Of course, spousal abuse affects divorce, especially the emotional aspect of divorce. It’s hard not to feel angry and resentful of your spouse for abusing you and it’s hard not to feel ashamed about being abused and wonder why you put up with it so long.
Whether abuse affects the legal aspect of divorce is up to your and your divorce attorney. There are 2 modes of divorce:
Technically, Florida has abolished the no-fault – fault distinction in filing the divorce papers. However, fault (i.e. abuse, in the current discussion) comes into play when determining equitable distribution of marital assets and liabilities, the award of alimony, and determination of parental responsibility (i.e. custody and time sharing.)
From a legal perspective only, the fact that there is a history of abuse is irrelevant in the actual filing of the divorce. No-fault divorce is exactly what it sounds like. When you file for divorce, you indicate that the divorce is necessary for irreconcilable differences. This means that it’s no one’s fault (legally, not emotionally.) Your divorce lawyer will help you to show that your marriage is “irretrievably broken.”
That is the only requirement for filing divorce in Florida (that and either you or your spouse must have been a Florida resident for at least 6 months prior to filing for divorce.)
Property settlement is based upon “equitable distribution,” which means what’s “fair.” It may be equal, or not.
In determining the property settlement and alimony, the court may take into consideration any history of abuse, adultery, and the like. Abuse factors into the court’s child custody decisions as well.
(For more on how property is divided, see divorce and property.)
Get help. You are legally entitled to court help, if you are being abused. You may ask the court (with or without an attorney) to keep your spouse or partner away from you. This court order is called a “Protection from Abuse” (PFA) order.
If the PFA order is disregarded, your spouse or partner may go to jail. However, the PFA is not a magic wand; be sure to keep yourself and your children safe. Call 911, if you feel in danger. To get a PFA, contact the clerk of your circuit court in your county or any domestic violence shelter for help. In addition, our office represents abused spouses in matters of protection (i.e. Protection from Abuse orders.)
(See our section on domestic violence for more information.)
If you’re considering divorce, get good legal advice on Protection from Abuse (PFA) orders, property settlements, alimony, child custody and time-sharing, and child support. For information specific to your individual situation, consult with a qualified divorce attorney.