Divorce how to
July 28, 2014 1:33 PM   Subscribe

I want to separate from my spouse. What can I do to minimize stress and maximize my resolve?

I have tried to do this before. The first time he became violent, yet I gave him another chance. Mistake, I know. The second time, he was very emotional, and carried on until I felt bad for him and relented. This can not continue. I want him to move out, as I own the house we live in. He owns a house that his father is currently living in, so he does have somewhere else to go. How do I (peacefully) get him to move? Also, how do I avoid letting him wear me down so I give in again?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (17 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
In the United States, The National Domestic Abuse Hotline, 1-800-799-7233.

"A safety plan is a personalized, practical plan that includes ways to remain safe while in a relationship, planning to leave, or after you leave. Safety planning involves how to cope with emotions, tell friends and family about the abuse, take legal action and more.

At the hotline we safety plan with victims, friends and family members — anyone who is concerned about their own safety or the safety of someone else."
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 1:39 PM on July 28, 2014 [7 favorites]

I'm pretty sure the only person who can answer this question for you is a kick ass attorney who specializes in contentious divorces.

Start interviewing attorneys to find the right one.

You might call domestic abuse hotlines in your area to get recommendations for good attorneys in your area specializing in these circumstances, especially concerning the sticky property issues involved.

This is not really an AskMe question because the answers are specific to your legal jurisdiction.

Good luck.
posted by jbenben at 1:42 PM on July 28, 2014

Nthing a safety plan. If possible, please tell him with other people around. Public space, or have some trusted close family members over. Maybe his dad.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:42 PM on July 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

Peacefully? Nobody here can say how; a divorce is a thing two people do, not one. You may be peaceful…but is he?

Other than that, you should state intent, propose steps and solutions, and you absolutely mustn't get embroiled in discussions. This may seem harsh, but in the end, all the wailing and relenting is more destructive by far than a simple step by step agenda towards the cut.

Yeah, and be safe. Violent isn't very great as a first experience. Make sure you're not alone with this.
posted by Namlit at 1:42 PM on July 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Right, you don't want to tell him when the two of you are alone, but probably not in a public place either. Make sure you have a third party nearby that both of you like and trust to prevent things from getting out of hand.
posted by Fister Roboto at 1:43 PM on July 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

This is a very good question, because abusers will escalate violence as a partner tries to leave.

Nthing to consult an attorney and DV experts to help you get your ducks in a row without sabotaging yourself in a legal case later. For example, you may or may not be able to deplete funds in a joint account, change the locks on the house, etc. without unforeseen consequences.

You may need to get a DVPO but those aren't always consistently enforced. The aforementioned experts can help you get the lay of the land where that is concerned.

Best of luck.
posted by Schielisque at 1:54 PM on July 28, 2014 [3 favorites]

Preparation is your greatest ally. Put together a game plan with a lawyer who has experience dealing with difficult divorces and domestic violence. Don't tell husband until you have made all preparations and are ready to move him out and change locks and cut off communication with the exception of legally-required communication. Get a therapist who can help support you while you go through this. Do not try to do this yourself. Good luck to you.
posted by quince at 1:58 PM on July 28, 2014 [5 favorites]

I'm an attorney. I am not your attorney. I cannot give you legal advice. What I can tell you, and I hope this might be useful to you, is that if a hypothetical client sat down in my office and said what you have written here, one of my initial questions would be whether he or she had spoken with a domestic abuse counselor. If not, that would be one of my first priorities to arrange.

So you might think about giving that hotline (first comment) or some local equivalent a try, in addition to finding an attorney. You definitely should find an attorney as well. Divorce can be done without attorneys' assistance, but the assistance becomes more important in contentious situations—for different reasons that depend on your priorities, from securing your fair share of assets to just making the split as quick, painless, and permanent as possible. Whatever your goal, it's helpful to have an expert guiding you.

Good luck. Be safe.
posted by cribcage at 1:59 PM on July 28, 2014 [12 favorites]

Since you say it is your house and he has someplace else to go, I would consider changing the locks while he is at work and arranging for his stuff to be picked up -- with witnesses/protectors present. But, like others are saying, I would want to talk to someone knowledgeable first about my right to do exactly that.

