Divorce is difficult in the best of times, but if a divorce occurs in a marriage already burdened with domestic abuse, the process can be dangerous and drawn-out in court. Unless there is a clear history of provable abuse (through medical or law enforcement records), the spouse who was victimized may have a difficult time during court proceedings. Working with an experienced family law attorney and seeking a protective order to prevent further abuse or harassment during the divorce proceedings are great ways to minimize the anxiety the divorce process may cause.
How domestic abuse affects divorces
Claims of domestic abuse during divorces are not rare, as domestic abuse itself is relatively prevalent in our society. Unfortunately, if there have not been legal proceedings against the abuser, courts may have a difficult time quantifying and verifying the abuse that happened. A protective order obtained at the same time as the initial filing for divorce can protect an abused spouse from retribution due to his or her taking action and attempting to leave and can create a paper trial that can help to legitimize the claims of domestic abuse.
Divorce courts often try to keep things as civil as possible, even in cases where domestic violence was a real issue. It's possible to make shared custody arrangements in divorces with domestic abuse, provided the children were not subject to any physical or sexual abuse at the hands of the alleged perpetrator. However, depending on the situation, your attorney made advise making arrangements out of court, via mediation or a similar form of mutual agreement, as opposed to placing all of the decision-making power with the judge.
What a protective order can do
For victims of domestic abuse, be it physical, emotional, or sexual, a protective order can grant peace of mind. While an order signed by a judge can't actually prevent the abuser from contacting you or threatening you, it does create clear consequences if the order is violated in such a way. This ensures that you have the ability to call law enforcement to intervene and that there will be a legal record of the violation of the order, if you report it. These records can help establish a pattern of abuse or harassment for the courts, which a skilled attorney can use to help protect your rights, assets, safety, and children during divorce proceedings.
The State of North Carolina has comprehensive laws in place to protect the victims of domestic violence, as well as their children. If you have been physically assaulted by your spouse or your children have, you can file a motion with the court, requesting an emergency order for custody and protection under the law. These hearings can be complicated, and the burden of proof lies on the accuser/victim. Retaining the most skilled family law attorney possible is the best hope for obtaining and protective order prior to your divorce and the best hope for fair treatment and consideration during the divorce itself.