Considerations for a divorce with spousal abuse

A divorce in which one party is a spousal abuser can lead to specific considerations such as keeping any children safe and getting the divorce finalized.

Spousal abuse is a factor in many a Pennsylvania divorce and sometimes the driving reason that one spouse has to leave. However, it can be hard to leave a relationship, especially an abusive one, and there are unique considerations in divorces that have domestic violence.

Protection orders may help

An attorney can help domestic violence victims obtain a Protection from Abuse Order that seeks to ward off stalking, threats of abuse and actual verbal and physical abuse. Of course, protection orders do not guarantee safety, and many victims want their divorce over with as quickly as possible.

Quicker route to divorce

A 2016 state law paved the way for victims to get quicker divorces. Before then, a divorce could take as long as two years, with a minimum of three counseling sessions required. When someone has been abused by his or her spouse, it is hard to stomach the thought of having to be in counseling with one's abuser.

Now, the counseling requirement can be waived if the victim has a protection order against his or her spouse or if there is an official track record of personal injury. Furthermore, the divorce consent of the abuser is presumed if there has been a personal injury conviction against the battered spouse. Thus, many abusers can no longer use the counseling requirement and other factors to draw out divorce proceedings.

Child custody issues

In a "normal" child custody case, both spouses are encouraged to develop their own parenting plans and have a lot of freedom, often total freedom, to come up with plans that work best for them and the children.

However, someone who has been a victim of spousal abuse is unlikely to want to sit down with a spouse to hammer out child logistics. Furthermore, there may be a fear that the children will end up being abuse victims as well. To that end, plaintiffs may ask judges for their spouse to get counseling, to have no contact with the children and for the spouse to give up guns, knives and other weaponry. As always, it helps a case if the abuser has an official record of his or her actions.

Compensation issues

Spousal abuse brings tremendous physical, mental and emotional suffering. Some plaintiffs ask for compensation in light of their suffering. For example, they might require a specific amount of money for their own medical bills and counseling bills.

It can be extremely frustrating for a spousal abuse victim in Pennsylvania to end up in the midst of a hotly contested divorce in which each and every claim is challenged. Even when little is contested, victims may fear for their safety. An attorney can explain the ramifications to their clients and explain the possible options.