Yeah, OP should talk to an attorney! Because this is probably illegal even if OP does own the house outright which may or may not be clear depending on location, laws, how the house was acquired, and so on. (The corollary is also true, OP's husband may or may not own the other house outright depending on those factors too.)

OP: Others are correct, you need to talk to an attorney and probably an abuse support network. Getting him to move without his support for a divorce may be difficult and time consuming and needs to be done with the counsel of experts.
posted by Justinian at 2:51 PM on July 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

If your partner has become violent before and you don't trust your resolve, I agree with others that you need to go to a safe place - without any fanfare or announcement - and get on the phone with a domestic abuse hotline ASAP. Like, now. No excuses.

As others have said, get an attorney pronto.

The domestic abuse hotline can help you talk thru issues of resolve - and perhaps link you to a skilled therapist.
posted by Gray Skies at 3:02 PM on July 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

You consult a divorce attorney first. While you are understandably concerned about the peace and confrontation aspects, you are going to need professional advice and a plan to secure your home, secure your person, and secure your assets. How to do each one of those things will vary by jurisdiction. (Where I live, for example, a spouse cannot be forced to leave the marital home without a court order, regardless of who owns it.)

In my ideal, I'd set a target date and take the day off work. In the morning I'd go to the bank, then I'd meet the locksmith at home, then I'd meet my spouse for lunch in a very public place and hand him a bag. Then I'd check into a motel for a couple of days and not disclose my location. That last part avoids a LOT of ugly issues because you can only be contacted by a tiny little phone you can turn off. No drive-bys, no 3 am door pounding.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:20 PM on July 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

I left my house and belongings when I left a violent man.

If I was in your situation (again) I would call a lawyer and my local domestic violence shelter. The shelter can help you come up with a comprehensive safety plan. They are experts and they do it all the time.

Best of luck to you.
posted by sockermom at 3:39 PM on July 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

When you talk to an attorney and/or DV experts, ask them what you can do to keep your partner from harassing you at work.

I don't know where you are, but workplace protections for domestic violence victims vary from state to state (some cities and counties offer protections as well). The advocacy group legalmomentum.org has a comprehensive list titled "State Law Guide: Employment Rights for Victims of Domestic or Sexual Violence."

These protections incude:

* Laws that let employers apply for restraining orders in order to prevent violence against or harassment of their employees.

* Laws barring employers from firing or otherwise discriminating against an employee because she's an abuse victim.

* Laws guaranteeing victims time off -- usually unpaid -- to do things like get legal assistance or therapy, seek medical attention, relocate or take part in court proceedings. (Victims also may be able to take unpaid time off under the federal Family Medical Leave Act.)
posted by virago at 3:53 PM on July 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have been trying to figure out how to phrase this to sum up the kernel of what I wanted to communicate earlier, but perhaps stripped of possibly overly specific suggestions which may be more distracting than helpful. And I guess it boils down to these general principles:

a) "It's better to ask forgiveness than permission."

b) "A 90% solution now is sometimes better than a 100% solution later."

c) Be pragmatic. Do what works. Sort out your feelings about "morality" at a later date.

The first is something you hear a lot from people who work for big bureaucracies (like the federal government). Dealing with the law and courts is about dealing with a big bureaucracy. In the face of potential violence, it is a good rule of thumb to keep in mind.

If you are in real danger, sometimes, taking practical steps to protect yourself now and worrying about whether or not it is "okay" (legal) in the eyes of the law later is the direction in which to err. That isn't to suggest you shouldn't contact a lawyer. Since you are the initiator, you have a bit of time in which to do research, make plans, etc. But do focus primarily on what you can do in practical terms which will be effective rather than on what is socially approved. And "socially approved" includes the opinions of your spouse. So I will reiterate what I said above: As much as possible, try to not ask him. Try to not need to ask him. Try to deal with this in a manner which allows you to make a decision, take an action, and inform him of what is going down. Because if you ask him to leave, most likely, he will not. He will just start up on trying to wear you down again.

