Does Domestic Violence Affect Your Divorce?
Divorce is never easy. But when a marriage involves domestic violence, divorce can be much more complicated. Domestic abuse may be the reason that one spouse decides to divorce. Sometimes, the high emotions of the divorce process contribute to one partner losing control (which is never an excuse or justification for violence). Violent behavior may also be a desperate, last-ditch effort to control a departing spouse and keep them in the relationship.
Whatever the reason that a domestic partner becomes violent, that violence can have an impact on several aspects of your divorce.
Divorce and Domestic Violence
Under Utah law, domestic violence includes a wide range of behaviors, including assault, sexual offenses, stalking, and threats of violence by one person against someone with whom they live. If you are a victim of domestic violence, your first priority must be safety for you and any children for whom you are responsible. That may mean getting a protective order against your abuser.
For many victims of domestic violence, the most dangerous time is when they have made the decision to leave the relationship. Domestic violence is largely about control, and when the abused partner leaves, the abuser may become more violent in a bid to reassert control.
You do not have to have a lawyer to get a protective order, but a lawyer can help you make sure that you get the right type of protective order, fill out the paperwork correctly, and appear with you in court. If you are considering divorce, it makes sense to have your divorce attorney help you get a protective order because the facts that support the issuance of a protective order are also going to be important in your divorce case.
In Utah, it is possible to file for a no-fault divorce or a divorce on fault grounds. If you have experienced domestic violence, you will probably want to file for a fault-based divorce. Filing for divorce on fault grounds means that you will have to present evidence to prove fault. However, successfully doing so provides advantages that can help you get a stronger, and safer, start to your life after divorce.
How Proving Domestic Violence Affects Alimony and Child Support
In general, alimony in Utah is based on the need of the spouse seeking alimony, the ability of the other spouse to pay alimony, and the standard of living established during the marriage. Unlike child support, there is no formula for calculating alimony, and other factors may be taken into account in awarding alimony in Utah. One of those is fault in the breakup of the marriage, including domestic violence.
A spouse who has experienced domestic violence and is seeking alimony may be awarded a greater amount of alimony for a longer time if they can prove the other spouse’s fault. A spouse who seeks alimony but is accused of domestic violence may be denied alimony altogether if chronic domestic violence is proven by the other spouse.
It makes sense that proof of domestic violence can affect an award of child custody or parent time, especially if the child witnessed domestic violence or experienced abuse at the hands of a parent. In Utah, as in other states, custody determinations are made based on the best interest of the child or children.
As a general rule, there is a rebuttable presumption that it is in a child’s best interests for parents to have joint custody. That means that a court will automatically consider joint interest to be in the best interest of the child UNLESS evidence is presented to overcome the presumption. Evidence of domestic violence can overcome the presumption that the parents should have joint custody.
Depending on the circumstances, the abusive partner’s contact with the child may be severely limited. Supervised parent time may be appropriate, so that the child can be protected from harm while maintaining a relationship with the parent. It is rare that a court’s parenting plan will deny a parent contact with a child altogether, but that is a possibility in the most serious and chronic cases of domestic violence.
Divorce and Domestic Violence Allegations
If you have been accused of domestic violence, whether falsely or not, you should be aware that those accusations could have a serious impact on your rights in divorce. Regardless of the circumstances, it is important that you have an experienced family law attorney on your side who can challenge any false assertions against you and protect your rights.
Whether you have experienced domestic violence or been accused of abuse, you need to have a divorce attorney who is knowledgeable about divorce cases involving domestic violence. Please contact BartonWood at (801) 326-8300 to schedule a consultation about your situation.
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