If you are currently married and in a physically or mentally abusive relationship, it can be a very tarrying situation that you might be desperate to get out of. You might be thinking of leaving or filing for divorce but have that voice in your head telling you it is not a good idea because of the potential reaction from your spouse. What if filing for the divorce causes the abuse to escalate when they find out? If your spouse already has a history of abuse towards you, the fear you have might take over and prevent you from following through with the decision to follow through with filing for divorce, and separating from them finally.

If there is a history of abuse you can file a petition for a Protection from Abuse Order while you prepare to file for divorce. To get a protection from abuse order you would first want to file with the court. Then likely, a Judge would issue a temporary order without the abuser being present while a future hearing date is scheduled. Both you and the abuser would then have to appear before a Judge at the later date. At this hearing either the abuser can consent to the Protection Order, or request to have a hearing where the Judge would hear testimony and make an order. These types of orders can last for any duration of time up to 36 months. If the abuser were to violate any such order they would be held in contempt. Consequences of a contempt violation can range from fines to jail time. When you are in an abusive marriage and desperate to get out but just fearful of what will happen if you try, a Protection from Abuse order can grant you that peace of mind to be able to file and get divorced with added protection from your abuser’s potential reaction.

Life is unpredictable and from time to time circumstances may arise that disrupt your normal routine. If you share a child with a former partner, part of your normal routine likely involves a custody schedule. The question then becomes what happens to my custody schedule in an emergency situation. Presently, our country is battling the spread of a new virus and with that, new directives for individuals to remain home as much as possible to lessen the rate of infection. What should you do about your custody order?

We are stressing the following steps to guide parents during this time:

Be prepared to discuss and model good behavior for your children in both homes including hand washing, wiping down surfaces, and social distancing.

Be compliant with the Order to the extent possible; if exact compliance is not reasonable or more stringent shelter at home directives are put in place, be creative in finding other ways to sustain the relationship (i.e. facetime, skype, etc.)

Be transparent and provide honest information with respect to any suspected or confirmed exposure to the virus and try to agree on what steps you will take to protect your children from exposure.

These are a starting point. We certainly encourage productive communication beyond these listed issues. Remember to act within reason for circumstances beyond what has been described, show empathy and keep in mind how you would feel if the shoe was on the other foot.

Stay well!