How does abuse lead to divorce?

There are dozens of reasons why a couple may choose to get divorced. One of the most common causes is the presence of domestic violence, also known as family violence. Most people assume domestic violence only occurs as physical violence, but it can include emotional and mental distress. It affects many people regardless of their age, gender, race, religion, or financial status. The signs of domestic violence often go deeper than its physical aspects. It is not uncommon for spouses who abuse their partners to manipulate them into not wanting to leave their relationship by using blackmail, gaslighting, and other psychological tactics to control their partner.

Getting out of a violent marriage

Choosing to leave your marriage is never easy. It’s even harder when you are a victim of spousal abuse and may be isolated from your family and friends, psychologically broken down, have limited financial control, and have been physically threatened. If you’re contemplating whether to stay or leave, you may be experiencing mixed feelings. You might be hoping that your situation will change, or you are concerned about how your spouse may react when they find out you’re trying to leave. You might even blame yourself for the abuse or feel weak and embarrassed because you’ve stuck around despite it. It is easy to get trapped by confusion, guilt, or self-blame, but at the end of the day, the most important thing is your safety.

What is considered harassment during divorce?

Harassment can appear in many forms when an abuser intentionally causes emotional harm to a victim. The abuser may call the victim to abuse them verbally, threaten to hurt the victim or their loved ones, post derogatory claims about them on social media, or otherwise criticize them repeatedly. Your spouse may also commit child abuse by behaving inappropriately — threatening, stalking, or even assaulting you and your family. Ongoing abusive behaviors during a divorce may be considered harassment.

Filing a protective order

While a divorce formally ends a marriage, it doesn’t require former spouses to stay away from each other. After filing for a divorce, an abused partner should also ask for a temporary or permanent protective order to ensure everyone’s safety. The court may issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) or other similar emergency protections to provide protection for you and your family against an abusive ex. These orders may not allow your spouse to be within a certain distance of you or may deny all contact with you and the children.

Domestic violence resources

If your divorce involves domestic violence, it’s vital to proceed cautiously. You must take care of your family by asking for help and guidance when you need it. If something doesn’t feel right, follow your gut. If you are concerned about your or your children’s safety — don’t hesitate to call upon the many available resources—including law enforcement. Taking the step of leaving an abusive spouse can be tricky, but you may come out on the other side having made significant progress towards a better life for yourself and those you love.

If you have been a victim of domestic violence or feel that you or your children are not safe, get help immediately by calling one of the organizations listed below.

  • National Domestic Violence 24-Hour Hotline, 800-799-SAFE (7233)
  • Crime Victims, 888-343-4414
  • Texas Advocacy Project, 800-374-HOPE
  • Legal Aid for Survivors of Sexual Assault, 844-303-7233
  • In an emergency, call 911.