The second is a saying from the military. And I put it out there because in cases of domestic violence, sometimes there are no good answers. Sometimes, there is no way to have your choices not have negative outcomes. So when faced with a case of, say, "I can defend myself and possibly be charged with something because of it or I can not defend myself so as to prove I am the victim (and risk much worse injury)" again, err on the side of protecting yourself. If you can't find any really good answers, take the least worst answers you can find and limit the damage as much as you can. But keep moving towards your goal. Because, in the long run, staying with an abusive partner is worse than getting out -- even though they are at their most dangerous when you try to leave. Please keep that last detail in mind at all times. You are most likely to wind up dead when you try to leave. Trying to leave ups the stakes a great deal. So do not downplay the seriousness of this.

I know a woman who left a man who had only ever slapped her once during the course of their long relationship. When she divorced him, he very violently assaulted her and attempted to kill her. She suffered PTSD and was never the same. So do not make the mistake of thinking "He only ever hit me once and it was, like, only a slap. Surely, he is not that dangerous." Maybe he isn't that dangerous. But please assume that any man who feels he has the right to assault you in order to keep you is, in fact, probably exactly that dangerous. And act accordingly.

The third is the point I want to make in line with what I described above -- that I would be willing to change the locks, take a lover on the sly, or whatever worked in pragmatic terms. He is abusing you. The only moral/good answer is for you to get out. Anyone who is telling you that you shouldn't do x, y, or z for some kind of moral reason (where that is a serious deterrent to you being able to successfully pull this off) is someone you need to ignore. Do not listen to anything about what nice girls do. Do not listen to anything about how you shouldn't crap on him. None of that applies. Again: If you cannot find good answers in this situation, and there may be no good answers, then take the lesser evil. Come to terms with how you feel about that later. You can work on raising your personal standards back up to whatever your ideals are comfortable with after you successfully escape, with your hide and life intact.

As an example which is perhaps more relatable than my personal choice of finding another guy on the sly: The woman I knew who was violently assaulted when she left lied to him and swore she would not go to the police about the assault. She had never lied to him before so he bought it. This allowed her to talk him in to leaving. She promptly went to the police. She lived. He died by his own hand later that day. The police ran tests to see if she could have pulled the trigger and promptly cleared her and found it to be a suicide.
posted by Michele in California at 4:44 PM on July 28, 2014 [8 favorites]

Another vote for calling an abuse hotline. They can help you find resources, such as a lawyer. You need as many people in your corner as you can get. Therapist, family, friends, now is the time to gather them together to stand behind you. This will help your resolve to leave.

how do I avoid letting him wear me down so I give in again?

Make this as sudden of a break as you can while still remaining safe. Keep as much of a buffer between you and him as possible. Don't talk to him unless absolutely necessary (have your lawyer do that). Don't worry about his feelings, he is an adult and can manage them (or if he can't, that's his problem and not yours). You do not deserve this.

This is a big decision and I am very proud of you! The day you wake up in your own home and realize that you do not have to give One Single Flying Fuck about what he thinks or feels is going to be the best day of your life.

Feel free to memail me for moral support.
posted by fantoche at 5:11 PM on July 28, 2014

I was on my phone earlier and can now type out a more thoughtful response.

First, be kind to yourself about the fact that you went back. When you say, "Mistake, I know," it's like you expect to be judged poorly for going back. Going back happens all. the. time. I read a statistic somewhere that said that on average, abused women return to their abusers seven times - seven times - before they make the final break.

I went back... oh, well, to be conservative, I'll count only the times that I returned to him during the last four months - I went back three times. If you count all the times throughout the relationship that I left with every intention of never returning, only to go back that night or the next day, it's a lot closer to seven total times.

We go back, it's ok, it's not something to be unkind to yourself about.

But just because it happened before doesn't mean it's going to happen again, you returning. You've got resolve now: "How do I avoid letting him wear me down so I give in again?" you asked us.

Well, here's what you do. It's going to hurt like hell when you do it, but it's the best way to ensure that you won't walk back into his trap: plan your exit strategy secretly and then execute it without communicating with him ever again. You don't breathe a word of it to him. You plan your exit strategy by talking to a few lawyers and choosing one that is competent and helpful. Do this before he gets wind of you thinking about leaving. You also talk to a domestic violence shelter and put together a comprehensive safety plan: they'll ask you about what resources you have, where you can go, what things are non-negotiable to you, etc. They'll help you figure out a way to make as clean a break as you can.

