Covert Divorce Preparations: 3 Tips to Escape an Abusive Marriage

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Abusive Marriage
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Being trapped in a marriage with a violent spouse can be one of the most traumatic experiences you can live through. Unfortunately, there are many situations where victims of domestic violence are too afraid to even broach the subject of divorce with their spouses. 

Over 10 million adults experience domestic violence annually in the U.S. (Source: National Coalition Against Domestic Violence). 

However, that doesn’t mean the victim has to stay married. There are resources that can help you leave an abusive marriage. These might include government financial assistance, temporary accommodation, and more. You will obviously want to approach these resources with discretion. 

Here are three tips on how to do so:

1. Tighten Up Your Online Privacy and Communication Access

If your spouse is someone who will react violently to any attempts of leaving the marriage, discretion will be paramount. You don’t want them to know your plans until you can safely initiate divorce proceedings. However, it is incredibly easy to drop the ball through weak digital security. For instance, this can occur by using an online username your spouse is familiar with. 

If you are sharing any details online, create a new account with a name your spouse cannot guess. The last thing you want is for them to find the detailed post you made on Reddit’s r/legaladvice. It can jeopardize your entire chance of escape if you mess up in this manner. Abusive spouses can be very dangerous when they realize you are trying to leave them. 

Similarly, if you can use another phone or laptop, do so instead of using your usual device. Set a strong password and only use this device for communicating with family, friends, and legal counsel. 

Your internet search history is another area to be cautious about. Even if you tell yourself that you will clear your history, it is still risky. A sudden knock at the door, and you might close your laptop and then forget all about it and go about your day. 

Your spouse later uses the device and sees entries of: 

 “How to secretly divorce my husband (or wife).”

Yeah, that’s not going to end well. 

There are many resources that will guide you through the process of maintaining secrecy and privacy in your online communications. Read them and follow their instruction to a T. 

2. Find a Reliable Attorney 

Legal advice from online communities is fine. However, it doesn’t compare to the experience of sitting down with an attorney who is experienced in family divorce law. You need to explore what your options are, on a one-to-one basis with an attorney. 

According to the Law Offices of Leon F. Bennett, an attorney can properly guide you on the next steps you have to take. They may first recommend that you collect evidence of the abuse and conduct other pre-litigation tasks. They will also be able to inform you about the best time to file for a domestic violence restraining order. 

While following their advice is relatively straightforward, the bigger challenge you will face is finding the right attorney. There are so many law firms that tout themselves as the best option. It can be difficult for the average person to discern who is truly going to help them out. 

Personal recommendations are one of the best ways to find good lawyers, but with discretion being a priority, this would be tricky. LinkedIn is one good spot to vet potential lawyers that you shortlist. Once you narrow down on a pick, you want to look for a few key attributes such as:

  • Experience and track record in family law, particularly domestic violence, and abusive relationships
  • Their reputation, both online and offline
  • Cost and fee structure

More than all this, you want to find someone you can trust. There are many attorneys who are sympathetic and sensitive to the needs of D.V. victims. They have seen hundreds of cases similar to yours and understand the kind of trauma you are going through.

An attorney you can trust will walk you through the entire process in a way that limits the stress you are exposed to. They might also refer you to good therapists who can help you heal emotionally later on. 

3. Make Copies of Important Documents and Move Out Valuable Possessions

If you have been careful, you would now have the counsel of an attorney and a clear picture of how to proceed. At times, it can feel like you are navigating a minefield, frightened to death that your spouse will suddenly come to know your plans. 

It is indeed scary! This is why you should proceed with even more caution now. You will want to find and make copies of key documents that will be needed during litigation. They will be used to assist in the court’s decision regarding the division of assets, spousal support, custody, and more. 

As you can see, this is a critical area. Find the documents, make copies, and replace the originals where you found them. 

This is also a good time to quietly move out personal items that you don’t want to leave around your spouse. They could include sentimental pictures or souvenirs that hold great value to you. (You never know how your spouse might reach when you or your attorney drop the divorce papers in their hands.) 

Conclusion

No matter how violent or scary your spouse is, remember that the law is equally intimidating. Unless your spouse suffers from serious mental illness, they are unlikely to lay a hand on you once you take the matter to court. It is also going to be your decision whether you want to end things with a divorce or pursue legal action for the abuse you endured. 

Your attorney might advise you to use that threat of legal action as a bargaining chip during asset division discussions. However, the choice is entirely up to you. Regardless of how you plan to proceed, do it with confidence and conviction. 

As mentioned earlier, once things settle down, you should seriously think about talking to a mental health professional. This is because domestic violence and spousal abuse can have long-term consequences on your future relationships if left unresolved. 

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