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How spousal or child abuse could impact your custody situation

Going through a divorce isn't easy, even in the best of circumstances. If your spouse has abused you or your children, however, there's often an extra layer of complexity involved. You may worry about your own safety, which is reasonable, as well as the well-being of your children. Of course, staying with your abusive spouse will likely result in ongoing abuse. Leaving is your best option.

You may worry about your spouse getting custody of your children. You probably don't want your children to testify in court, because that could add to their existing trauma. Thankfully, if there is documentation of abuse either directed toward or witnessed by your children, that could reduce the risk of sharing custody with your spouse.

Police reports, therapy records and medical history can help

Quite a few victims of abuse avoid contacting the police. They often fear angering their abuser, who could become even more violent after law enforcement leave. For many families, this can mean that there isn't a paper trail to help prove abuse. Thankfully, there are other forms of proof you can collect.

Medical records that show the physical results of abuse, documentation from therapy or counseling, and even pictures and videos from your cellphone could substantiate your claims of abuse. Having evidence to provide the courts can help ensure a better outcome to your custody proceedings. It could also help you obtain an order of protection to prevent your ex from contacting you during or after the divorce.

Not all abuse is physical, but it can be harder to prove

The family courts in New York recognize that abuse isn't always something done with fists, leaving behind visible bruising. Yes, physical abuse is still far too common, with many people in the state subjected every day to battery, assault and mistreatment by their intimate partners. However, even more people are subject to emotional, sexual and financial abuse.

Emotional abuse can involve tearing down your spouse and destroying his or her self-esteem. It often also involves isolating the victim from social support networks, such as family and friends nearby. It can be harder to document emotional abuse, but texts, emails and other electronic messages could help prove your claim of abuse.

Just because you're married doesn't mean you don't still have the right to consent (or not) to sexual activity with your spouse. If your spouse refuses to allow you access to finances, even your own income, that can be a sign of financial abuse. Even non-working spouses deserve the ability to access household funds to meet basic human needs. These less obvious but similarly destructive forms of abuse can also have an impact on your custody proceedings.

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