Domestic violence and abuse can devastate you emotionally and financially. Resources to help you and your children can be difficult to find, or you may fear retribution from your partner if you attempt to leave.
Although the process isn’t always easy, working with a compassionate domestic violence lawyer can help you obtain the support and protection you need as you work to build a new life after abuse. Here are several tips for protecting yourself and your children, getting support and seeking help with the mental and emotional damage abuse can cause.
FIRST: If you believe you or your children are in immediate danger, move yourselves to a safe place immediately. Contact a trusted friend, seek help from a local shelter or contact emergency services. Make sure you are safe first, then start planning to protect your legal rights and rebuild your life.
Obtaining a Restraining Order
A “restraining order” in North Carolina may also be called a Domestic Violence Protective Order (DVPO) or a “50B order.” It instructs one person to take or to stop taking specific actions against another person. In a domestic violence or abuse situation, a restraining order commonly orders the abusive partner to stay away from the injured partner’s residence, workplace or other places he or she is physically present and to refrain from contacting the injured partner in any way. The order may also place limits on the person’s ability to keep firearms, consume alcohol or other drugs, or engage in other types of activity.
Protecting the Kids
As part of obtaining a restraining order, you can explain to a judge that your children are also in danger and that the court should grant you temporary custody of them. When children are included in a restraining order, the person against whom the order is issued is also prohibited from visiting their residence or school, attempting to contact them or engaging in other activities. Don’t forget to inform your child’s school or daycare provider about any active restraining order, so that staff can help protect them as well.
Seeking Help from Domestic Violence Shelters or Services
Domestic violence shelters provide temporary housing for individuals who need a safe place to stay. They also provide a number of other services and referrals, including information about counseling, support for children and their needs, and other assistance. Web sites like Women’s Shelters offer listings of domestic violence shelters. Many shelters also assist men who are seeking safety from an abusive relationship.
If you are concerned that your partner will attempt to stop you from seeking help from a shelter or other service, search for information on local shelters only from a public computer, such as one in a local library. An attorney can also provide you with information about services in your community.
Divorce and Abuse: How Abuse May Affect Alimony Payments
Abuse may become a factor in both the divorce proceedings themselves and in the way the court decides issues like child custody and alimony payments. In some cases, domestic violence provides grounds for a fault-based divorce in North Carolina. Domestic violence may also be considered marital misconduct, which is one of the factors that courts consider when deciding whether to award alimony, for how long and in what amount. Your attorney can help you determine the best way to proceed with a divorce, child custody arrangements and the pursuit of alimony if you are attempting to end an abusive marriage.
Healing Your Mind and Heart After Abuse
Violence and abuse can have serious, long-lasting mental health consequences. You may find yourself facing strong feelings of fear, confusion, shock or anger, or you may experience periods of emotional numbness. In some cases, the aftereffects of abuse include post-traumatic stress, depression and anxiety.
Because every person is different, the way you respond to abuse and the time it takes you to process your feelings cannot be predicted with certainty. Abuse is a traumatic situation, and it is important to respect and honor your feelings about the abuse or violence you have suffered.
Seeking psychological help can provide you with tools to manage your feelings, to express them in a healthy fashion and to heal, so that you can build a happier future for yourself and your children.
Many domestic violence shelters have therapists on staff or provide referrals to therapists in the Raleigh area. Your attorney may also be able to help you find a qualified professional.