The Unique Factors With Domestic Violence And Divorce
Leaving a marriage filled with violence and fear takes a lot of courage and support. Divorce is complicated enough without this added strain, but when domestic violence is present, the assistance of an experienced divorce attorney is even more imperative to ensure the right protections are put in place and the process is as fair as possible. Several disruptive issues tend to affect the outcome and duration of a divorce case: the abuser disappearing to avoid being served, the abusive spouse using tactics to delay proceedings, and an almost certain inability to reasonably negotiate with the abuser without him/her risking attempts to regain control and stop the case entirely. A discussion of the how these issues manifest in divorce, and methods for addressing them, will follow below.
When Spouses Disappear
Abused spouses, beyond the obvious worry of physical health and safety, also commonly want to sever ties with the abuser to avoid having him/her access finances and make medical decisions in the event of an emergency situation. However, when an abusive spouse realizes divorce is on the horizon, some choose to disappear in hopes of convincing the other spouse to drop the matter, and thus remain connected. It is true that a spouse who cannot be located does present challenges to completing a divorce case, but it is not an absolute barrier to ending a marriage. Typically, to initiate and conduct a divorce case, it is necessary to serve the other party with copies of documents filed with the court, which gives the other side notice and an opportunity to respond. Obviously, when a spouse cannot be located, this requirement becomes an issue. However, there is another method for meeting this requirement: notice by publication. This process allows the spouse filing for divorce to conduct the case despite the lack of involvement by the other spouse. However, to use this option, the spouse seeking divorce must exercise due diligence and use all available methods to locate him/her. If the other spouse still cannot be found, an affidavit outlining the methods used to locate the absent spouse must be filed with the court, and a notice published in a local newspaper. Importantly, without the participation of the other side, courts cannot divide property, award support, or settle time-sharing issues. Consequently, every effort should be employed to find the person, so a real break is possible.
Another common issue with domestic violence in divorce is the tendency by the abusive spouse to prolong the divorce process, again, to intimidate the abused party from moving forward. This can involve filing a number of motions, each of which usually require a hearing to resolve, or dragging his/her feet when responding to requests for information or documents. This situation is understandably disheartening to the abused spouse, but an experienced divorce attorney will know how to use the courts to curtail frivolous motions and compel compliance with requests so the case can proceed at a reasonable pace.
Finally, negotiating or mediating with an abusive spouse is not normally possible, as the power dynamics between the couple do not work in favor of the abused spouse receiving a fair settlement. A strong attorney can overcome these tactics if the abused spouse remains separate from the negotiation process, but it may be better to put issues before a court whose impartiality and authority should negate any attempts to manipulate the outcome by the abuser.
If you are dealing with domestic violence and need to get out of the marriage for your safety, and that of your family, work with the experienced attorneys at the office of Joyce A. Julian, P.A. Our Fort Lauderdale team understands what is necessary to properly handle divorce involving domestic violence, and are available to discuss your options. Contact us for a free consultation.