When people think about domestic abuse, they may consider some of the most well-known forms, particularly physical abuse and assault. However, not all forms of domestic abuse involve physical injuries, and some types can even persist after the divorce. When domestic abuse is a factor in a New Jersey divorce, it is important to consider how the abusive behavior can affect the abused spouse as well as the children of the marriage.
Any type of abuse can severely injure a victim’s morale and self-esteem along with the physical injuries that can come from hitting or beating. Many spouses in New Jersey contact a family law attorney and file for divorce to bring their abuse to an end. There is a growing awareness that domestic abuse is not confined to the physical realm and that other types of abuse can be just as severe and damaging. However, the effects of abuse are not restricted to the abused person; their children, even if they are not directly targeted, can suffer from serious and long-term effects.
Children who grow up watching abuse may suffer trauma to their amygdala. As a result, they may experience a number of mental health issues later in life, including complex PTSD or other types of hyper-reactive emotion. Even when spouses live with abuse of themselves, it is often concern for their children that inspires them to hire a divorce lawyer and leave the relationship.
In most cases, perpetrators are not abusive at all times. They may act in loving or neutral ways the majority of the time, but the instances of abuse render the entire relationship unhealthy. In most cases, they do not inflict all types of abuse; they may only use one or a few. Abusive relationships may also become worse in stressful situations or when the abusive partner is also misusing drugs or alcohol. In many cases, spouses may decide to stay in the relationship when the abusive partner initially apologizes and pledges to do better. However, New Jersey divorce attorneys have often seen that these promises are short-lived, while the abuse continues.
Physical abuse is perhaps the best-known type of domestic abuse. It may also be the most likely to lead a spouse to end the marriage. It can include hitting, beating, slapping, punching, pushing and other direct forms of violence. Choking and strangulation are particularly dangerous forms of physical abuse that can point to a severe potential for escalation. Other types of physical violence can include dangerous driving intended to intimidate or harm, or deliberately abandoning the other partner in a dangerous situation.
Controlling abuse is marked by one partner attempting to control the other’s friends, relationships, finances, activities and behavior. While spouses may have agreements with one another about how they interact with others or manage money, abusive relationships involve one partner controlling the other, often with threats, anger or harsh criticism. Controlling abusive behavior may also aim to isolate a spouse from their family, friends or broader support network that could advise them to leave the abusive relationship. It may be difficult for a spouse subject to controlling abuse to contact a family lawyer because of the level of control and monitoring exercised over their communications.
Harsh insults, threats and other verbal violence may be easy to recognize as emotional abuse, but other forms of emotional manipulation can have similar damaging effects. Guilt and manipulative behaviors aim to harm the abused spouse and force them to comply with the other’s wishes. An emotionally abusive spouse may frequently threaten to leave without any real intention of hiring a divorce lawyer or withhold affection in order to punish their spouse. In some cases, repeated or flagrant infidelity, especially when combined with control over the other spouse’s behavior, may also rise to the level of emotional abuse.
Marital rape was not considered a crime until 1975, when Nebraska became the first state to make it illegal. Now, it is against the law throughout the country. However, many spouses who are subjected to unwanted and coercive sex still may hesitate before speaking out or ending their relationship. Sexual abuse can include more than unwanted sexual intercourse; it can also include forced engagement in other types of non-consensual sexual activity, unwilling participation in pornography or public sex, refusal to practice safe sex, and reproductive coercion, such as destroying or refusing to allow the use of birth control.
Verbal abuse is often related to emotional abuse, although it may rely less heavily on manipulation. Instead, verbal abusers may insult, yell at or attempt to humiliate their spouse. They may tell degrading jokes about their spouse to the spouse themselves, other people, or even their children. Verbal abusers may openly insult the other parent in front of the children or encourage them to join in, another type of harm caused to children by domestic abuse.
Both partners share financial decision-making in healthy relationships and agree with each other about how money is handled, even if one spouse has more responsibility than the other for their finances. Also, both spouses have the right to make everyday decisions or purchase items. Financial abuse is when one spouse uses their financial authority to force the other spouse to be dependent and only make purchases approved by the other, stripping them of control and choice over their own lives. Spouses affected by financial abuse may find it particularly challenging to divorce, as they may hesitate to hire a family lawyer or not know how they can hire an attorney on their own.
Most forms of abuse happen during the relationship itself, and this can include undermining the parent-child bond. However, parental alienation can also continue after divorce. It is important that children receive support and love from both of their parents, and the New Jersey child custody system encourages strong involvement from both parents during and after divorce. However, a former spouse engaging in parental alienation may refuse to exchange the kids for custody changes, make negative and derogatory remarks about the other parent to the child, or even tell the child that the other parent does not love them. Parental alienation can cause serious psychological harm to children, as they may feel insecure about their relationship with both parents and unable to express themselves in a secure and trusting space.
Domestic violence is not only a matter to be handled by a divorce lawyer; it is a serious crime. The Prevention of Domestic Violence Act aims to provide protection to victims of abuse, which can include assault, threats, restraint, sexual assault, harassment, stalking or cyber-stalking. A victim of domestic violence can pursue a temporary restraining order in the court system without a hearing. This does not become final until a final restraining order is in place, in which the other party has a right to legal representation. A divorce attorney can also help a spouse to seek a restraining order.
If a final restraining order is issued, there is a rebuttable presumption that, in a divorce, the abused spouse should have custody of the children. A temporary restraining order does not create the same presumption because the accused party did not have a chance to defend themselves or present evidence.
Abused spouses can seek a fault-based divorce based on “extreme cruelty,” but most people continue to seek a no-fault divorce, even when domestic violence is involved. There may be different factors to consider depending on the type of abuse, such as if one party financially abused the other while squandering marital assets. Domestic violence is a very serious matter and is handled as a major concern, especially when dealing with child custody issues.
If you are considering a divorce from an abusive relationship, a family law attorney may provide guidance for you throughout the process. Contact the experienced New Jersey divorce attorneys at Lawrence Law by calling 908-645-1000, or fill out and submit our online contact form for a consultation at our Watchung or Red Bank, New Jersey, office.