Every minute, twenty people in the United States are physically abused by an intimate partner. One in four women and one in nine men experience severe violence at the hands of a person they considered themselves to be intimate with.
The problem is more widespread than anyone wants to believe, but it’s also a silent epidemic. People who experience this kind of abuse often feel ashamed, embarrassed, or even think it’s their fault. They may also feel there’s no way out of their abusers’ control.
If you or someone you love has experienced or are currently experiencing abuse, a domestic violence lawyer can help. Keep reading to learn what to do if you are experiencing violence or abuse.
Talk to someone you trust about what’s happening in your relationship. They can be a friend, family member, your doctor, or another health professional. Talking gives you a chance to say what’s happening out loud so you can hear it in your own words.
For some, those conversations can point out the right path and give you an ally as you make the changes you need to end the abuse.
If you worry about what happens next and don’t know where to turn, talk to your local advocacy group. Call 1-800-799-SAFE to get local information from the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
A domestic violence advocate can help you work through your options and put together a plan to make the change you need.
Hiring a domestic violence lawyer is a personal decision, and many victims may choose to avoid dealing with the courts to avoid going through the trauma all over again.
However, a domestic violence lawyer can help you both in and out of the courtroom. Here are a few things that a lawyer can help you do.
If you fear your partner or you believe you are being stalked, then you can get help in the form of protection or restraining order.
Although you don’t need a lawyer to get an initial restraining order in most states, it can help. You need to file a petition and send it to the judge, who then grants the request.
Unfortunately, domestic violence restraining orders tend to last for ten days.
Then, it expires.
For too many, the first restraining order is only the beginning. You might want a long-term restraining order for yourself or your children. These require an extensive hearing that also gives your abuser the chance to present their argument. Legal representation gives you the best chance of successfully making your case.
There are likely more domestic violence resources in your community than you expect. A domestic violence lawyer is not only tuned into these resources, but they have contacts there.
If you aren’t sure where to turn, a lawyer can help you get a space in a shelter while you determine what to do next.
If you are married to an abuser, then many states allow you to file for a no-fault divorce on the grounds of domestic violence or abuse.
At the same time, many victims of domestic violence don’t see divorce as an option – at least not right away. Ending a marriage is upsetting even when both parties agree it’s the best thing to do. And domestic violence often also comes with emotional and financial abuse that may make divorce seem impossible on so many levels.
A domestic violence lawyer can also help you find resources to help you pay for the divorce or seek free legal representation. They also represent you in court and deal with your abuser so that you don’t need to see them.
When you have children with the person who is abusing you, they still have custody rights. You must petition the court for rights to full custody of your children and child support.
A domestic violence attorney can help you with your petition – before, during, or after a divorce.
Domestic violence is a crime, but it also carries civil liability.
If your abuser stole money, slandered you, or cause grievous injury, you have the right to bring a civil lawsuit against them if you choose. You can sue even if they were tried in criminal court. A domestic violence lawyer can help you find out more about initiating a civil case.
These lawsuits can bring forth either damages (payment) or injunctive relief (an order from the court not to participate in certain acts). You can sue for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and in some states, punitive damages.
Suing a family member was previously tricky because courts wanted to protect the family unit. As a result, you will struggle to bring a lawsuit against a spouse or former spouse in these states:
However, it is still possible if you file what is call an “intentional tort,” which argues that your abuser took deliberate actions to cause you harm. Because domestic violence often includes assault and battery as well as psychological abuse, it is possible to get past these rules.
A domestic violence lawsuit isn’t easy, and it isn’t cheap. However, the court can force your abuser to pay your legal and court fees if you win (assuming your abuser has the money to do so).
Domestic violence is an epidemic in the United States, but no matter how bad things get, there is still hope. There are people out there who can and want to help.
A domestic violence lawyer can connect you to local resources to keep you physically safe and offer you legal protection through restraining orders, divorce, and civil lawsuits.
Did you find this article helpful? Visit our Lawyer on the Line page for more legal advice.
If you or someone you love are a victim of domestic violence, call The National Domestic Violence Hotline on 1-800-799-7233 or visit their website to chat with an advocate.
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