First things first—if you are in imminent danger from your abusive spouse, get out of the house with your children and call the police. Do not worry about eventually getting custody or alimony when you file for divorce—your safety comes first. However, if you are not under immediate threat, and you believe that you can safely take a bit of time to get some things in place first, it could benefit you during the divorce.
Steps to Take if You Can Safely Do So
Abusive relationships take many forms. If you have reached your limit on enduring verbal, emotional, or physical abuse from your spouse and are ready to file for divorce, we suggest that you take these steps before telling your spouse that you plan to leave:
Call a Lawyer
When you decide you’re ready for a divorce, find a divorce attorney immediately. Your attorney will be able to offer specific advice that applies to your unique circumstances. They can guide you through the process of filing for divorce and advise you if the situation suddenly becomes dangerous and you need to leave quickly.
Put Important Documents in a Safe Place
Remove documents such as passports, birth certificates, Social Security cards, and copies of deeds and titles from the home and store them in a safe place. This might be with a trusted family member or in a safe deposit box.
Move Money, if Possible
Physical and emotional abusers are often also financial abusers. If you have savings and it’s possible to do without alerting your spouse, move money into an account that’s only in your name. This will give you financial resources during the divorce process.
Sentimental objects or small valuables should also be hidden or removed from the home if you think it’s likely that your spouse will sell or destroy them when you leave.
Stay in the Home
Ideally, you are the one who stays in the family home, and your spouse is the one who leaves, but this is not always possible in an abusive situation. Before you actually move out, however, talk to your lawyer.
To protect yourself in a divorce, you will need to anticipate what your abusive spouse might do when you leave. If you are able to be strategic about how you leave without tipping your spouse off, you could strengthen your position in the divorce and get what you deserve more quickly in a settlement. However, if this is not possible and you have to leave suddenly, rest assured that your lawyer will do everything they can to fight for the same outcome.
Do You Need to Speak to a Virginia Divorce Attorney?
If you are considering divorce you need to speak with an experienced Virginia divorce attorney as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our Fairfax, Virginia law office at 703.277.2811 to schedule your free consultation. We help clients throughout Washington D.C., Maryland, and Virginia and look forward to helping you.