If you face a divorce and you have experienced a history of domestic violence in your marriage, then you need to educate yourself on how domestic violence can affect the divorce process and the outcome.
In the state of Tennessee, laws are in place to protect victims of domestic violence. These laws can directly affect your divorce case, as well as child custody. Here is some helpful information regarding the role a domestic violence history can play in your divorce.
Protective Orders are Available for Domestic Violence Victims
Anytime you feel you are at risk of harm from your spouse or anyone else, you need to obtain an order of protection. Once you have an order of protection in place, the order gives law enforcement the right to arrest your spouse if they violate the order by contacting or approaching you.
You don't necessarily have to sustain physical injuries to have a court grant a protective order. The court could also grant a protective order for threats of violence or other situations that lead to you feeling in fear for your life and safety. If you fear your spouse may pose a risk through the use of a firearm, you can request the order to prevent your spouse from possessing a firearm while the protective order is enforceable.
You cannot have contact with your spouse - even if you decide you want to - once you have an order against them. If you get an order of protection granted while you go through a divorce, the order will remain in place until the divorce is done. In some cases, the order will remain in place for its full duration, which is generally one year in the state of Tennessee.
Often, you can get full temporary rights to the home you share with your spouse, even if you were the one who initially left the home out of fear. Once you have these rights, your spouse would have to leave to avoid violating the order of protection. If you had to leave your children to get yourself to safety, the court may also force your spouse to turn the children over to you as well.
Domestic Violence Can Affect Child Custody
In most states, including the state of Tennessee, courts prefer to award joint custody whenever possible. However, when domestic violence is an issue, the court may find joint custody is not in the child's best interest.
Many factors will come into play, such as whether one or more acts of violence happened, as well as whether the child or children witnessed the violence. Another factor will include whether the child was ever the direct victim of the violence.
While the court may choose to award sole custody to you due to your spouse's violent behavior, this doesn't mean the court will keep the children from your spouse. If possible, the court favors allowing the continued relationship between children and both parents.
In the best interest of the child, the court may order supervised visits. This ensures the child can continue to have a relationship with their other parent, while also ensuring the child's safety and wellbeing. The court may direct your spouse to attend anger management classes or parenting classes.
If drugs or alcohol played a role in the domestic violence, the court may also require your spouse to attend alcohol or substance abuse classes and submit to drug or alcohol testing.
If the court finds the abuse in the home was severe, or the abuse included sexual abuse against the children, then the court can choose to terminate your spouse's parental rights.
We Can Help With Your Case
If you had domestic violence in your marriage and you plan on filing for divorce, contact us at Black McLaren Jones Ryland & Griffee, P.C., now. We can help you through your divorce and child custody matters.