By Ross E. Schulman, Florida Family Law Attorney
Navigating a divorce can be challenging and emotional, especially if abuse is involved. Domestic violence is illegal in Florida, yet it is shockingly not uncommon in marriages. No matter how often or severe the abuse, from threats to assault, victims must take any abuse seriously. Abusing a spouse or child is simply not acceptable…ever. Unfortunately, thousands of women and men remain in abusive relationships. Fear of backlash from their spouses, fear of moving on into the unknown, and fear of being left without the safety of a home and financial support cause too many people to remain in unsafe situations. Domestic violence knows no bounds and affects all socioeconomic levels of society.
Step one is protecting yourself and your loved ones. Step two is considering filing for a divorce and extending that protection indefinitely. Sadly, abusive behavior could be triggered or increased when filing for divorce. Therefore, here is a very brief and introductory primer about domestic violence and filing for divorce in Florida.
Florida Laws Protect You in Domestic Violence Situations
Under Section 741.28 of the Florida Statutes, domestic violence includes threats and physical actions against a spouse, child, or other family member living in residence. In addition to hitting, pushing, kicking, or different types of physical assault and battery, it may include the following:
- Name-calling and putting one down.
- Making threats of harm to you or other persons residing in the home.
- Harming the family pets.
- Destroying property.
- Preventing you from leaving the home or attending outside activities.
- Excessive control over finances.
- Sexual assault or harassment.
Domestic violence and divorce laws are complex, and speaking up about your abuse is difficult. Therefore, it is best to confide in a Florida divorce attorney knowledgeable in these matters. Learn more about how the law can protect you against abusive situations relating to your spouse by contacting the Naples divorce attorneys at Woodward, Pires & Lombardo, P.A. to schedule a confidential consultation.
Importantly, when you speak with a knowledgeable attorney, you will be protected by attorney-client privilege, freely discussing your matter knowing there is complete confidentiality.
Take Necessary Precautions When Leaving an Abuser
No two divorce situations are alike, and it is essential to calmly evaluate yours before acting. Separating from your abusive spouse will likely become unpredictable for the worse. If you are currently in an abusive situation, call the police immediately.
Additionally, consider the following precautions when planning for divorce:
Create an exit strategy – Before discussing anything with an abusive spouse, ensure you have a place to stay, as remaining inside the home may or may not be an option. Plan for a place for you and your children to keep safe such as at your parents’ or a friend’s home or even a shelter for abused persons. Address possible financial challenges and protections which may be available. Certain injunctive relief can provide temporary support for both you and your children, both financially, as well as providing you and your children with exclusive use and occupancy of the martial residence.
Report Abuse to the Police – It is vital to make a police report of any violence or threat of violence by your abuser. Keep a record of all reports, case numbers, and details. These reports will be handy in the event of a custody battle and during equitable property distribution. Even if you want to remain anonymous, obtain an incident report form from your local police in the event one is suddenly needed.
Consider a Restraining Order – If you have nowhere to go when divorcing your abusive spouse, filing a restraining order will force them by law to leave the premises and not return. No charges are needed for you to obtain a temporary domestic violence injunction (restraining order). Even if you do have a safe place to go, if your spouse is harassing you, you should consider a restraining order to protect yourself and your family wherever you are.
Do Not Meet in Person – While it may seem cold, do not break the news of your divorce to your abusive spouse in person. Also, make sure you have retained an attorney beforehand. Discuss strategy and options available for service of process, ensuring you are safe from any inappropriate or even dangerous response from your spouse.
You Do Not Need to Prove Domestic Violence to File for Divorce
Florida is a no-fault state meaning that you do not need to prove any abuse issues to get your divorce filed. Domestic violence is not grounds for divorce in Florida. One must only claim “irreconcilable differences” to file for divorce in Florida. This article is intended to protect domestic abuse victims and their families, not suggest untoward arguments in a dissolution matter.
Domestic Violence and Florida Divorce
Although a domestic violence situation is unfortunate, it can impact other Florida divorce-related issues if appropriately handled. Work with your family law attorney to protect yourself and your family and get the assets you deserve in this situation. Understand how it can affect temporary support, exclusive occupancy of the marital home, and offer protection and distance from your spouse during the divorce process.
Also, as children are of great concern to the Court, the judge may restrict your abusive spouse’s parenting time to protect your kids. Of course, nothing is guaranteed, and there are many legal issues concerning equitable distribution and timesharing in Florida, so it is best to discuss the facts of your case with your attorney to determine your unique situation.
In summary, coming forward about abuse in your relationship and taking positive action will not only benefit you, but it will also help your children. It can ensure that everyone is safe and not in a harmful environment that could jeopardize physical or mental well-being. You do not have to go it alone.
Talk to our Naples, FL Divorce Attorneys
At Woodward, Pires & Lombardo, P.A., our clients have confided in our attorneys about issues surrounding abuse in their Florida divorce cases. We understand it is necessary to proceed cautiously with a divorce in a domestic violence situation. If you find yourself in this challenging situation, contact our family law attorneys to review your options, know your rights, navigate the Florida legal process, obtain an amicable resolution to your divorce, and find freedom from your situation. Call (239) 649-6555 or see www.wpl-legal.com.
Read in SWFL Health & Wellness Magazine.
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