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Divorce for Verbal Abuse

Updated on October 31, 2014

Because each state makes its own divorce laws, the exact timeframe for your divorce for verbal abuse will depend on where you and your spouse live. Since verbal abuse often leads to other forms of abuse that could place you and your children in physical harm, consider making a safety plan as you proceed through the divorce process. Keep copies of all your important documents, such as birth certificates and social security cards and identify a safe place you could go where you spouse could not access you easily, for example, a family member’s house or a domestic violence shelter.

General Timeframes for a Divorce

In the states with the most liberal divorce laws, it will usually take no less than one month to finalize your divorce. First, you will need to prepare your divorce papers. In most states, you will need to list your "grounds" for divorce. Some states allow domestic abuse, which generally includes verbal abuse, as a grounds for divorce. Although you can retain an attorney to prepare the papers for you, the Clerk of the Court in the city or county where you reside can provide you with sample forms that you can use to prepare your own divorce papers. Many of these complete "divorce packages" simply require you to fill in blanks, listing your names, your spouse's name, your dates or birth, and information on your children. You will also need to provide you and your spouses addresses and basic information on your finances, including whether you plan to apply for child support or spousal support

After you prepare your divorce papers, you will need to file them with the clerk of the court. Typically, you will need to pay a filing fee, which ranges from $80-$200 in most states. If you are unemployed or cannot afford the filing fees, talk to the clerk of the court. Many places offer fee waivers for low-income persons seeking a divorce.

Once you file your divorce papers with the court clerk, you must then serve the papers on your spouse using a means allowed by your state, such as a sheriff, private process server or certified mail. After your spouse receives the divorce papers, he will then have a fixed timeframe to respond to your divorce papers. In most states, the court will give your spouse at least 30 days to respond. The divorce cannot be finalized until after that time has lapsed. This is to give your spouse adequate time to respond to the allegations.

Grounds for Divorce

While all states offer “no-fault” divorce—that is, a divorce where neither party states a specific reason for divorce, others places allow you to state grounds such as domestic which can encompass verbal abuse in certain states such as California. If you file for a no-fault divorce, the only type of divorce available in some states, you may be required to maintain a separate residence from your spouse for a fixed time period—sometimes up to one year—before the court will grant your divorce. However, if your state allows to file under for divorce because verbal abuse, cruelty or another “fault” grounds, then you will likely be able to finalize the proceedings without going through a separation period.

Regardless of your grounds for divorce, you may have to appear in front of a judge or magistrate before the state will grant your divorce. However, this varies from state to state. In some locations, if your spouse does not respond to the divorce papers, the judge may automatically grant you a divorce without requiring you to appear in court. This "divorce by default" will usually be granted shortly after your spouse's response period expires. However, in some areas, you may need to request that the judge grant you a divorce if your spouse's respond time expires and you have not heard anything from him or her.

Contested versus Uncontested Divorce

If your spouse does not respond to the divorce papers or object to the terms you set forth in the divorce papers, then the judge will typically grant the divorce within 30 to 60 days. However, if your spouse does not want to divorce or objects to issues such as child custody or how to divide your mutual property, your case may have to go to trial, even if your spouse does not deny the verbal abuse.

Verbal abuse cases may be particularly prolonged in cases where children are involved, particularly if your spouse does not admit to the wrongdoing. Since verbal abuse can adversely affect children’s wellbeing, the court will need to examine all the facts in the case before making a divorce judgment and custody ruling, which may involve psychological examinations and interviews with all parties. It may take several months to find a custody evaluator or psychologist, complete the assessment process, and get a hearing date with a judge.If you fear for your safety or the safety of your children during this waiting process, you may be able to request an emergency custody order or personal protection order. The court will generally respond to these emergency requests within 48 hours.


Keeping the Process Moving

To ensure that your divorced moves as quickly as possible, keep detailed records of all instances of verbal abuse toward you and your children. Note the time and place that your spouse abused you, as well as what he said. If you do not remember exactly what your spouse said, state this in your notes, as misquoting your spouse may constitute perjury--a felony offense--even if you did not intend to deceive the court.

If anyone such as a friend or family member witnessed this abuse, ask them if they would be willing to come to court to attest to the instances of verbal abuse in front of the judge. If you have any attorney, talk to him or her about your state's laws regarding taping phone calls and other conversations. If such recordings are legal and admissible in your state, they may be able to help your case. Having documentation and witnesses ready can ensure that you do not experience a delay in your divorce trial.

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