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Can Being a Victim of Domestic Violence Affect Your Divorce?

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If you are considering divorce after your partner has been physically, sexually, or emotionally abusive, you may be concerned as to how this will affect issues such as child custody, property distribution, and spousal support. To have a better understanding of what you can expect as well as the steps you can take to protect your future, we are breaking down how domestic violence can affect your divorce proceedings.

Ensuring Your Safety After Domestic Violence

Whether you are in the midst of a divorce or considering action, and your spouse has been abusive or has threatened violence, it's important that the first thing you do is protect your safety and that of your children. Filing a domestic violence protective order (DVPO) in North Carolina, usually called a restraining order, is the first step. If your spouse has been issued with a temporary restraining order, you have 10 days to file for a permanent DVPO in which the judge can include orders such as:

  • Requiring your spouse to leave the family home while paying for the mortgage or rent;
  • Ordering spousal or child support
  • Creating a child custody arrangement;
  • Issuing orders of no contact or requiring your spouse to stay a certain distance away.

Not only will this ensure your safety, which is the highest priority, but having a DVPO in place will establish precedent and create a record of marital misconduct which can affect the outcome of your divorce.

Domestic Violence and the Divorce Process

It's important to note that the laws related to an absolute divorce in North Carolina are not affected by domestic violence. Regardless of what occurs in the marriage, in order to divorce, the couple must live separately for 12 months and one day. Also, one partner must be a permanent resident of North Carolina for six months.

During this time, it's important to work with a domestic violence attorney in Raleigh who is experienced in divorce where abusive behavior is a factor and who will work to help you achieve a favorable outcome. During this time, it's recommended you gather records and information including:

  • Threatening text messages
  • Pictures of injuries
  • Police records
  • Witness statements

Again, this will establish a history of abusive behavior which can affect how the judge rules in your settlement.

Domestic Violence and Child Custody

The part of the divorce process most affected by a history of domestic violence is child custody. While it's rare that all custody and visitation rights are removed in the event of spousal abuse the judge will weigh a custody arrangement based on the best interest of the child. This includes looking at factors such as whether the spouse was abusive to the child or whether the child witnessed abuse.

Common outcomes for child custody include:

  • Meeting in a public space or even the police department for child visitation exchanges;
  • Only permitting text or email-based discussions and only to discuss the child's welfare;
  • Requiring supervised visitation;

How a History of Abuse Affects Spousal Support and Property Distribution

In North Carolina, spousal support and property distribution are determined by a judge who bases their ruling on several factors. In addition to the incomes of both spouses, the duration of the marriage, and contributions within the marriage, including contributing by raising children and taking care of the home, the judge will also weigh marital misconduct of the spouses. While domestic violence as defined by the North Carolina law in no way guarantees alimony or more favorable property distribution, it can affect the judge's ruling.

Schedule a Consultation with an Experienced Domestic Violence Attorney in Raleigh

If you are a victim of domestic violence and are planning to divorce your spouse, you need an experienced, dedicated domestic violence attorney by your side who will fight to ensure you are safe and get a favorable outcome in your case. To schedule a consultation, reach out to us today at (919) 301-8843 or fill out the form below to learn more.

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