For victims of domestic abuse, leaving an abusive relationship feels like a herculean task. There are so many barriers to overcome: financial, emotional, relational, and physical. It can be incredibly difficult for survivors to find the resources necessary to leave an abusive relationship. However, there are legal options for domestic abuse survivors.
Legal Options for Survivors
There are many challenges when trying to navigate the criminal and family law system. However, many organizations offer free or low-cost legal assistance to domestic abuse survivors and their families.
Your safety and the safety of your children is the most important consideration. Leaving an abusive relationship isn’t just difficult; it’s potentially dangerous. An exit plan is the first step. After the survivor leaves the relationship, the next goal is to maintain physical and emotional safety.
That’s where a restraining order and other legal options come into play. Organizations like our partner, Domestic Abuse Intervention Services (DAIS), help survivors file temporary restraining orders and make a plan to establish long-term restraining orders as needed. The National Domestic Violence Hotline also offers legal help to domestic abuse survivors, their children, and their families.
Restraining orders (also called protective orders) are legal orders prohibiting the abuser from coming near the victim and/or otherwise contacting the victim. Failure to adhere to this court order could result in jail time or other legal action.
Because these protective orders are only effective if the perpetrator follows the law, it’s essential to have other safety plans in place. DAIS, the National Domestic Violence Hotline, and other nonprofit organizations can help survivors create a plan and build a safe, healthy future.
Once a survivor is safe from the violent situation, the next step is to consider the future. Family law handles divorce, child custody and placement, paternity, and child support, among other considerations. However, navigating the family law system isn’t easy. However, maintaining safety for all victims, including children, is crucial.
Child custody and child support arrangements can take months to process. For victims, going through the litigation process – and potentially having to face the abuser – can be extremely traumatic. For this reason, working with an experienced family law advocate is the best option.
Many domestic abuse organizations offer legal services to survivors, and the attorneys and staff are mindful of past trauma.
It takes courage to leave an abusive relationship. However, there are many legal options for domestic abuse survivors. These services keep survivors and their families safe and ensure a brighter future.
There is help available for survivors and their families!
To learn more about legal options for domestic abuse survivors, check out the following links:
- National Hotline for Domestic Violence Legal Services
- Domestic Abuse Intervention Services (Wisconsin)
- Women’s Law: Legal Services in Every State
If you or a loved one is in immediate danger, do not wait. Contact 911 or your local police office.