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Steps to take if a spouse is violent

When a spouse is violent, sometimes it is difficult to know what steps you can take to stop it. While moving out or getting a divorce may be your ultimate goals, sometimes it may be appropriate to start by taking smaller steps toward those goals. Two small steps to consider are creating a safety plan and filing a restraining order.

Preparing a safety plan

If your spouse is violent and you still live with your spouse, one action you can take is developing a safety plan. In this plan you should address how you and your children can get out of the house safely if the need arises. You should also address where you could go if you have to leave your house.

Consider putting together a bag, filled with essentials like clothes, medicine, keys and important legal documents, in case you need to leave unexpectedly. However, you should be sure to keep it somewhere your spouse will not find it, like with someone you trust.

You should also consider opening a savings account in your name, hiding a prepaid cell phone and keeping your vehicle filled with gas. In general, you should be as prepared as you can for the moment you leave. If you decide to plan your departure ahead of time, consider leaving when your spouse is not home and contacting law enforcement for assistance.

Requesting a restraining order

Filing a domestic violence restraining order is another action you can consider taking. This is a court order that helps protect people from abuse by a spouse or someone else they have a close relationship with.

Some of the things a restraining order has the power to do include requiring your spouse to:

  • Not contact or go near those listed on the order
  • Stay away from your home, work or children’s schools
  • Move out of your house
  • Not have a gun
  • Pay certain bills

There are three types of domestic violence restraining orders. Emergency Protective Orders can only be requested by law enforcement and can last up to seven days. Law enforcement may request this on your behalf if they respond to a domestic violence call, or you can ask them to request it on your behalf.

To get a restraining order that lasts longer, you must file paperwork and go to court to ask for a domestic violence restraining order. If the judge believes you need protection, he or she may grant you a Temporary Restraining Order until the hearing for a Permanent Restraining Order. The Temporary Restraining Order usually lasts between 20 and 25 days. A Permanent Restraining Order can last up to five years.

It is important to understand that a restraining order is not the same as a divorce. If you want to divorce your spouse, that is a separate process you can start.

Domestic violence can happen to anyone and is more prevalent than many people realize, but no one deserves to be abused. Regardless of what kind of abuse you are experiencing, there are actions you can take to protect yourself and your children.

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