Domestic violence is a very serious crime in Georgia. If a judge hearing a divorce case has reason to believe that one spouse has committed an act of domestic violence against the other spouse, the consequences for the abuser can be catastrophic, both as a defendant in a domestic abuse case and as a divorcing spouse in issues of property division, child support, alimony and other important issues.
What is domestic violence?
Although the definition of domestic violence varies from state to state, in Georgia, it is commonly be understood to include any acts of actual or threatened abuse including physical, sexual, emotional, or financial abuse, and threatening or intimidating behavior towards a spouse. Physical Abuse
- Tactics Involving one or more of the children
- Economic or Financial Abuse
- Using Gender Roles to manipulate or criticize
- Property Damage to the property of the other spouse or to an especially valuable jointly held asset
- Sexual Abuse
A very important point that is frequently overlooked is that the definition of violence includes the threat to commit an act that is defined as violent.
The impact of domestic violence in a divorce proceeding
In assessing the effect of a proved allegation of domestic violence, the court will look at the nature of the abusive act, its repetition or lack of repetition. If the violence is repetitive, and if it is serious, such as physical or sexual abuse, the court is unlikely to award custody of any minor children to the abusive spouse. Similarly, the court may impose significant limitations on the abusing spouse’s rights of visitation and temporary custody. As with most issues involving the children, the court will look to the “best interests” of the child in making a ruling on these issues.
Violence may affect spousal support
A proved allegation of domestic violence may help the abused spouse in obtaining alimony from the abusing spouse, whereas an abusive spouse will have very little chance of obtaining an award of alimony from the abused spouse.
Proving an allegation of domestic violence
Proving domestic violence in a divorce proceeding is not the same as proving it in a criminal proceeding. The object of the abuse must only prove its occurrence by a preponderance – or the greater weight – of the evidence.
An attorney can help
Anyone who believes that domestic violence occurred in his or her divorce will want to consult an experienced divorce lawyer for advice. An experienced attorney can evaluate the facts, suggest appropriate legal arguments, and assist in presenting evidence in the courtroom. An experienced attorney may also help in negotiating a settlement of the domestic violence claim, thereby saving time, money and emotional strain.