In my ideal fantasy world, if I could go back and do that hellish thing all over again, I would have left him when he was out of town or at work for the day, I would have just packed up as much stuff as I could into boxes and walked the hell away and never looked back. Unfortunately, it's not that easy - you need to talk to a lawyer. But I would try to stick as close to this situation as possible, like in the movies when the good guy walks away and throws the lit match behind him and he doesn't even turn around.

The thing fantoche says above is also really helpful advice but it's very hard to heed. In fact, the reason it's hard to leave an abuser is that this advice is so hard to heed: Don't worry about his feelings.

Seriously. Don't worry about his feelings. I worried about my abusers feelings so much, so much that I put myself in danger, so much that I lost a lot of money and time and possessions. I felt responsible for him.

I felt responsible for him because he was abusing me and he put me in a really, really bad situation. With the benefit of time, I'm now able to look back and think to myself, damn, I was too nice to that asshole. Because he didn't give a whit about my feelings throughout the entire relationship - he didn't care one goddamn bit if I felt bad (in fact, if he cared at all, it was that he wanted me to feel bad) if it meant that he was getting what he wanted.

One of the things that helped me more than anything else as I was leaving was keeping a journal. I had a list of all the really terrible things he had done to me - it's still around here somewhere - and when I felt my resolve weakening I would read through the list. At one point the list became downright comical to me, and I remember reading through it, my phone in my hand with his contact information popped up, ready for me to call. I had the list in front of me and I was crying as I read it and the tears just turned into laughter: it was almost unbelievable, the content of the list. And it was so incomplete, too, I knew there were countless things that I had just forgotten, things that were so abusive but became so routine that I didn't even think of them when writing the list. There was the time he threw me out of the passenger seat of the car while he was driving because the sun was in his eyes. The time he broke down the bedroom door when I walked away from an argument. The time he screamed at me for a half hour because we went out for dinner with friends and he "could tell" that I wanted to get pizza. On and on, the list goes. It took up a lot of pages in my journal, like, way too many. Write your own list. Consult it when you feel like your resolve is weakening.

Also, having supportive people helps. I credit the domestic violence shelter for hooking me up with a support group, where I met a lot of women like me. I made a few acquaintances there, people I still keep in touch with sporadically, and one real true friend that I see every few weeks. Those women helped, and so did the domestic violence hotline. Oh god, the domestic violence hotline! Those people on the phones saved my life multiple times. I called them at all hours, in all different emotional states, and just talking to another human was vital sometimes. 1-800-799-7233. Memorize that number - I did. Call them whenever you want.

Now, the house is sticky, and a lawyer can help. But you might want to have some serious conversations with yourself, in your head, about the possibility that you might have to leave the house in order to have your freedom. It might not be worth going through what he might try to put you through in order to keep the house. Start preparing yourself for that possibility. I'm not saying it's going to happen, but if it does happen, it will be OK. It will not be the end of the world. It might be a lot, lot easier if you decide to just walk away from the house - but talk to a lawyer.

Abusers are tenacious. They are persistent. They are manipulative. They do not care about you and your feelings and what matters to you. They do not want you to leave peacefully and they will do whatever they can to make it so you can't get out easily and peacefully.

This is going to be a hard journey, but it will be the best thing you've ever done for yourself. I say this as a woman who has been through the journey and came out on the other side.

Oh, also: therapy. Pronto. Get a therapist. For yourself - not a couples counselor. You're going to need someone objective with whom to talk this through. You may need special types of therapy depending on how traumatized you end up being after all is said and done (I had PTSD and needed EMDR, which worked well for me). Therapy would probably be very helpful for you.

Best of luck to you on this journey. Take care of yourself.
posted by sockermom at 6:37 PM on July 28, 2014 [6 favorites]

I don't have experience leaving an abusive relationship, but I did leave a relationship with an incredibly manipulative person. I had tried to break this off several times and always was convinced to stay. The night before I finally broke it off for good, I happened to pick up and read Emotional Blackmail: When the People in Your Life use Fear, Obligation, and Guilt to Manipulate You. It was incredibly helpful. She used every single tactic in the book to get me to stay -- I could recognize the tactic and knew the countermeasure.

I wish you all the best -- it sounds like you are in a very difficult situation and have some good advice here upthread.
posted by elmay at 8:54 AM on July 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

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