No one has the right to verbally abuse you or your children, and that includes your spouse. If you have finally gotten fed up enough with this abuse that you want to leave your spouse and take your child with you, then you are making a great decision. However, if you simply flee the home and take your child with you, you will risk losing custody of your child in the end. Instead, follow these three steps to getting you and your child out of the abusive home quickly while still obeying all laws and improving your chances of obtaining full custody of your child after your divorce.
1. Find a Safe Space and File a Motion for Temporary Child Custody
When dealing with an abusive spouse, you don't want to keep you and your child in the situation any longer than you have to. You also don't want you or your child to stay in the marital home during divorce proceedings, because that leaves the possibility of your spouse abusing you and your child even more in retaliation to you getting out. However, if you simply leave with your child without permission from the courts, you give your spouse the opportunity to make you look like the "bad guy" or "the loose cannon" later in proceedings, and your spouse could even report to the police that you kidnapped your child.
To avoid all this but still get you and your child out of the situation quickly, first determine where you are going to take your child that is safe. Use discretion when making phone calls to family and friends, and erase your phone history regularly to avoid your spouse finding out what you are doing.
Once you know where you will take your child that is safe, file a motion for temporary child custody with the local family court. When filling out the form, you will have to state why you feel having temporary sole custody of your child is in your child's best interest, so be sure to include full details of the abuse going on in the home. You may be granted immediate custody upon completion of this form, although some states require a short hearing that you must attend and again voice your reasons to a judge.
Once you have this order in place, you are free to go to your safe place with your child and begin working on getting your lives back together away from the abuse. If needed, you can then file a motion for temporary child and spousal support. If you are considering not filing for this support, remember that you are entitled to it and it will help reduce the burden of temporarily caring for your child alone along with paying for a lawyer and paying legal fees during the upcoming divorce.
2. File for Divorce
Once you and your child leave the home and your spouse is alone to dwell in self-pity, remember that he or she may pull tricks to help get you back into the abusive home or may even seem to feel genuinely sorry for their abuse, as many abusive people do in cycles. They may promise to change and beg you to come back and even make you feel like you are the abusive one by taking your child to safety. Resist the urge to give them "just one more chance" that you have likely given in the past, only for the abuse to start again soon after. Instead, file for divorce as soon as possible to let them know that you are not falling for their tricks and are serious about getting you and your child out. Contact an attorney with experience in child custody matters to help you get through the divorce while keeping sole child custody.
If your spouse finds out where you and your child are staying and visits uninvited or harasses you or your child in any other way, file for a temporary restraining order for you and your child. Your attorney can also help you with this.
3. Work with Your Attorney to Collect as Much Abuse Evidence as Possible
While emotional abuse can be more difficult to prove in court than physical abuse, do not worry, because you can prove it with the help of a good attorney. He or she may suggest that you begin sending your child to counseling and that you begin attending it yourself. Not only can this help prove that you were both emotionally damaged by your spouse, but it is also an important step for both you and your child to help recover from the abuse. If you don't want to make your child testify to the court, then his or her psychologist may be able to testify for them and also provide an expert opinion about who should have custody of your child after the divorce.
Evidence of emotional abuse in a child also surfaces in their behavior, and if your child wets the bed or has shown unusual behavior in school and around other adults who can testify in court, this will help your case tremendously. Past abusive text messages, emails, and voice mails are also easy evidence to prove abuse. If you have lost or deleted text messages, you or your lawyer can often obtain them by contacting your cell phone provider. Your testimony is also very important, so as difficult as it may be, start keeping a journal and write every instance where you or your child was subjected to abuse that you can remember.
If your spouse is verbally abusive, then it is important to get out of the situation for the sake of your sanity and your child's mental health. Follow these steps to get out quickly, yet legally, and improve your chances of getting sole custody of your child after the divorce.