How Does Domestic Violence Affect a Divorce?
Domestic violence is unfortunately all too common, and it comes in many forms. Some people may even experience domestic violence without knowing it.
If domestic violence is affecting you and your family, it is crucial that you understand you and your child have rights, especially if you choose to pursue divorce. Read on to learn more about those rights.
What is Domestic Violence?
If your spouse or partner has ever intentionally physically injured you, that may constitute domestic violence under New Jersey law. There are also other, less common ways to experience domestic violence:
- Breaking household items in rage
- Emotional or psychological abuse
- Threatening violence
- Throwing items at you
It is important to understand that domestic violence encompasses much more than just physical injuries. While physical injuries are some of the most severe forms of domestic violence, emotional and verbal abuse can be just as damaging to people.
Domestic Violence and Divorce
If you are being threatened and abused in your marriage, you may consider divorce. Your safety and the safety of any children you may have is your priority. That is why you may want to speak with a divorce lawyer who can help you get a temporary restraining order while also beginning the divorce proceedings.
A temporary restraining order is an emergency filing with the court where you may present evidence of existing harm committed by your spouse, or that you are fearful of imminent harm to yourself or your children. Judges do not take these situations lightly and it is best to have a legal advocate to represent your rights at this emergency hearing.
If granted, a temporary restraining order prevents your spouse from contacting you or your children. This can make going through a divorce more challenging, emotional, and contentious. Because your spouse may feel cut out of the conversation, all communication between you and your spouse will occur through your attorneys.
The purpose of a temporary restraining order is to remove you and your children from an already dangerous or potentially dangerous situation. Your spouse will be prevented from contacting you in person, via text, phone call, email, or any other means. The temporary restraining order may also prevent your spouse from getting within a certain distance of you. The court may also require that your spouse provide you with financial support during this time so you can find and get a new place to live during the divorce proceedings.
A temporary restraining order may last for a short period of time or for as long as is necessary to keep you safe. If an order ever expires and you feel unsafe, you are always able to return to court to request an extension of the existing order or to request a new restraining order.
Types of New Jersey Divorce
In New Jersey, you can file for fault or no-fault divorce. The type of divorce filing you choose plays a direct role in the amount of time it takes to get a divorce. A no-fault divorce is often the fastest option for a couple to reach a final divorce decree. No-fault divorce simply means that you and your spouse both agree that the marriage is broken, cannot be resolved, and you want to end the marriage.
‘Fault divorce’ is a more complex legal proceeding but may be the right option for you if you are experiencing domestic violence in your marriage. The available grounds under New Jersey law for a fault divorce include extreme cruelty. Domestic violence is a form of extreme cruelty.
So, what is the advantage of a fault divorce? It will not necessarily result in a more favorable financial outcome for you, as New Jersey courts will still divide assets and liabilities equitably. However, if you can prove that your spouse’s domestic violence had a negative impact on your marital finances, you may be able to show the court that you should receive higher alimony or child support payments.
Aside from the statutory factors judges are required to review when determining alimony awards, they can also choose to consider any other factors they deem relevant. That means your spouse committing domestic violence against you could be a relevant factor in determining additional financial awards to you during divorce.
When determining child custody during divorce, a judge must consider what is in the best interests of the child. If you can prove that your spouse has engaged in domestic violence against you or your child, the court could be swayed to provide you with primary parenting responsibilities.
Especially if you have successfully obtained a temporary restraining order against your spouse, the court is unlikely to override that and provide full custody to the abuser. In practice, what this means is that your divorce order may discuss child custody and how and when your spouse is able to see your child.
Initially, a court may decide that your spouse should only see your child during supervised visits. These visits will likely exclude you and be supervised by a professional or someone approved by the court.
Over time, your spouse may be able to prove they have changed their behavior and should receive additional time with your child. You can fight this presumption if you do not think it is in the best interest of your child but prepared to provide evidence to support your allegation. Ultimately, courts want both parents to be involved in a child’s life but, if one spouse is potentially dangerous, a court may be swayed to exclude them.
The Marlton Divorce Lawyers at Goldstein & Mignogna, P.A., Give You Compassionate Representation
Domestic violence is a terrible situation for anyone, child or spouse, to be in. Compounding that with the emotion surrounding a divorce and you may be in a truly heart-wrenching situation. If you need help from an experienced and compassionate attorney, speak with our Marlton divorce lawyers at Goldstein & Mignogna, P.A. Contact us today at 856-890-9400 or fill out our online form to schedule your consultation with our experienced team. With offices in Marlton, New Jersey, we proudly serve our neighbors in South Jersey, Marlton, Burlington County, Camden County, Gloucester County, and statewide.