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Divorcing an Emotionally Abusive Spouse in California

Couple Having Relationship Conflict
When most people think of a marriage ending because of abuse, they might think of physical violence. Many people don't realize the complicated components that emotional abuse can bring to a marriage. Trying to divorce a spouse who is emotionally abusive is decidedly complex.
Do you want to divorce an emotionally abusive spouse? Learn how the abuse may impact your divorce proceedings in California, as well as what defines emotional abuse and the ways to document it.
What Is Emotional Abuse?
Emotional abuse may not leave physical marks as violence does, but that does not mean emotional abuse is not damaging. Emotional abuse typically involves belittling another individual, perhaps through insults or gaslighting. Some spouses are only emotionally abusive when they are in bad moods, but this does not lessen or excuse the damage of abuse on their spouse and children.
Emotional abuse often involves isolation tactics or trying to turn people away from their family members. Emotionally abusive individuals may even prevent a spouse from attending classes, going out with friends, or participating in normal daily activities.
One common component of emotional abuse is excessive jealousy or suspicion of a partner. The emotionally abusive person may also criticize their partner for mundane behaviors or the way he or she looks.
Can Emotional Abuse Impact Your Divorce?
Emotional abuse can have a significant impact on your divorce depending on the specifics of the situation. When children are involved and you have clear-cut evidence of emotional abuse, you are in a better position.
If you have children with your spouse, you may have an advantage over your spouse if you have documentation of abuse. Ultimately, the judge always considers the best interests of the child. In making this determination, potential abuse is a major factor. Some parents obtain sole custody of their children if the other spouse was abusive.
A judge may also consider emotional abuse when dividing marital assets and liabilities. Even if you have a no-fault divorce, the judge can take into account documented evidence of abuse (though they will not consider hearsay, or undocumented proof). This also comes into play when the judge considers alimony and spousal support.
What Can You Do to Document Emotional Abuse?
One of the most difficult things about emotional abuse is that it feels impossible to prove in court. Nonphysical abuse is notoriously hard to document, but you can still take several steps to secure your rights during divorce proceedings.
You can document emotional abuse, especially if it worsens after you file for divorce. To start, keep specific details about the things your spouse says and does that may fall under the category of abuse. You might even consider getting a restraining order if you are in fear for your life or if the damage is ongoing.
When you receive abusive texts, emails, letters, packages, or voice messages, always save them. Consult with your attorney about how you can use this information in court. Rather than pick up calls, allow them to go to voicemail so you have record of potential abuse.
Some people may begin to see a therapist or mental health professional to cope with abuse. A psychological professional may serve as an expert witness in court on your behalf.
What Should You Do Next?
Your next step should be to consult with a family and divorce attorney. With the help of a family law attorney, you can bring evidence of abuse to court and create an argument based on the safety and best interests of your children.
Novack Law Offices has 32 years of experience dealing with California's divorce laws and requirements. Call us today to discuss issues like divorce, annulment, child custody, and domestic violence.


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    The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding you individual situation. We invite you to contact us and welcome your call, letter or electronic mail. Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information to you until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established.