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Divorcing violence: Getting out of an abusive relationship

Victims of domestic violence find themselves in a difficult position when they want to get out of their relationships. If they're married, they may wish to ask for a divorce, but doing so could put them in danger. Likewise, leaving could result in the abuser seeking them or family members out, threatening their lives.

Divorcing from a dangerous spouse isn't always easy, but it's worth the challenge. Getting out of a dangerous situation is possible, and there are steps you can take to do so.

How can you get a divorce from an abusive partner?

To start with, you need to protect yourself and your children. While it's not normally acceptable to leave your spouse with your children unexpectedly, fleeing from violence is a different situation that the court recognizes as an emergency.

Call the police and move to a safe location. You will need to talk to your attorney to begin the process for a protective order as well. Anyone who feels threatened has a right to a protective order, which can help by making sure your spouse is unable to contact or be within a certain proximity of your location.

In an emergency, an emergency protective order may be issued. The police sometimes continue to patrol near an area where an abuser could appear to make sure there is no trouble after the order is in place.

The next step is like any other in a divorce. You need to file for divorce. The divorce order needs to be served to your partner. You have the potential to have it served by an officer or by another party, so you don't have to hand it to your abusive partner directly. Your partner has only a few days to respond to the petition for a divorce. If he or she does not respond, the court will move forward with your preferences.

If he or she does respond, the divorce still moves forward but may require negotiation to settle disputes over property, child custody or other factors in your marriage.

Remember, you don't have to agree to negotiate with your ex. You also don't have to agree to go to mediation. Your attorney can talk to you about what options are in your best interests to protect you from your abusive spouse while also moving forward and getting the divorce you want. With help, it's possible to escape the cycle of abuse and move on with your life.

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