Is Abuse Only Physical?

Are you a victim of domestic violence and abuse? Violence against a spouse or partner is never acceptable.  Hit, kick, shove, or spit on your partner and the judge will rightfully punish you.  For example, the judge may issue a restraining order that prevents you from contacting or coming within a certain distance of your ex. The judge may also order you to complete an anger-management course or similar behavior modification program. Moreover, an abusive spouse is at a severe disadvantage when it comes to child custody.

Spousal abuse can also take the form of verbal abuse.  When one spouse screams obscenities or calls the other hurtful names, this constitutes verbal abuse.  It is more difficult for courts to punish verbal abuse because it is difficult to prove, but it can still cause great harm to the victim and there are ways to prove this behavior.  Furthermore, not all spouses react the same way to verbal abuse.  Words that are hurtful to one person may be laughed off by another. This lack of clear definition further complicates efforts to address verbal abuse in court.  If a man, for example, has verbally abused his wife in the past, she is may have a difficult time proving it in court simply because she has tolerated it for so long, thus lending credence to the husband’s claim that it “means nothing” to her and is just how they relate to each other. The court may agree that bad behavior has occurred, but this acknowledgment alone may not rise to the level of domestic violence and thus not likely dictate the terms under which the husband can see the children. The only way that verbal abuse is likely to result in a penalty such as limited visitation is if it occurs along with threats of physical abuse or if it is occurring in the presence of the children. In this case, the judge could see verbal abuse as magnifying the intensity of physical abuse, and both would be punished accordingly.

Interestingly, recent case law has provided that if this type of verbal abuse and fighting occurs not only in front of a child but even simply while the child is at home, this behavior can (and often does) constitute grounds for the County to start their own legal proceedings against one or both parents with an eye towards supervising the parenting dynamic, which could lead to the removal of the child from the home because that child is seen to be a victim of child abuse. Abuse is not something that is limited to physical contact, nor is it always restricted to behavior between a perpetrator and their direct victim. Threaten your spouse in front of your child and you may very well find your parental rights are being challenged by the County in their effort to protect your child from continuing abuse. This is very serious business, so if you are unable to control yourself and your temper around your spouse and you your child, and you think it is acceptable to yell and scream and berate your spouse or child, you better think again about what you are doing.

If you are so bitterly unhappy or resentful or full of whatever emotion is motivating such behavior, it is definitely time for you to consider individual therapy, marriage counseling, or, if those options are no longer available, perhaps then divorce or separation. And if you are on the receiving end of this type of behavior, there are options for you that do not require a divorce or legal separation, most notably an action for domestic violence restraining orders. The thing to remember if you are a victim of verbal abuse and domestic violence is this: in this instance, the courts are very responsive and very efficient. Preventing and addressing domestic violence is a very high priority in the court system, so much so that these cases take priority over all others in the family court system, and most courthouses have volunteers available who can help you navigate these waters without having to hire an attorney. Help is there for you; you need not remain silent and suffer the abuse. Remember, just because you lack bruises does not mean that you are not suffering or hurt. The courts understand this and are there to help you.

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