Divorcing an Abusive Spouse
Maybe you have known that you need out of your marriage for a long time, or perhaps it is a more recent realization. When your spouse is emotionally abusive, the questions you ask yourself are deeper than how assets will be divided or how child custody will be decided.
You wonder how your spouse will react to the divorce, and how they may take their anger out on you and the children. A partner who is emotionally abusive in a marriage may become more hostile during a divorce.
Do not let that possibility inhibit you from doing what you know is best for you and your family. Instead, better control the process by understanding emotional abuse and how you can lessen the effects.
Need help divorcing an abusive spouse? You deserve an ally during this difficult time. Reach out to our lawyer today at (469) 646-7763.
How to Define Emotional Abuse
Emotional abuse does not leave a bruise on your cheek, but its impact can be just as devastating. Like other forms of abuse, the goal of the abuser is to have control over you.
What Is Considered Spousal Bullying?
The National Domestic Violence Hotline warns that criticizing, shaming, and blaming are tactics used to manipulate you, attacking your self-esteem and mental health.
Ways your spouse can bully you include:
- Calling you names
- Acting jealous or possessive
- Isolating you from friends and family
- Monitoring how you spend your time
- Controlling what you wear
- Humiliating you in any way, especially in front of others
- Threatening you, your children, or anything or anyone else you care about
- Accusing you of cheating, or cheating on you to intentionally hurt you
What Is Gaslighting?
Another term that has become part of popular vernacular is “gaslighting.” The term was first used in a 1938 play but is used often today to describe what is happening when someone attempts to make you feel unsure of yourself by questioning your recollection of facts or by denying their own previous actions.
Gaslighting is the go-to ploy of many emotional abusers. If you move out of the home you shared with your spouse, they will continue to use the same tactics to control you and stop divorce proceedings. Yet there are steps you can take to protect yourself from the abuser and leave behind a hurtful marriage.
Emotional Abuse and Personality Disorders
Many times, emotionally abusive spouses have a personality disorder. For those with Borderline Personality Disorder, they lash out in an attempt to control you and avoid rejection. Extreme emotional swings and impulsive behaviors are other symptoms. Remember that it is not your job to fix them. Putting the health and safety of yourself and your children first is crucial.
If you are in imminent danger, call 9-1-1. If you need more support and resources, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or text START to 88788.
How to Stop Emotional Abuse During Divorce
Your decision to divorce may come well before you take any action. Preparing to leave and for the divorce is important. This forethinking will put in place a foundation to keep you safer and less vulnerable to any continued psychological attacks.
What to do Before You Leave the Marriage
The first fact to remember is that you are not at fault. You did not cause the abuse and you did not deserve it. You can begin to take back control of your life.
Consider taking these actions when you decide to leave the marriage:
- Make a list of what you need to bring with you: driver’s license or other ID, cell phone and charger, change of clothes for you and your children, medication, cash, an ATM card, child’s birth certificate, health insurance card, and other essential documents.
- Create a codeword and share it with friends and family that you can text to get quick assistance.
- Finding someone to stay with so you are not alone.
- Map out alternative routes to school or work.
- If you end the relationship in person, make sure it is in a populated public place.
- Determine who can watch your children on short notice.
What to do Once Divorce Proceedings Begin
Be upfront and completely honest with your divorce lawyer about your relationship with your spouse. They need to know the details of the abuse you have endured so they can also be prepared for potential tactics to stall the divorce or punish you in some way. Your attorney can be an amazing ally.
There are several ways your lawyer can help you, including:
- Create a timeline. Your attorney can assist you in establishing the timeline of abuse based on records you have kept through the years.
- Limit communication. Your lawyer and your spouse’s lawyer will communicate regarding the settlement, creating a buffer between you and your spouse.
- Restraining order. Texas law defines family violence generally in a physical or sexual sense, but that does not mean you can’t apply for a protective order. Your attorney can help demonstrate to a judge that the emotional abuse could result in irreparable injury, loss, or damage. If granted, a temporary order will remain in place for 14 days. A judge at a separate hearing will decide whether to make it a permanent injunction. The burden of proof falls to the victim.
- Stand your ground. Your spouse may think they can wear you down until you concede to their demands. Your lawyer will help you stand up for what is rightfully yours in the divorce.
- Limit access to the children. An emotional abuser often victimizes their children or uses the children to discredit the other parent. Depending on the situation, you may be able to limit visitation with the children or establish supervised visits.
- Termination of parental rights. Texas code allows for termination of parental rights if your spouse inflicts harm on the children’s well-being.
Leaving the Abuse Cycle
Our experienced legal team can guide you through steps to keep you and your children safe from an abusive spouse. We will champion your right to a life free of abuse.