Arnel Law Firm
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Will your spouse's abusive behavior impact custody in a divorce?

You're considering a divorce because your spouse is physically, sexually or emotionally abusive. Maybe you have already made arrangements to leave, or maybe you're just now trying to figure out how to leave. You may feel worried about the impact the divorce could have on your children.

If your spouse is charismatic, you may worry that the courts won't side with you when it comes to custody. You are probably wondering if the courts will consider the abuse when they decide custody of your children. It's a very reasonable question, but the answer isn't very straightforward.

Unless you have documentation (medical records, police reports, etc.) of the abuse, it will be your word against your spouse's about what has happened in your marriage. Proving abuse can quickly become complicated. Chances are, the witnesses include your children, whom you'd probably like to protect from messy court proceedings. Although witnessing abuse has been correlated with unhealthy relationships in adulthood, courts will not immediately deny custody or visitation to an abusive partner if the children are not targets of the abuse.

The courts will help you protect yourself

New York State family courts try to protect victims of abuse. Even if you don't have documentation regarding your allegations, you can keep your new address a secret from your ex during filing and divorce court proceedings. Keeping your address confidential can reduce the potential for stalking or a violent confrontation at, in or near your new home.

In cases where there have been serious threats, you may also want to consider filing for an order of protection, which will legally penalize your former spouse for following, contacting or otherwise stalking and harassing you.

Custody will get based on the best interests of the children

New York custody and visitation arrangements get decided based on the best interests of the children. In many cases, courts do believe that it is in the best interest of children to have ongoing and stable relationships with both of their biological parents, if possible. When spousal abuse but not child abuse is a factor in your divorce, a judge will end up deciding what is best for your children. If the judge doesn't believe your partner is a danger to the children, your former spouse could receive visitation or even custody of your children.

When that happens, you may need to make safe arrangements to meet with your former spouse to exchange custody. In some cases, supervised visitation may be an option. Your best hope for a positive outcome, other than pursing custody, is to demonstrate to the courts that you will always put the best interests of your children first.

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Arnel Law Firm

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