Domestic Violence, Abuse and Divorce

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June 11, 2021

Ending a Marriage with an Abusive Spouse

When we hear of domestic violence what often first comes to mind is a wife with a blackened eye or battered body. Physical abuse from a male spouse onto a female spouse is sadly too common, but domestic violence spreads its tentacles in many varying forms and dimensions. There can be female-on-male abuse, and same-sex couples are not immune to the violent, dark side of marriage.

A spouse who experiences violent altercations should never consider mediation or collaborative law methods to end the marriage. Contacting the authorities and hiring a litigator are both recommended.

Physical abuse may be easy to detect, but emotional abuse leaves hidden scars that have lasting effects. Violence and abuse wear many disguises. Both should be recognized for what they are to protect both spouses.

  • Physical Violence – beating or harm to cause someone pain
  • Emotional Violence – verbal or written statements used to belittle or harm a person
  • Psychological Violence – threats used to cause fear for the purpose of gaining control
  • Spiritual Violence – using someone’s religious beliefs for the purpose of manipulation or domination
  • Cultural Violence – using a person’s cultural customs as a way to harm or humiliate them
  • Sexual violence – forcing another person into sexual activity
  • Financial Abuse – controlling a person by withholding or misusing monetary resources
  • Neglect – withholding care or assistance to a person in need

Here we see that violence and abuse are more than punches and kicks. Repeated statements that a person is fat or stupid or does not earn enough money can wear away one’s self-esteem to the point of submissiveness or worse. Having an invalid spouse who is never wheeled outside to enjoy sunshine is a form of neglect. Treating a spouse as a domestic worker or sex slave is clearly abuse.

Is Mediation or Collaborative Law an Option?

The advantages of using mediation or collaborative law to end a marriage are often attractive. The lower legal costs and emotional toll, along with other considerations like staying out of a public court, is why so many couples use these methods. If someone is considering ending a marriage but experienced any of the above listed, s/he may need to weigh the circumstances before examining his/her options. A wife who often complains about a husband’s haircuts, or a husband who bought a snowmobile without consulting his wife may be annoying, but likely does not disqualify the couple from using an alternative to divorce litigation. However, if there are threats, physical violence, or other escalated forms of abuse like extreme financial irregularities, then the authorities must be contacted. New Jersey has several resources to serve those experiencing domestic violence. Two areas of support are the New Jersey Domestic Hotline (800) 572-7233 and the NJ Coalition Against Sexual Assault Hotline (800) 601-7200.

For more information on mediation, collaborative law and litigation check out the book – The Courtless Divorce.

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