Within the past several months in Southeastern Michigan where I practice family law, there have been several tragic incidents. A husband stabbed his wife to death, stabbed himself, and was rushed to the hospital. His wife had just filed for divorce. In a second recent incident, a father was charged with murdering his two sons by drowning and scalding them in a bathtub. He and the mother of one of the children were in litigation. A third incident is tragically playing out where a father is being held in a jail in Ohio for kidnaping, his three young sons are missing. People fear the worst. A custody action was involved.
Tragically I am seeing more and more incidents of domestic violence. The economic downturn that we have gone through has created more tension, with people losing their jobs, incomes, homes, and facing a drastic reduction in lifestyle. This creates a lot of stress which unfortunately can lead to domestic violence and tragedy. In this blog, there are ten issues for you to consider regarding domestic violence:
Control - controlling every aspect of one’s life. Monitoring phone calls, text messages, monitoring e-mail, questioning a spouse about daily activities is a form of psychological abuse.
Economic abuse is a form of domestic violence. This can include preventing someone from getting, keeping, or leaving a job, damaging someone’s credit rating, making a spouse ask for money, destroying checkbooks, credit cards, money or property, giving a spouse an allowance. Domestic violence can include using coercion or threats. Threats are statements which promise negative consequences for certain behaviors or actions; for example, I’ll kill you if you ever leave me." Reporting to professional licenses
Physical abuse is an important domestic violence issue. If you have been abused, call the police at once.
Emotional abuse. This includes putting a person down, making a spouse feel bad about himself or herself. Calling names, making a spouse think he or she is crazy. Mind games, humiliation, making your spouse feel guilty, using sensitive issues that matter to your spouse against him or her. Negative comparisons to others, expecting perfection, along with unreasonable demands or expectations are all examples of emotional abuse.
Intimidation. Making a spouse or significant other fearful by using looks, actions, gestures, intoxication, and silent treatment. Destructive behavior, including smashing walls, destroying property, harming pets, displaying weapons, yelling, stalking, slamming doors, driving recklessly, acting crazy, invincible, or like he or she has nothing to lose.
Using isolation. Controlling someone’s actions to resources such as birth control, reproductive choice, medical attention, money, education, employment opportunities, family, friends, transportation, or phone use. Using jealousy to justify actions. Embarrassing a spouse or significant other in front of others. Kidnapping. Convincing your spouse or significant other that seeing family or friends is harmful to the relationship.
Using your children can be a form of domestic violence. Using them to relay messages. Using parenting time for harassment purposes. Threatening to take the children away. Using custody as leverage. Child abuse. Sexual abuse of children. Kidnapping them. Degrading your spouse or significant other about relationships.
What should you do in the event of domestic violence? First seek counseling with someone who is a specialist in domestic violence. There are therapists who specialize in domestic violence everywhere. You can also contact a hotline or crisis center.
Many states have personal protection orders or similar legal means of protection through the courts. These can be obtained if you are fearful of physical violence from someone, and have a factual basis where there have previous incidents justifying your concerns. A typical personal protection order will prohibit a person from assaulting, stalking, following entering the property, removing minor children, threatening to kill or physically injure someone, or interfering with his or her place of employment by way of example.
Seek legal assistance at once. Contact an attorney who is familiar with domestic violence. Find out your legal rights, and what you can do to protect yourself. If you are contemplating a divorce, make sure that you are fully protected. Over the years, I have handled divorces where there is domestic violence. These cases must be handled in a very discreet and careful manner. In my career, I have had people murdered and horribly, physically, and emotionally abused, by their spouse. I take domestic violence very seriously. Make sure that the attorney you retain not only has a background in family law, but is also familiar with domestic violence issues.
Divorce / Separation Lawyer