Last updated on January 31, 2022

Divorcing an abuser: Protect yourself and your finances

On behalf of Douglas Hassinger

Domestic abuse is an all-too-common problem in Georgia. Though domestic violence affects both genders, women are much more likely to be victims. According to the Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence, approximately one out of every four women will be affected by domestic violence at some point during their lives.

Domestic abuse is more than just physical attacks. It can take a number of different forms, including the following:

  • Emotional abuse occurs when abusers call their partners names, are over-controlling, manipulative or humiliating toward their partners in front of friends or family.
  • Psychological abuse occurs when abusers try to “brainwash” their partners or manipulate them into acting a certain way. Abusers may also blackmail their partners, use religious justifications or bring the children into the abuse.
  • Economic abuse occurs when abusers are overly-controlling of the household’s finances. Abusers may prohibit their partners from working or may require their partners to turn over their paychecks.
  • Sexual abuse occurs whenever abusers force their partners to participate in any sexual act they do not want. The fact that a couple is married does not mean that one partner has a right to force the other to have sex.
  • Physical abuse occurs whenever abusers inflict physical pain on their partners. It can also include harming their partner’s pets or taking away assistive devices like glasses, medicine or wheelchairs.

If you are a victim of domestic abuse, know that you are not alone and that the abuse is not your fault. Leaving can be hard, but there are many organizations that want to help you. Georgia operates a 24-hour domestic violence hotline to help abuse victims escape their abusers. You can call the hotline at 1-800-334-2836 or contact the Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence for help.

Protecting your finances

Although every divorce is financially complicated, managing your finances after leaving an abusive relationship can be even more difficult because of the level of control and manipulation involved.

Once you have safely left your abuser, consider taking the following steps to protect your finances:

  • Open a post office box where you can receive mail
  • Get a new email address and use it only for business and legal communication
  • Open a bank account in your own name and put away as much money as possible
  • If possible, have yourself removed from all joint debts
  • Get a credit card in your own name – even if you have bad credit, many companies will be willing to help if you explain your situations

If you can, take copies of important documents – like your birth certificate, passport, marriage certificate, legal paperwork and financial statements – with you when you leave. If you can’t, don’t worry. Your attorney can work with you to find alternate ways to get what you need. Never go back alone to retrieve personal items. If you must go back, take a police officer with you.

If you are divorcing an abusive spouse, it is important to work with an attorney who knows how to protect your interests and keep you safe. Talk to an experienced Georgia divorce lawyers who can help you protect your rights.

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