How Does Domestic Abuse Impact Divorce?

How Does Domestic Abuse Impact Divorce

Domestic abuse, sometimes referred to as “domestic violence”, is the term used for a pattern of behavior in a relationship that is used to control or dominate a partner. While this type of abuse is often defined as a physical assault, abuse in a relationship can also manifest in sexual, emotional, or even financial actions used to levy control.

If you are in a marriage with someone that intentionally frightens, intimidates, hurts, injures, or harasses you, you are a victim of domestic violence. Divorce proceedings where one spouse is a victim of abuse can be affected by this fact, especially in cases involving children as family courts will always act with the child’s best interest as their top priority.

So, How Does Domestic Abuse Impact Divorce?

Child Custody

Evidence of domestic violence almost always impacts child custody. Clearly, if a spouse is abusive to a child or to another person in front of the child, that spouse is less likely to gain custody of the children. In most jurisdictions, it hurts the abusive spouse’s custody chances even if the domestic violence occurs without the children’s knowledge. If your spouse has been abusive, gathering evidence of his or her behavior can help sway the court in your favor when it determines custody.

Courts utilize various measures to protect children from abusive parents. Judges can order that a professional supervise all visitation periods and prohibit overnight visitation. The judge can also help protect the abused parent by ordering that all exchanges of children take place in a public place, like a police station or fire department. If you are in fear for your or your child’s safety, you should bring this to the court’s attention, and ask for the appropriate protections.

In extreme cases, a court may terminate the abuser’s visitation altogether and award full custody to the other parent. In cases where the abusive parent has caused serious injury to a child, a judge may order a permanent termination of the abuser’s parental rights.

Division of Marital Estate

In a number of states, courts consider a spouse’s behavior during the marriage when deciding how to divide the marital estate. Judges sometimes award a larger share of the marital estate to an abused spouse, particularly if the abuser negatively impacted the couple’s finances. For example, if the abuse prevented or harmed the abused spouse’s ability to maintain employment, a court may award the abused spouse a larger share of the marital estate.


Domestic abuse is most likely to affect alimony when an abusive spouse harms the other spouse financially. For example, some abusive individuals try to control their spouses by not allowing them to work, rendering them financially dependent. In these cases, a judge is likely to award the abused spouse alimony. In some jurisdictions, the court may consider domestic abuse when deciding alimony, even if it hasn’t affected the abused spouse’s earning capacity.


If your spouse has been abusive, you may have the upper hand in several aspects of the divorce. An abusive spouse can often settle on advantageous terms when the abuser wants to avoid the abusive behavior coming to light in a public courtroom. A skilled attorney may be able to help you negotiate a favorable settlement without having to take your case to trial.

If you are divorcing an abusive spouse, you should contact a local family law attorney to help you with your divorce strategy.

Filing for Divorce After Domestic Abuse

Filing for divorce is never easy, especially in cases where abuse has taken place. Working with an experienced family law attorney can help to navigate this difficult time and to legally protect yourself throughout the process. Our attorneys understand how emotionally draining this experience can be, this is why we work with you every step of the way. Reach out to our law firm today to schedule a consultation and learn more about filing for divorce after domestic abuse and to start the process of ending your marriage.

Experienced Family Law Attorney in Houston, TX

At Renken Law Firm, we work with our clients to help them navigate the divorce process. We understand how complicated and emotionally draining this experience can be, this is why we work with you every step of the way. Contact our law office to explore your options for traditional marriage divorce and common law divorce, and find out how we can help you resolve any legal problems you are currently facing.


Renken Law Firm, PLLC
11500 Northwest Fwy #586
Houston, TX 77092
(713) 956-6767
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