Divorce Involving Violent Behavior

by Elizabeth Rayne
Domestic violence may affect the divorce process and outcome.

Domestic violence may affect the divorce process and outcome.

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Due to the traumatizing effect of domestic violence on both the victim parent and child, divorces involving abuse require special consideration by the court. Temporary orders for support and protection from abuse are available to a parent facing immediate danger, and parts of the reconciliation process can be waived. As the divorce process progresses, the documented violent behavior of a spouse can affect child support, visitation and even spousal support.

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Preparing for Divorce Actions

Before going to court for divorce actions, including custody or support hearings, it is important to document all violent behavior. To support your claims in court, you may keep copies of police reports, medical records or photographs. Abuse is considered grounds for divorce in most states, and it is important to indicate any violent behavior, even if you are filing on no-fault grounds. Evidence of abuse may influence the court's decisions regarding custody and support.

Order of Protection and Temporary Support

In cases of abuse involving a spouse, a court may issue a restraining order, known in some states as an order of protection. You may also request a restraining order for your child. When obtaining the order, you may also request the other parent to pay temporary child support, medical bills and property damage that resulted from the abuse, household bills and mortgage payments. The court may also temporarily award you sole use of the car or home. Such provisions may be temporary until the final divorce decree is awarded.


When determining divorce, the court is generally concerned with what is in the best interest of the child. By presenting evidence of violent behavior, you may persuade the court that it is in the best interest of the child for you to have sole custody with only supervised visitation for the violent parent. The court may issue supervised visitation on a temporary basis, to give a professional an opportunity to observe the parent's interactions with the child. If the professional does not observe any problems, the court may drop the supervision requirement.

Spousal Support

In some states, the court will consider violent behavior when ordering spousal support. Generally, spousal support is based on the income of each party, and the capacity to earn income. You may present evidence that physical or emotional violence affected the victim's ability to pursue a career.


Frequently, spouses are required to attend a mediation in divorce cases. However, mediation is not appropriate where there is a history of domestic violence and an unequal power balance between the parties. In some states, you may simply opt out by requesting that the court waive mediation. Other states have a screening or assessment process in place to determine if the case is inappropriate for mediation.