How to Divorce Your Abusive Husband

Three Parts:Making PreparationsSeeking Legal HelpFinding Support

If you're in an abusive marriage, you need to leave. Such situations are highly dangerous and you need to get out. Divorcing an abuser can be a complicated legal process. Make preparation ahead of time, seek qualified legal counsel, and ask for support from friends and family members.

Part 1
Making Preparations

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    Secure your finances. If you're trying to get out of an abusive situation, the first thing you should do is secure your finances. Abusers tend to seek control and often do so by taking hold of your financial security. Before making plans for a divorce, seek financial security.
    • Open a bank account in your own name. Move finances into your account and try to have paychecks and any other personal income transferred directly into that account.
    • Change any PIN numbers. Pick a sequence of numbers that can't be easily identified or hacked. Do not pick anything your husband might know, like birthdays or important dates.
    • Try to obtain a credit card in case of emergencies. If you're left without money, you can charge as a last resort. You can also buy a prepaid credit card, which are available for purchase at many retail outlets.[1]
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    Gather evidence. Evidence is key in a divorce trial where abuse is involved. As you formulate a plan to leave, gather as much evidence as you can. This can help you if things get ugly during trial. There are three main types of evidence you should look for in a divorce trial:
    • Photographic evidence, which includes photos of injuries and broken property like cracks in the wall or shattered phones
    • Documentary evidence, which includes recorded phone calls, text messages, e-mails, and letters
    • Eyewitness testimony, which is accounts from people who have witnessed the abuse[2]
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    Report abuse to the authorities. Before you physically leave your husband, report the situation to the police. If a police report has been filed you will already have the upper hand before leaving. This can also help your case if you take any children with you. Your husband's legal rights regarding any children you have may be affected by reports of abuse. This can prevent you from getting into legal trouble for removing children from an abusive situation.
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    Form an escape plan. You should form a plan to escape from an abusive situation. Oftentimes, abusers get angry and violent if you tell them you're going to leave. Make an escape plan ahead of time.
    • Choose a time when you know your husband will not be home. You might have to wait for him to go away on a trip or leave for work. As you'll have limited time to leave, you might have to leave behind many of your personal items. This can be emotionally difficult, especially if items have sentimental value, but keep in mind nothing is more important than your own personal safety. Try to focus on how you're working towards a safer, happier future.
    • Find a safe place to stay. Women's shelters often offer housing and financial help for women in need. You can also ask family and friends for help in this situation if you're close to anyone if the area. You might want to keep you location a secret if you believe your husband would follow you wherever you went.
    • Keep in mind things can get tricky, legally speaking, if children are involved. Your husband will still technically have legal rights prior to the divorce and any custody settlements if no arrests or legal action have been taken against him. If you're concerned about whether you could get in trouble for taking your kids, talk to a lawyer before making any decisions.[3]

Part 2
Seeking Legal Help

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    Keep communication with any legal professionals secret. Once you start communicating with an attorney, you should do this secretly. Even if you're not living with your husband when you seek legal council, documents can accidentally get sent to the wrong address. Your husband may also gain access to sensitive information through your email or social media accounts.
    • Set up a P.O Box and request any legal documents be sent to this address alone. You should set up a private e-mail account and channel all e-mail communications with your attorney through this account. Use a public computer to access this account as a controlling husband may set up SpyWare or other software on laptops and computers to gain access to your information.[4]
    • Establish a safe place to keep copies of all important paperwork. This can be a trusted friend's house, a bank vault, or a secure hiding place in your own home.[5]
    • Change all passwords to your social media sites. You do not want your husband accessing your social media as he might try to use things like Facebook to get damaging information or even modify your account in ways to harm you legally in a divorce.[6]
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    Talk to an attorney. You should hire an attorney as soon as possible in any divorce but especially one where abuse is involved. Seek out an experienced attorney who has experience with these sorts of situations.
    • You can check credentials online by reading reviews and contacting past clients. Look for an attorney who has experience in divorce cases involving domestic abuse. This way, you'll be working with someone who understands the gravity of the situation and can help protect you.[7]
    • If money is an issue, some attorneys might offer you a discounted rate if you explain the situation. You can also seek out loans from family members and friends.[8]
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    Seek custody of any children. Custody arrangements can be a brutal part of any divorce. If abuse is involved, it's important you seek full custody of any children.
    • How to file a petition for full custody varies state by state. Talk to your attorney about the best options for your situation. In many states, regardless of whether abuse is an issue, an ex-spouse is entitled to visitation rights if he pays child support. This can be very frustrating for people trying to leave an abusive situation.[9]
    • Document all abuse that happened, especially abuse that occurs in front of the children. This can help your case in a custody battle. Try to find people who've witnesses the abuse who would be willing to testify in trial.[10]
    • Document everything you do for the kids to prove you're the primary caregiver. Photographs of you taking the kids to school, extracurriculars, and testimony from teachers, family members, and friends can help.[11]
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    Build a solid divorce team. You'll need a top notch legal team in order to fight an abuse case. The system is still skewed and abusers often get away with money and legal rights regarding children. In addition to your primary lawyer, you may attorneys to specifically work on things like custody, money issues, housing issue, and granting personal protection or restraining orders.[12]

Part 3
Finding Support

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    See a therapist. Divorce is emotionally devastating for anyone. However, when abuse is a factor you'll need time to emotionally heal. Seek out a therapist for yourself and your children in the wake of divorcing an abuser.
    • Many women's shelters offer free or discounted counseling for women ending abusive relationships. See what kind of aid is available in your area.
    • If you have insurance, many plans cover mental health. Browse your insurance company's website or call during operating hours to see what's covered. You can also ask for a referral to a good therapist from your primary care physician. He or she might have a colleague or friend who can take your insurance.
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    Talk to family and friends. You'll need a lot of emotional support during this time of your life. Be honest with those you're close to about what's been going on. Be upfront about the fact you need help and support during this time. While you may lose some friends in the situation, hold onto and be grateful to those who stand by you during the divorce.[13]
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    Look into women's shelters. If you need a place to stay while searching for another home, consider a women's shelter. Women's shelters can provide housing and help with relocation services. You can find shelters by browsing the internet or asking at local hospitals, churches, and psychiatric clinics.[14]


  • If there's a risk for physical violence, leave as soon as you can and report the situation to the police. Abusers rarely change and these kinds of situations get worse, not better. Nothing is worth your own personal safety.

Article Info

Categories: Divorce | Domestic Violence