Domestic abuse can escalate during divorce, due to heightened emotions and the abusive spouse's loss of control over the relationship. The best way to end the abuse is to take direct legal action. Immediately seek a protective order to stop the abuser from attacking you or your children. Domestic abuse includes emotional, psychological and physical abuse. Be prepared to argue that it is not "only" verbal abuse. If the abuse is life-threatening and you are afraid for your life or your children's lives, state it clearly to the judge.
Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−SAFE(7233) or TTY 1−800−787−3224 to discuss the details of the abuse and ask for a referral to a local domestic abuse center. Clearly state the full extent of the abuse and do not minimize the dangers posed by the abusive spouse.
Document every incident of abuse. Note the frequency and type of abuse. Take pictures of any physical abuse to yourself, your children or your family pets. Save abusive voice mails, emails and texts from the abusive spouse.
Visit the court website in the applicable county. Go to the family law section and search under domestic violence. Research information on restraining orders, which may also be known as protective orders. A restraining order is an injunction to stop the abuser's personal conduct, prevent all contact with you, or exclude him or her from your residence.
Go to the domestic abuse clinic at the local courthouse, if available. Meet with a domestic abuse advocate. Complete the intake form and provide contact information about the abusive spouse. Prepare any supporting documents to submit to the court. State your urgent need to meet with the judge immediately.
Visit the judge to request a temporary restraining order, also known as a temporary protective order. Maintain your composure as much as possible. Tell the judge if you are fearful. Clearly state the type of abuse, the name of the abuser, the name of the victim, the exact times and dates of the abuse. Describe any escalation of abuse and any ongoing threats. If possible, present physical evidence.
Schedule a hearing to ask the judge for a more permanent restraining order. If you have one, ask the domestic abuse advocate to direct you to the scheduling clerk, if the family law clerk in the judge's courtroom does not automatically schedule the follow-up hearing. Notify the abusive spouse about the hearing well within the legal time limit.
Obtain legal representation for your hearing. Contact the Legal Aid Society or other similar organization for a referral. Many legal aid clinics across the nation offer free or low-cost legal services to low-income families. Alternatively, contact the local bar association for a referral. Schedule an appointment over the phone or inquire about walk-in appointments.
Meet with an attorney through the legal aid organization. Provide a list of all incidents of abuse. Support each incident with physical evidence of the abuse. List the names of all witnesses to the abuse, including family members.
Attend the preliminary hearing. Ask your legal representative what you might expect. If you do not have a legal representative, ask for a domestic abuse advocate to accompany you in the courtroom, for moral support.
Obtain a restraining order. The court will provide you with a restraining order and send a copy to the abusive spouse. If the abusive spouse does not attend the hearing, the order can still be issued. However, it may not go into effect until the abusive spouse receives a copy of the restraining order. Laws vary by state.