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Rebuilding Your Life After Domestic Violence: Legal Considerations and Strategies

by | Jun 16, 2024 | Divorce, Domestic Violence

Domestic violence can leave deep emotional and psychological scars. Even after leaving an abusive relationship, the road to healing is long and challenging. Rebuilding your life after domestic violence requires courage, support, and practical steps – including addressing the legal implications. This guide explores legal strategies and considerations to help you move forward safely.

Understanding Your Legal Options

Seeking legal counsel should be a priority. An attorney can advise you on steps to protect yourself and assert your rights. Areas to discuss include:

Restraining Orders

Restraining orders legally prohibit your abuser from contacting, harassing or approaching you. A domestic violence protection order provides fast, emergency relief. For ongoing protection, you may need to petition the court for a permanent restraining order. Requirements vary by state. Your attorney can file the paperwork and represent you at hearings. Restraining orders can also cover your children and other family members.

Child Custody & Visitation

Abusive spouses often seek custody of children to maintain control. Work with a lawyer to file for sole or primary physical custody. Supervised visitation may be required to keep your kids safe. Documenting your spouse’s violent history is crucial. You may also request your address to be confidential in court records. Experts can be hired to evaluate custody options.

Divorce & Asset Division

Ending a marriage legally is vital to sever ties. Your lawyer can advise you on the grounds for divorce in your state – such as domestic violence, adultery or irreconcilable differences. Marital assets will also be divided. Be prepared to provide financial statements and tax returns. Seek a fair settlement with alimony if warranted.

Immigration Status

For immigrant survivors, escaping abuse is complicated. Consult an immigration attorney. Under the Violence Against Women Act, you may self-petition for permanent residency without relying on an abusive spouse. There are also visas for victims of domestic violence and trafficking. Discuss steps to stabilize your lawful status.

Building Your Support System

Recovering from domestic abuse requires support. Consider:

Therapy & Counseling

Seeking counseling with a therapist who specializes in domestic violence can help you process trauma. Many communities have support groups as well. Therapy provides tools to rebuild self-worth, boundaries and coping mechanisms. Your children may also need counseling.

Domestic Violence Advocates

Advocacy groups provide a range of services including emergency shelter, safety planning, referrals for housing/jobs, legal aid, childcare services, counseling and crisis support. They can accompany you to court dates and help with filing restraining orders. Local women’s shelters are a valuable resource.

Friends & Family

Lean on trusted friends and relatives for strength. Join a support group with fellow survivors. Reconnect with community through faith-based groups or volunteering. Extended family willing to testify about witnessing abuse can aid your custody case.

Self-care & Wellness

Make self-care a priority – including exercise, nutrition, sleep and socializing. Wellness practices like meditation and yoga can also help relieve trauma. Take time for hobbies and activities you enjoy. Be patient on your healing journey. Set healthy boundaries and learn when to seek help.

Financial Considerations

Economic abuse is common in domestic violence. Many survivors lack financial resources, access to money, credit history and employment skills. Steps to regain your finances:

  • Open a bank account in your name only.
  • Build an emergency fund and safeguard assets.
  • Get copies of tax returns to file independently.
  • Create a budget to get back on your feet. Seek assistance programs.
  • Repair credit damaged by an abusive partner.
  • Update credentials, resume and interview skills.

Housing Options

Finding a safe home is essential. Temporary options include staying with family or a women’s shelter. For your own housing consider:

  • Rental assistance programs
  • Transitional housing specifically for domestic violence survivors
  • FHA loans, grants and subsidies for first-time home buyers
  • Affordable apartments in a secure building
  • Relocating to a new city or state for a fresh start

Safety Planning

Even after separating, some abusers stalk and harass victims. Develop a safety plan such as:

  • Change locks, phone number and email
  • Vary daily routine activities
  • Identify safe areas in your home in case of emergency
  • Create a code word to alert friends or family to call police
  • Keep evidence of abuse for obtaining protective orders
  • Learn self-defense techniques

Have an emergency bag ready with cash, spare clothes and important documents if you need to leave quickly. Be vigilant – stay alert in public, screen calls and save threatening messages.

Rebuilding a New Life

Leaving an abusive relationship marks the start of reclaiming your life. With support, legal guidance and financial stability, you can move forward on your own terms – without fear. Focus on self-care, setting boundaries and rediscovering your interests. Take each day as it comes – the difficult ones and the joyful. Know that a hopeful future lies ahead.

If you or someone you know needs help escaping domestic violence, contact us today. Our attorneys can confidentially explore your legal options, rights and steps toward safety and freedom. With specialized legal counsel and community resources, you can reclaim your dignity and start rebuilding your life.

Visit us in person at:

  • Bellevue – 10900 Northeast 4th St, Suite 2300, Bellevue, WA 98004
  • Kirkland – 1207 Market St. Kirkland, WA 98033

Or call now for a free consultation on (206) 792-0981.