The hardest thing about getting a divorce for domestic violence is admitting the problem. Many times both the victim and the perpetrator will be unwilling to come to terms with the problem. However, by recognizing the cycles of violence and taking action to end the relationship you will be able to properly handle a divorce for domestic violence.
As you start down the road to divorce, it is important to recognize the cycle of violence that is attributed to domestic violence, so that you can respond to it. Domestic violence is about control. The perpetrator uses a cycle of violence to control you and control your actions. It manifests itself in three phases – a tension building phase, and acute explosion, and a honeymoon period.
To the perpetrator, the prospect of being divorced is the ultimate loss of control. When he learns of your intention to divorce, it will likely result in the an acute explosion followed by a very focused and calculated attempt to redeem himself. He may agree to therapy, promise to change, and beg forgiveness. It is during this honeymoon phase that many spouses decide to end the divorce proceedings. However, it is at this period of time that you must be vigilant to recognize that this is just another phase in the cycle, and soon after you call off the divorce, the violence will resume with a building of tension.
Often people who are involved in a violent relationship are very reluctant to talk about the violence. Your divorce attorney may be the first person outside of the family who becomes aware of the problem. You may be at a point where you are ready to leave the relationship, but unwilling to talk to anyone about the violence. However, your attorney has a duty to keep your statements confidential and more importantly, he has a duty to represent your interests. The more you are willing to share the more he can help you by obtaining protection orders from the court and arranging that you will be taken care of through the proceedings.
To protect yourself during the proceedings, there are some safety considerations that you may want to consider. While the legal system can provide you with some protection in the form of a restraining order which can force your spouse out of the house, it is no substitute to personal responsibility and vigilance during the proceedings. If you are worried about violence when the perpetrator receives word of your intention to start divorce proceedings, consider temporarily moving to an undisclosed location or domestic violence shelter until you can gauge his reaction. Once you are separated, you should change the locks on your house and tell your children not to share their keys with the perpetrator. Moreover, if the court orders visitation, plan to make the exchanges in a public place or through a third-party. With the guidance of a divorce attorney, proper safety measures, and recognition of the cycle of violence, you can transition out of your marriage and into a new life.