset division law does not allow the courts to consider marital misconduct when splitting assets. Regardless of how terrible your spouse has been, the courts cannot allocate additional assets to you in the divorce to compensate you for that. Instead, they will follow the community property standard.
However, documentation of abuse can impact the custody arrangements that the court decides on. If your children were victims of abuse or regularly witnessed your spouse abusing you, the courts may choose to award you sole custody. If they believe that the other spouse presents a danger to the children, your ex may only receive visitation. In some cases, the courts will require that visitation to be supervised.
It is frightening to take steps to leave your abuser, but it is the best way to protect yourself and any children you have. Advising your attorney of your situation and taking steps to document the effects of the abuse can help as you move forward with a getting fresh start.