Domestic Violence

If you are experiencing physical, emotional, verbal, financial or sexual abuse in a relationship, it may be especially difficult and dangerous when you try to leave the relationship. You may find your partner stalking you, threatening you or trying to sabotage your efforts to leave in other ways. We encourage you to seek legal advice on how best to deal with some of the special dangers involved in handling a family law matter where violence has occurred or been threatened.

Are you wondering whether you are in a domestic violence relationship?  Domestic violence is defined as physical, emotional, verbal, financial or sexual abuse, and involves behaviors used by one person in a relationship to control the other. Partners may be married or not married; heterosexual, gay, or lesbian; living together, separated or dating. They may or may not have children together. Victims can be of any age, sex, race, culture, religion, education, employment or marital status. Although both men and women can be abused, most victims are women.

Children in homes where there is domestic violence are more likely to be abused and/or neglected. Most children in these homes know about the violence. Even if a child is not physically harmed, they may have emotional and behavior problems.

Examples of emotional abuse include:

  • name-calling or putdowns
  • keeping a partner from contacting family or friends
  • withholding money
  • stopping a partner from getting or keeping a job
  • actual or threatened physical harm
  • sexual assault
  • stalking
  • intimidation

Violence can be criminal and includes physical assault (hitting, pushing, shoving, etc.), sexual abuse (unwanted or forced sexual activity), and stalking. Although emotional, psychological and financial abuse are not criminal behaviors, they are forms of abuse and can lead to criminal violence and are relevant to determining issues such as child custody and parenting time.

The first 60-90 days after leaving an abusive relationship can be the most volatile and dangerous time, and we encourage you to plan ahead and institute safety measures both while you are in a relationship and once you decide to leave it. One of the best ways to work out your plan is to work with a domestic violence agency, such as one of these:

Middleway House

Sheltering Wings

Turning Point

Safety Planning

If you are in an abusive relationship, think about:

  • Having important phone numbers nearby for you and your children. Numbers to have are the police, hotlines, friends and the local shelter.
  • Friends or neighbors you could tell about the abuse. Ask them to call the police if they hear angry or violent noises. If you have children, teach them how to dial 911. Make up a code word that you can use when you need help.
  • How to get out of your home safely. Practice ways to get out.
  • Safer places in your home where there are exits and no weapons. If you feel abuse is going to happen, try to get your abuser to one of these safer places.
  • Any weapons in the house. Think about ways that you could get them out of the house.
  • Even if you do not plan to leave, think of where you could go. Think of how you might leave. Try doing things that get you out of the house - taking out the trash, walking the pet or going to the store. Put together a bag of things you use everyday (see the checklist below). Hide it where it is easy for you to get.
  • Going over your safety plan often.

If you consider leaving your abuser, think about:

  • Four places you could go if you leave your home.
  • People who might help you if you leave. Think about people who will keep a bag for you. Think about people who might lend you money. Make plans for your pets.
  • Keeping change for phone calls or getting a cell phone.
  • Opening a bank account or getting a credit card in your name only.
  • How you might leave. Try doing things that get you out of the house - taking out the trash, walking the family pet, or going to the store. Practice how you would leave.
  • How you could take your children with you safely. There are times when taking your children with you may put all of your lives in danger. You need to protect yourself to be able to protect your children.
  • Going over your safety plan often.
  • Putting together a bag of things you use everyday. Hide it where it is easy for you to get.

Items to take, if possible:

  • Money
  • Keys to car, house, work
  • Extra clothes
  • Medicine
  • Important papers for you and your children
  • Birth certificates
  • Social security cards
  • School and medical records
  • Bankbooks, credit cards
  • Driver's license
  • Car registration
  • Welfare identification
  • Passports, green cards, work permits
  • Lease/rental agreement
  • Mortgage payment book, unpaid bills
  • Insurance papers
  • Order of protection, divorce papers, custody orders
  • Address book
  • Pictures, jewelry, things that mean a lot to you
  • Items for your children (toys, blankets, etc.)

If you have left your abuser, think about:

  • Your safety - you still need to.
  • Getting a cell phone. Your local domestic violence shelter may be able to provide you with a cell phone that is programmed to only call 911. These phones are for when you need to call the police and cannot get to any other phone.
  • Getting an order of protection from the court. Keep a copy with you all the time. Give a copy to the police, people who take care of your children, their schools and your boss.
  • Changing the locks. Consider putting in stronger doors, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, a security system and outside lights.
  • Telling friends and neighbors that your abuser no longer lives with you. Ask them to call the police if they see your abuser near your home or children.
  • Telling people who take care of your children the names of people who are allowed to pick them up. If you have an order of protection protecting your children, give their teachers and babysitters a copy of it.
  • Telling someone at work about what has happened. Ask that person to screen your calls. If you have a protection order that includes where you work, consider giving your boss a copy of it and a picture of the abuser. Think about and practice a safety plan for your workplace. This should include going to and from work.
  • Not using the same stores or businesses that you did when you were with your abuser.
  • Someone that you can call if you feel down. Call that person if you are thinking about going to a support group or workshop.
  • Safe way to speak with your abuser if you must.
  • Going over your safety plan often.

Disclaimer: This summary is not intended to be comprehensive, and should not be construed as legal advice for your particular situation. Nothing in this website is intended to serve as or substitute for legal representation.