October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. If you are in an abusive relationship – be it physically, emotionally, mentally or even financially abusive, and have thought about getting out of that relationship, make sure you take steps to prepare before you make that final step. Remember that not all abuse takes the form of red marks and bruises. Emotional and mental abuse can be just as painful. The period of breaking off a relationship and separation can be the most dangerous for an abused party. Last year, between July 1, 2016 and June 30, 2017, there were 115 domestic violence fatalities in Ohio. There were children present at the scene in 23% of those cases. Well laid plans may prevent some such tragedies.
Developing a plan of action can be difficult. Abusers are very controlling. Over time they will cut off their victims from other relationships including friends and family so that the spouse is the only friend and family the victim has left. Reach out. People will help. A parent of a child’s friend, a family member, an acquaintance from church – people will help. Someone needs to know your plan. While you may think your spouse has everyone fooled, that likely is not so. If you need help developing a plan, the National Abuse Hotline (see number below) will help you in developing your plan.
If at all possible, before you leave, contact an attorney. If you are married you want to start the divorce process as soon as you leave. If you are not married, you want to start the custody process at that time. The courts tend to want to maintain the status quo if there are children involved and if you are removing the children from the marital home and your husband files first, he will likely request the children be returned to the home. You need to have a plan in place with your attorney on when you are filing and what parenting time you want. If you want the children living primarily with you, you need to explain to the court why the status quo should not be maintained. One benefit to the status quo and paperwork being filed with the court is that insurance can be maintained meaning that either by court rules or, if not by rule, by specific request, you can seek to maintain insurance for the period that your divorce case is pending so that you do not lose health, car or life insurance if you are currently covered by your husband’s insurance.
In addition to an attorney, make sure to seek counseling for both yourself and your children as soon as you leave, if not before. Your entire world is being completely upended and you need someone to talk to, someone to lean on who can give you advice other than a family member. You need a trained counselor and so do your kids. This will be especially helpful for the kids when they have parenting time with both of you so they feel they have a safe place to air their concerns.
Financial support is another piece to the puzzle. If you have been financially dependent on your husband during the marriage, take steps to assert your financial independence while at the same time requesting financial support from him through the courts with spousal and child support.
With the support of your attorney, your counselor, and your ever growing support network, your wings will broaden and your independence will grow. You may continue to look over your shoulder for a while but it all starts with a plan. All good things start with a plan.
Here are some additional resources you can turn to as well:
- The National Domestic Violence Hotline
- NATIONAL ABUSE HOTLINE. In the US it is 800-799-SAFE
- Warren County Abuse and Rape Crisis Center
27 N. East Street, Lebanon, OH 45036