Can I Afford a Divorce as the Victim of Domestic Violence?
Perhaps the most devastating part of domestic violence for so many victims is that leaving seems impossible. Whether it is the psychological toll that domestic violence can take on its victims or the high financial cost of freedom, many victims do not feel they have the resources or power to fight back and get free from the abusive partner. The truth is that most people are able to break the cycle effectively once they get legal assistance from a professional. So, how does one afford a divorce when going through domestic violence?
Step One. Acknowledge the Power of a Protective Order (Injunction)
In Florida, FLA STAT 741.30 outlines the mechanisms for obtaining and enforcing protective orders. Florida law has several types of protective orders, but in general, when someone is seeking a protective order, they are looking for a court to restrain or order someone to not go near them. There is a lot of misunderstanding about these types of legal actions, because people assume that there is no power to a protective order, but this is simply not true. They serve a wide range of benefits, especially for a victim of domestic violence.
Step Two. Getting the Injunction Against an Abuser
When you go to court and seek an injunction, you are able to do so ex parte, meaning the abuser is not there. You can do this at your local courthouse with or without an attorney. You explain to a judge in writing, then in person, what the abuser did, why you fear it will continue, and what you want the judge to do. Normally, a judge will grant a 14-day temporary injunction, during which time the abuser cannot be in your presence. This means if you live together, this person will have to leave the property until the hearing on the final judgment. At that hearing, a judge will determine if the order stays in force longer or not. However, that 14 days is often enough time to move valuables, get family to help remove property and get the children (if there are kids in the relationship) to a safer place.
Step Three. How to Pay for an Attorney
Finally, once an injunction is in place, you should have an attorney immediately. Many people, especially stay-at-home spouses, do not realize that the court can order a working spouse to pay for the unemployed spouse’s legal fees. This little-known strategy allows a person who is the victim of spousal abuse to kick out the abuser, claim the property, then file for divorce, all without having to worry too much about having to come up with the money to pay for the legal process. Granted, a retainer may be necessary, so it is always good to talk to family and friends to gather resources.
Violating Injunction Orders
For those who worry that an abuser could violate an injunctive order, it is worth noting that yes, this does happen. And there are those extreme stories where abusers violate them and do serious harm. However, depending on the severity of the violation and how many times the abuser ignores the court order, the penalties can range from misdemeanors with jail time up to a third-degree felony in Florida.
If you are seeking a divorce in south Florida and worry that you will not be able to make it happen due to your circumstances, help is just a phone call away. At the Sejour-Gustave Law Firm, PLLC, our team is committed to helping people find resolutions in family court. Give us a call to learn more and get real-time help with your divorce and domestic violence questions.