Domestic abuse is a common feature of household lives in today’s America. According to national studies, 95% of all abuse victims are women. Over 50% of all women will experience physical violence in an intimate relationship, and most sadly of all, for 24%-30% of these women, the abuse will be regular and ongoing. A common question, therefore, is how does the abuse affect the rights of the spouses if one or both of them elects to seek a divorce?
Some answers. What is domestic abuse?
Domestic abuse comes in many shapes and colors. It can involve slapping, shoving, choking or similar acts of physical violence. The abuse can consist of sexual abuse, such as non-consensual sex or demeaning sex acts. Emotional abuse also constitutes domestic abuse.
The abuse by one spouse of a child of either spouse can help speed up the divorce proceeding if:
- The spouse who is not claiming abuse sexually abused the spouse or a child of either of the spouses.
- A “consent decree” or a “contradictory hearing” was issued to protect one spouse from the other.
Most women who have been the object of domestic abuse want to know if the history of abuse will lead the court to grant her custody of the children. The answer depends upon several factors. Two or more incidents of physical abuse or sexual violence will usually result in custody being awarded to the non-abusive spouse. If an incident of family violence caused serious bodily harm to the abused spouse, the court will usually reach the same result.
In any event, the court will look at how the abusive behavior affected the best interests of the child.
The victim of an act of abuse should call the police or other authorities for assistance. A spouse seeking a divorce should inform her attorney immediately if she or one of her children has been the victim of domestic abuse.