Going through a divorce after you’ve been in an abusive relationship isn’t easy. You may be scared of how your spouse will react to the news or concerned about issues like child custody. In Arizona, judges take allegations of domestic violence very seriously in divorce cases. If you wish to progress with a divorce from your abusive spouse, it is imperative to speak with a family law attorney who has extensive experience handling both domestic violence and divorce matters in Arizona.
Criminal Offenses That Can Lead to a Domestic Violence Charge in Arizona
Domestic violence is not defined as a specific crime under current Arizona statutes. Instead, it is associated with a set of specific crimes that are committed against a person who shares a domestic relationship. Many different crimes can lead to a domestic violence charge, such as assault, sexual assault, criminal trespass, kidnapping, endangerment, stalking, custodial interference, unlawful imprisonment, harassment, or intimidating or threatening a person.
In Arizona, domestic violence offenses may be classified as either misdemeanors or felonies. However, in either case, domestic violence is considered a designation attached to another crime, and the penalties for these crimes are based on the underlying offense. If your spouse is convicted of domestic violence charges, they could be sentenced to fines, jail sentences, protective or restraining orders, mandatory domestic violence intervention programs, and/ or restrictions on probation.
How Domestic Violence Charges Can Impact Divorce Proceedings
Domestic violence is a cruel reality for many men and women throughout the country. Despite popular notions, domestic violence can be physical, mental, emotional, and/or verbal. Arizona law takes both psychological and emotional abuse very seriously, including threats of violence, withholding financial assets, preventing you from seeing friends and family, manipulation, and similar offenses. If you are unsure where your situation stands in the eyes of the law, consult with an Arizona family law attorney.
In Arizona, couples can be granted a no-fault divorce where no blame is attached to either party. This means that a person cannot file for divorce based on their spouse’s abusive behavior. However, you may still be able to provide evidence of your spouse’s domestic abuse during your case. Evidence of domestic violence can also impact other components of the divorce, such as child custody, division of marital assets, and spousal support.
Division of Marital Assets
In some instances, the court may consider a spouse’s behavior during marriage when determining how to divide marital assets. A judge may award a larger share of the marital assets to an abused spouse, especially in cases where the abuser negatively affected the couple’s finances.
Spousal support, otherwise known as alimony, is sometimes granted to one spouse who requires financial support after a divorce. Domestic violence can sometimes impact the outcome of a spousal support ruling, such as in cases when an abusive partner tried to control their spouse by not allowing them to work.
Child Custody & Visitation
Child custody is often affected by evidence of domestic violence within the family. If a judge determines that significant domestic violence exists between parents, then the court may grant the victim sole custody of the children. To overcome this presumption that sole custody is in the best interest of the child, the abusive parent would need to provide the court with ample evidence to prove otherwise.
Depending on the circumstances of the case, evidence of domestic violence could also affect an abusive parent’s visitation rights. The Arizona court is required to make the safety of any children involved a top priority. To determine how best to protect a child in a domestic violence case, the court may seek information from other court rulings, police reports, medical reports, witness testimony, child protective services reports, and records from domestic violence shelters.
If visitation is awarded to the abusive parent, the court may put strict limitations on these visits. For example, the abusive parent may be required to have the parenting time exchange in a protected setting or while supervised by a family member or state agency. In very serious cases where there is a long or significant history of abuse, a parent could have their parental rights terminated.
Speak with an Arizona Family Law Attorney at JacksonWhite Attorneys at Law
Spousal abuse victims are often afraid for their own safety and the safety of their children when faced with the prospect of divorce. Domestic violence is considered a criminal offense in Arizona and victims of domestic violence have the right to contact the police and file a report that could result in a charge against the offender.
When you contact an Arizona family law attorney, you can receive advice on Arizona domestic violence laws, get assistance preparing legal forms and documentation for civil court hearings, and have restraining orders filed on your behalf. Your attorney can also represent you in court and help you build a case for your child custody and child support hearings.
At JacksonWhite Attorneys at Law, we provide our clients with compassionate and aggressive family law services. For more information about how domestic violence and divorce cases are handled in Arizona or to discuss your case with an Arizona family law attorney, contact JacksonWhite Law at (480) 467-4348.