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How Does the Court Handle Domestic Violence in Divorce Cases?

A man yelling at a young woman who is holding her head in her hands. domestic violence in divorce

Domestic violence in divorce proceedings is a reality for many people in DuPage County, IL. The court’s handling of it depends on the length and history of domestic violence, whether there is an order of protection, and whether children are involved. If you are experiencing abusive, manipulative, threatening, or aggressive behavior during divorce, it helps to understand what the courts might do to help.

A man yelling at a young woman who is holding her head in her hands. domestic violence in divorce

Facing domestic violence during divorce is difficult. Don’t navigate it alone. Call Erlich Law at (630) 538-5331 for compassionate assistance.

How Domestic Violence Is Handled in Divorce Cases

Illinois practices no-fault divorces. This means couples can get divorced without blame. However, domestic violence can affect the proceedings.

If a History of Domestic Violence Existed Before Divorce Filings

Often, domestic violence has been happening for months or years by the time divorce is filed. In these situations, there might be an order of protection (restraining order). This order can help protect the spouse experiencing abuse as well as any children. It does not allow the parties to communicate through means such as text, phone calls, and email.

In these cases of domestic violence in divorce, the court might require that the parties download apps such as OurFamilyWizard or Talking Parents for communication only about the children.

None of these messages can be deleted. Attorneys and the judge can view the messages. This setup allows the parties to talk about their children while limiting possibilities for abuse during communication.

If Domestic Violence Just Started or There Is No Order of Protection

The court can issue orders of protection if the domestic violence is new or if no protection order is in place. Orders can forbid an abusive spouse from contacting the other spouse or children and from going to the spouse’s workplace and the children’s schools.

The abusive spouse may have to give up firearms, too. Firearms accounted for nearly half (49%) of the 57 deaths related to domestic violence in Illinois during 2022, according to an annual report by the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

After you file for an order, the court may issue a temporary order (emergency or ex parte order). It may offer protection until a full court hearing for a final order.

To make your case for an order of protection, document every instance of abuse (including aggression, threats, mind games, and manipulation). Include financial abuse and other types of abuse, not just physical abuse. Document even instances you might think are too small to record.

Seek medical attention for injuries. Doing so also helps with documentation of the abuse. Police reports, witness statements, text messages and other communications, photographs of injuries, a personal journal recording the abuse, and past protection orders can help. An orders of protection attorney can also be a valuable advocate.

What Are the Challenges in a Divorce With Domestic Violence?

Divorce and domestic violence in DuPage County, IL, can present their share of complexities. For example, sometimes occurrences of domestic violence are predictable. Other times, they are not. Whatever the case, divorce injects wrinkles into the situation. Everything can change, and there are new things you should know about divorcing an abusive spouse. Some of these things are unique to each case and each ex.

Safety

Many people worry about domestic violence in divorce. They might anticipate a rise in violence or that behaviors such as stalking may begin. They might worry that their ex will start using the children against them. A lawyer can help with filing for a restraining order if there is not an existing order. Of course, there is more to staying safe during and after divorce. Many families need to find safe places to live and keep their whereabouts confidential from their abusive spouse.

Ongoing legal help and enforcement of orders may be necessary if the abuser keeps abusing, intimidating, or harassing. Such behaviors can occur after the divorce becomes final.

Evidence

Evidence, such as police and medical reports, witness statements, texts, and voicemails, can prove domestic violence. However, evidence is not always straightforward to obtain.

Other types of abuse may exist alongside physical violence. They could include financial, emotional, sexual, and psychological abuse. Document all of these occurrences. They show a comprehensive picture. For example, an abuser might use psychological tactics such as isolating his or her spouse from other people and controlling the spouse’s whereabouts. The abuser might prey on the spouse’s fears and insecurities.

Child Custody and Visitation

With domestic violence in divorce, many factors go into determining custody and visitation matters. Courts put the best interests of the child first, but there can be cases where it is tricky to prove that domestic violence is occurring.

Reverse accusations may happen, too. An abuser may try to gain the upper hand by accusing the other spouse of being the abuser. This is distressing, and it helps to learn what can be used against you in a child custody case. Avoid sending threatening texts, even if you feel they are necessary in response to abusive behavior. Follow court orders, and document everything carefully.

Finances

Financial abuse may have been a factor in the marriage. For instance, one spouse might have forbidden the other to work. Similarly, an abuser might not allow his or her spouse access to bank accounts or credit cards. Document all of these instances and discuss them with your lawyer.

Even in marriages not involving financial abuse, spouses may be financially dependent on their abuser. Money is one reason people do not leave an abusive relationship. For long-term financial stability, it may be necessary to get spousal support. Child support may be needed, too, if the divorce involves children.

Emotions

Divorce by itself leads to many types of feelings. People often experience happiness, relief, sadness, guilt, anguish, and much more. Domestic violence can complicate these emotions even more, including for children. Therapy and counseling can help both adults and children.

Proximity

Court proceedings in DuPage County, IL, can make people fearful about seeing their abuser. The prospect of testifying against an abuser may spark fears of retaliation, too. The court may offer separate waiting rooms, remote testimony, and other accommodations.

Legal Representation

A lawyer who has experience with domestic violence in divorce can be helpful. Unfortunately, not all family lawyers have that background, so it is necessary to ask questions about that during a consultation. Divorce and domestic violence issues also require collaboration among lawyers, social services, therapists, and others. When interviewing lawyers, ask about their experience in offering a comprehensive approach.

Talking about abuse can be hard, too. Admitting it in the first place may be difficult, and ongoing conversations might not be easy, either. Choose a lawyer with whom you feel comfortable and at ease.

How a Lawyer Can Help You During Your Divorce in DuPage County, IL

A lawyer can help in many areas. Speed, child custody, and financial matters are three of the most notable ones. If you do not have a restraining order, a lawyer can get you one. The chances of getting this order with legal assistance are higher than trying to do it alone.

A lawyer may be able to help with an expedited divorce. These types of divorces are easier to get in some domestic violence cases, with priority handling by the court and protective orders.

With custody matters, Illinois courts emphasize the best interests of the child. The presence of domestic violence can make a big difference in court decisions. For example, the non-abusive spouse could get sole custody of the children, although the court might require supervised visitation between the children and the other parent.

As far as financial matters go, common considerations include child support, the division of assets and debts, and spousal support. The court is allowed to consider the impact of domestic violence on the marriage when making property division decisions. Domestic violence can have a huge emotional and financial impact, and giving the non-abusive spouse a larger share of marital assets may help with compensation for the violence.

A similar principle applies with spousal support. If the violence affected the non-abusive spouse’s ability to work, spousal support awards could be higher or longer. With child custody and child support, the abusive spouse might not get any custody. This likely means a higher amount of child support to pay.

Choose a lawyer who has experience in such matters. These cases can be complex, and lawyers can offer support and advocacy while helping with protection and a fair outcome. Does your divorce involve domestic violence or financial abuse? Contact us at Erlich Law Office as soon as possible. We can help with restraining orders, child custody, finances, and more.

Uncontested divorce lawyer Denise Erlich is passionate about helping divorcing couples in the greater Chicagoland area transition to their new life as seamlessly as possible. Ms. Erlich patiently guides her clients through every step of the divorce process and provides clients with candid advice about their case and legal options, so they can make informed decisions about their future.

Years of Experience: More than 20 years
Illinois Registration Status: Active
Bar & Court Admissions: Illinois State Bar Association U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois
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