Divorce & Domestic Violence: Key Considerations
Millions of Americans suffer from domestic violence each year. Although the majority of victims are women, men can also be physically, emotionally, and sexually abused, and the consequences can be just as devastating.
At Barbara Flum Stein & Associates, our Media divorce attorneys have helped many clients get divorced when there has been abuse in the relationship. Here are a few key considerations.
Obtaining a Protection from Abuse (PFA) Order
If you fear violence from your partner, you can get a restraining order before filing for divorce or at the same time. In our state, restraining orders are called Protection from Abuse Orders, or PFA orders. You can receive an emergency, temporary order, if necessary, as well as a permanent one.
Once a PFA is in effect, your spouse cannot contact you or visit you. The judge might also order your spouse to immediately move out of the house or prevent your spouse from returning to it. If your spouse owns a firearm, the PFA can force him to turn it over to the police.
A PFA can provide immediate peace of mind. If your spouse violates it, then the police can pick him up, and he can be punished further, e.g., receiving up to 6 months in jail.
To qualify for a PFA, you will need to show that your spouse injured you or attempted to injure you. Abusing minor children also counts. You can also qualify if you fear serious injury or are being stalked.
Filing for a Fault Based Divorce
Pennsylvania offers both fault and no-fault divorce options. However, no-fault divorce can take longer if your spouse will not agree to the divorce. In that case, you might want to file for a fault-based divorce.
According to 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 3301(a), one fault ground is cruel and barbarous treatment, which covers domestic violence. You will need to show that your spouse put your life at risk, which means you will need evidence in the form of medical records, police reports, and/or eyewitness testimony. Talk with an attorney about whether you should seek a fault-based divorce.
Fighting for Child Custody
Domestic violence also plays a role in child custody decisions. This is true whether the violence has been directed at your or the child.
Under Pennsylvania law, a judge considers many factors, including whether there has been domestic abuse and whether there is a risk of the parent abusing the child again. If the abuse was recent, this will be very hard for the other parent to prove they deserve custody.
If a judge believes a parent has been abusive, then he might only grant the abuser supervised visitation, which must take place with a third-party present. It might also need to be held at an appropriate agency.
Have You Suffered Domestic Violence and Want to Divorce?
Please contact our law firm. One of our Delaware County divorce attorneys can help you understand how the abuse will impact your divorce. We can also strategize ways to keep you and your children safe. Call us today to schedule an initial consultation.