Domestic Violence Lawyers

Domestic Violence: How it Affects Divorce

Domestic violence affects millions of households each year. Over the past several decades, every state has enacted laws to protect domestic abuse victims. Many of the laws are specific to how domestic violence or other abuse affects decisions made in a divorce hearing. Although family law and criminal law are two very different things, they frequently overlap, creating complications for family law practitioners. Domestic violence can trigger divorce, but abuse is a criminal act.

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What Is Domestic Violence?

Domestic violence is also referred to as intimate partner violence (IPV), domestic abuse, and relationship abuse. It is a pattern of behaviors used by one partner to maintain power and control over another partner in an intimate relationship.

Many forms of abuse are included in the definition of domestic violence:

  • Physical Abuse: This can include hitting, biting, slapping, shoving, and punching (any type of violent behavior inflicted on a family member).
  • Sexual Abuse: This form of abuse occurs when the abuser coerces or attempts to coerce the victim into having sexual contact or engage in sexual behavior without the victims consent.
  • Emotional Abuse: Emotional abuse involves invalidating or deflating the victim’s sense of self-worth and/or self-esteem.
  • Economic Abuse: When the abuser makes or tries to make the victim financially reliant.

Anyone can become a domestic violence offender or victim. Domestic violence does not discriminate.

How Does Domestic Violence Affect Divorce?

A divorce settlement takes place in Family Law Court. The divorcing couple and their attorneys will negotiate and resolve all issues pertaining to their divorce.

A third of the United States has a “no-fault divorce” policy (where no blame is attached to the break-up). In these states, you cannot file for divorce based on your spouse’s domestic violence. However, you may be able to introduce evidence of your spouse’s behavior.

According to, A family law judge will make a number of decisions that affect divorce proceedings when abuse is a factor including:

  • Division of Marital Estate: Courts may consider a spouse’s behavior when deciding how to divide the martial assets. If abuse negatively impacted the couple’s finances, the judge sometimes awards a larger share to the abused spouse.
  • Alimony: A judge is likely to award alimony when an abusive spouse has harmed the other spouse financially; especially if the abuser prevented the victim from working.

How Does Domestic Violence Affect Child Custody?

Although the legal definitions can vary between states, all 50 states and the District of Columbia have statues that require the courts to consider domestic violence committed by one partner against another in resolving child custody or visitation disputes.

Courts use various measures to protect children from abusive parents. Judges can order that a professional supervise the visitations and prohibit any overnight visitations. The judge can also implement orders to help protect the abused parent as well. They may require that all exchanges of children take place in a public place, like a police station.

In extreme cases, a court may terminate the abuser’s visitations. In cases where the child has suffered abuse, judges may order permanent termination of the abuser’s parental rights.

Domestic violence
criminal act.