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Divorcing a Violent or Dangerous Person

By Nottage and Ward on October 20, 2022

Divorce is difficult under any circumstances. When the person you are divorcing is violent or dangerous, it can be even more traumatic, particularly when children are involved. If your spouse has threatened to retaliate, you may be afraid to leave or file for divorce. Special preparations may be needed to exit the relationship safely.

How Can You Protect Your Safety When Divorcing a Violent Person in Chicago?

If you have been a victim of spousal abuse or domestic violence in Chicago, you need a plan to help you to escape from the dangerous situation safely. Your plan should include steps to help keep you safe while you are preparing to leave and after you have left the abusive spouse. These steps may include the following:

  • Tell family and close friends about the abuse.
  • Speak privately with an attorney about your legal options.
  • Set up a way for family, friends, and your attorney to contact you without your spouse’s knowledge, such as a cell phone plan and a post office box in your name only.
  • Open a bank account in your name only and make sure statements are sent to your private post office box – not to your residence.
  • Make copies of all marital financial records, including tax returns, paychecks, credit card statements, and bank statements, and keep them in a secure place, perhaps with a friend or family member.

What Is an Order of Protection and How Can You Get One?

If there has been a history of domestic violence, our Chicago divorce attorneys can file a petition with the court for an order of protection, also known as a restraining order. This type of court order can prohibit your spouse from doing certain things and order your spouse to do certain other things. An order of protection may require your abusive spouse to stay away from you and your children, at the risk of being arrested if the order is violated. Under Illinois law, judges can grant a variety of protections in an order of protection, including:

  • Temporary child custody
  • Exclusive possession of your home
  • Eviction of your spouse from the home
  • Support payments from your spouse for you and your children
  • Possession of personal property
  • Prohibition of harassment or violence

How Is Divorce Different When One Spouse Is Violent?

Illinois family law courts recognize that domestic violence is a crime that has a harmful effect on the entire family. Judges give this serious consideration in making divorce proceedings decisions. It could influence decisions regarding parenting time if the court believes that spending time with one parent could endanger the physical, emotional, or moral well-being of the child. The judge may order supervised visitation, or order that your residential address is not be disclosed and that visitation is to take place elsewhere.

If domestic violence has been extensive and of long duration, the court may decide it is in the best interests of the child to terminate the abusive parent’s rights. In that case, the abusive spouse would have no legal rights concerning the child and no obligation to provide support.

The process of getting divorced can take several months or longer. If you are divorcing someone who is dangerous or violent, it is important to speak with your attorney about getting an order of protection in place as soon as possible, to protect yourself and your family and help you exit the relationship safely.

Nottage and Ward, LLP was founded in 1988. Our Chicago divorce lawyers have more than 25 years of experience. Divorce and family law is all we do. Contact us today at (312) 332-2915 if you are divorcing a violent or dangerous person.

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