Divorce and Domestic Abuse
Domestic abuse in Georgia is defined as when a person exerts power and control over another person, whether physical, sexual, emotional, or psychological, and occurs among any of the following; parents and children, current spouses, past spouses, step-parents and step-child, foster parents and foster children, cohabitating persons or those who formerly lived together. Domestic abuse involves simple or aggravated assault, stalking, property damage, unlawful restraint, and criminal trespassing.
In the state of Georgia, the law recognizes domestic abuse as a ground for filing a divorce petition and falls under “cruel treatment”, involving “willful infliction” of physical or mental pain that reasonably causes the victim’s concern of “danger to life, limb, or health”. It is important to understand that domestic abuse is more than just physical attacks. It can take a number of different forms including; emotional, psychological, economic, and sexual abuse.
- Emotional abuse occurs when abusers call their partners names, and are overcontrolling, manipulative, or humiliating toward their partners in front of friends and family.
- Psychological abuse occurs when abusers try to “brainwash” their partners or manipulate them into acting a certain way.
- Economic abuse occurs when abusers are overly controlling of the household’s financials.
- Sexual abuse occurs whenever abusers force their partners to participate in sexual acts.
Allegations of domestic abuse can affect divorce negotiations. Family courts will always consider domestic violence allegations before granting custody and visitation rights to a parent. The courts will look at the entire history throughout the relationship and not just the current household.
Furthermore, when it comes to child custody, a judge may award child custody or visitation to an abusive parent only if doing so will uphold the safety of the child and abused parent. To ensure safety, a judge may order certain safety measures. These safety measures can include ensuring a custody exchange only occurs in a public place with potential safety reinforcements, forbidding the child from staying overnight at the abusive parent’s house, forbidding the abusive parent from possessing alcohol or drugs during or before visitation, and/or withholding any information that may put the abused parent’s or child’s safety in question, such as address or school.
Depending on the severity of the domestic violence case, there can be supervised visitation. A judge can order that trained supervisors or an agency be present at all times during visitation between the child and the abusive parent. Many times the abuser will need to pay the associated fees.
When it comes to domestic violence in divorce, you need to protect your finances. Managing your finances after leaving an abusive relationship can be even more difficult because of the level of control and manipulation involved. Once you have safely left your abuser, consider taking the following steps.
- Open a PO box where you can receive mail
- Get a new email address and use it only for business and legal communication
- Open a bank account in your own name and put away as much money as possible
- Have yourself removed from all joint debts
- Get a credit card in your own name
- Take copies of important documents
You need to be able to protect yourself and not risk having to go back to the place where the abuser lives.
If you are a victim of domestic abuse contact the national hotline at 800-799-7233.