I agree with your advise to the wife. The wife should file for a dissolution or legal separation. It may be easier for the wife to file for a legal separation action, if she is not emotionally ready to file for a dissolution. Through a legal separation or dissolution the wife can seek both temporary and permanent custody and support orders, as well as a protective order if the husband continues his abuse. In addition, the assets of the parties will be divided in a legal separation or dissolution. Because of the special needs of the child I recommend the wife seek a consultation with a family law lawyer. I hope this helps.
When you say "divorce is looming", does that mean that a divorce action is started in the courts at this moment? There is a difference between something actually being filed and something that is being contemplated but nothing has yet been done. At the moment, the husband is able to do that and more, if nothing has been filed, because he is under no obligation to maintain payments. The wife should get in with an attorney in her area as soon as she can to get things started. Once a divorce action is filed, the court may put in temporary orders that prevent him from avoiding making payments and to maintain current financial arrangements (i.e. paying for insurance, etc.)
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If she wants support, she needs to get a court order. If she wants protection, custody orders, support orders, etc., she has to actually file for divorce and file concurrently a Request for Order and get a hearing date. Otherwise, at this point, either parent can do as he or she pleases. There is no court order requiring husband to continue to deposit money into the family account and no court order otherwise legally obligating him to support anyone except himself [moral obligation aside].