As a no-fault divorce state, Arizona offers a lot of leeway regarding ending a marriage. However, the attorneys at Jensen Family Law in Mesa AZ, note that domestic violence can still be a factor in divorce proceedings and usually impacts the overall outcome.
As such, you need to keep a few aspects in mind if you’re considering divorce and there is a history of domestic violence in your relationship. For instance, if one spouse is abusive, it can be difficult for the other party to get a fair hearing in court – the abused spouse may be afraid to testify against the abuser.
While domestic violence will always be a complicating factor in any divorce, you can take some steps to protect yourself and your interests. This may entail:
Getting a Restraining Order
Your safety should always come first. If you’re in immediate danger, you should call the police. You may also want to get a restraining order if the other spouse is abusive. This will help keep them away from you and give you legal protection. That said, the other party may dispute the restraining order, meaning you may be summoned to court to defend your position.
If you’re wary about meeting your spouse in court, you can ask the judge to hold the proceedings in camera, which means only the attorneys and the judge will be present. This can help you feel more comfortable about testifying against your spouse.
If you get the order and your spouse violates it, they can be arrested. Such an offense is usually considered a felony, implying they could go to jail.
With that in mind, let’s switch gears and examine how domestic violence affects divorce. Typically, the court looks at a history of domestic violence in determining various aspects. These include:
1.Child Custody and Support
During a divorce proceeding, the court will consider the child’s best interests (including safety) when deciding on child custody and support. A history of violent behavior will majorly affect the court’s decision.
Usually, the abusive parent will not get primary custody or joint custody. However, the court may allow supervised visits. Or, the abusive parent may have to go through anger management classes before they’re allowed to see their child unsupervised. In extreme cases, the court may bar the abusive spouse from seeing the child. The abusive parent may also have to pay more in child support.
A spouse’s conduct before divorce often factors into how property is divided in Arizona. If one spouse wastes marital assets on drugs or alcohol, the court might give them a smaller share of the property. The same is true for domestic violence.
Often, domestic violence results in financial abuse during marriage. If the abusive spouse withholds financial support to his family or controls all the money, the court may award the other spouse a greater share of the property.
Similarly, abuse can affect the victim’s earning capacity – they could lose a job or take time off work to recover from injuries. As a result, they may receive the lion’s share of the family’s marital property.
3.Alimony (Spousal Support)
Arizona is an “equitable distribution” state, meaning the court will divide the assets of the divorcing couple fairly and equitably. But it doesn’t imply the shares will be equal. That said, the court considers several factors when determining the outcome of a divorce, including the financial needs of each spouse.
If one spouse were a domestic violence victim during the marriage, the court may award them higher alimony. The reasoning here is that the victim may have difficulty finding and keeping a job because of the abuse. They may also need time to recover from the emotional and physical trauma of the abuse.
If you’re the victim of domestic violence, you might be eligible for restitution. This means the abuser would have to pay you back for financial losses you incurred due to the abuse you faced. As a result, you may get a redress for things like:
- Medical bills
- Lost wages
- Therapy costs
- Funeral expenses (if the abuse resulted in the death of a family member)
Seek Legal Help
A divorce lawyer can also help you if you’re dealing with domestic abuse. For instance, they can help you file for a restraining order or get a temporary custody order. They can also help you gather evidence to support your allegations of abuse – if you’re planning to file a civil or criminal case.
Divorce offers a reprieve to victims dealing with domestic violence. But, if you’ve been a victim of abuse, it’s critical for you to get the help or protection you need. A divorce lawyer can help you understand your legal options and can protect your rights every step of the way. And for the sake of your loved ones, don’t hesitate to get help if you’re in an abusive situation – a fact we cannot overstate.