It’s hard to be in an abusive relationship. Whether you or someone you love have had to hide bruises, protect your children from launched chinaware, or even found yourself trying desperately to convince the partner you love that he or she needs help, it’s all painful, shameful and hard. The little voice tells you, “This isn’t where I’m supposed to be.�”
So, say you Google, “How to get out of an abusive relationship.”� With a few keystrokes and mouse clicks, you encounter more bad news. The most dangerous time in an abusive relationship is when the abused partner tries to leave the abuser. Abuse is generally a sick cycle of power and control, and nothing ignites the ire of an abuser more than the partner escaping the power and control. According to that quick Google search, women are 70 times more likely to be killed in the two weeks after leaving than at any other time during the relationship. Now what?
As a family law attorney, few things are more rewarding than helping a person in this devastating situation. There are things that can be done: Precautions can be taken, safety plans can be made, and papers can be filed.
One such option is the “Restraining Order.” They’re simple enough to acquire, can be enforced by the police, can take away the guns of the abuser, send him or her to Batterer’s Intervention therapy, and even kick the abuser out of the family home. After a hearing a few weeks from the initial filing, the order can be extended for up to five years. Mission accomplished, right?
Certainly, a Restraining Order is an important step in the process but, sadly, I have seen too many overly-relieved people prematurely thinking their woes were over once the Judge signed the Restraining Order papers. Don’t get me wrong, Restraining Orders are incredibly important for dozens of reasons, but they are not infallible, especially when you have children with the abusive partner.
Regarding the abused person with children, the challenge becomes the custody arrangement. Even in some of the most horrific instances of abuse, California wants both parents involved in the raising of children. This can certainly be a good thing but, oftentimes, it perpetuates the abusive cycle and makes completely disengaging near to impossible.
Best case scenario is often supervised or monitored visitation. This thread of the previous relationship becomes a point of connection that a lawyered-up abuser can use to harass by, among others, the following: Withholding support, not agreeing to monitors, challenging visitation times, dragging the leaving partner into court countless times.
None of this is to imply that leaving is impossible. The trick is getting help. Abusive relationships are hopelessly isolating, the step in the right direction is getting out from under the isolation and reaching out to folks who can help. A family law attorney can help you through the legal mess, especially the quagmire of custody battles. A shelter can help you through the living situation debacle. A good counselor or close friends can help you through the inevitable emotional turmoil once the dust has settled. Reach out and you’ll be surprised by the help that is extended in return.