People in Maryland get divorced for any number of reasons. Most couples end a marriage because they grow apart or because of infidelity. However, in some cases, spousal abuse and domestic violence are the reason for divorce.
If you intend to leave an abusive spouse behind, you are probably already wondering how domestic violence will impact your divorce. There are many factors that contribute to how domestic violence will change the outcome of a divorce. Each situation is unique, so it is important to speak to an attorney as soon as possible about your specific scenario to adequately protect yourself.
Documentation is key in domestic violence divorces
Divorcing couples in Maryland often go to extreme lengths to prevail over their ex in court. Some people may even allege spousal abuse when it was never a factor in their marriage. As a result, the courts in Maryland are skeptical about cases of domestic violence without documentation.
Generally speaking, you need some kind of corroborating evidence to have the divorce courts hear your allegations at all. For those who have had to deal with law enforcement, either because they called for help or because a neighbor reported an altercation, those police reports can help corroborate claims of domestic violence. So, too, can any medical records that show a history of injuries consistent with domestic violence.
Even a personal journal and cellphone images of your bruises or other injuries can help demonstrate to the courts that there is a pattern of physical abuse. Barring that kind of evidence, you may be able to request that a friend, therapist, neighbors or others testify about what they have witnessed in court.
Substantiated abuse allegations will impact custody decisions
When there are minor children, the Maryland family court system tries to preserve both parental relationships if at all possible in a divorce. However, the best interest of the child, not the parental rights of the parents, is meant to be the guiding factor in all custody determinations.
In cases where an adult abuses children or abuses their spouse in front of the children, the courts may not choose to share parental rights. Instead, the parent with a history of abuse and behaviors may have to resign themselves to visitation, potentially supervised, to ensure the safety of the children at all times.
Bad behavior by spouses, even abuse, won’t factor into the division process, in most cases. However, certain abuse scenarios may make it more likely for the courts to order spousal support or alimony.
It is important to have adequate financial support, as well as social and emotional support, when you plan to leave an abusive marriage behind you. Talking with an experienced Maryland divorce attorney can be the first step toward freedom from domestic violence.