Domestic abuse is a serious issue in Minnesota. A number of court actions may stem from the actions of an abuser, including divorce, child protective services, a petition for an order for protection and criminal charges. The interplay among those cases can have serious consequences in terms of custody and parenting time.

The Family Law Show returns, with a summary of the issues involved in obtaining, or defending against, an Order for Protection or Harassment Restraining Order.

The conduct giving rise to either Order may impact litigants in three types of cases: a civil case, a family case and a criminal case – often concurrently.

Topics discussed in this podcast include Minnesota’s Domestic Abuse Act, the impact an OFP or Restraining Order may have in family court, the standards and procedures involved in obtaining an Order for Protection, the standards and procedures involved in obtaining a Harassment Restraining Order and the criminal consequences that may stem from violating either type of Order.

 

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Divorce inevitably creates heartbreak. That’s an irreducible part of the process. But the extent of the mental and emotional suffering depends sensitively not just on the divorce process but also on what happened in the relationship itself.

If your spouse abused you emotionally—by demeaning your career ambitions, yelling at you for small offenses, jealously spying on you, or engaging in other horrific behavior—your road to recovery will be greatly complicated. How do you pick up the pieces? How do reclaim your self-esteem, begin to forgive, take care of yourself, and identify the patterns in your own behavior that enabled the abuse?

These aren’t just theoretical questions. They also could have significant bearing on your divorce case. Depending on the nature and extent of the abuse, your spouse’s access to your children could be limited, or you may need the court to protect you in the future.

Special Considerations

Choosing to leave an abusive spouse is a brave, scary step. The legal system is designed to give you some protection and ensure justice. As a victim, you may be entitled to significant custody rights (and potentially even sole custody of children if the abuse was egregious); alimony and child support payments; and court orders that limit the abuser’s ability to contact, harass or intimidate you.

Nevertheless, be aware of the psychology potentially at work. For instance, it’s normal to want to make up excuses for an abuser’s bad actions and to feel guilty or sad (instead of relieved) when justice is done. In a compelling blog post, Dr. Joseph Carver writes: “In clinical practice, some of the most surprised and shocked individuals are those who have been involved in controlling and abusive relationships. When the relationship ends, they offer comments such as “I know what he’s done to me, but I still love him”, “I don’t know why, but I want him back”, or “I know it sounds crazy, but I miss her”. Recently I’ve heard “This doesn’t make sense. He’s got a new girlfriend and he’s abusing her too…but I’m jealous!” Friends and relatives are even more amazed and shocked when they hear these comments or witness their loved one returning to an abusive relationship. While the situation doesn’t make sense from a social standpoint, does it make sense from a psychological viewpoint? The answer is — Yes!”

Don’t expect this journey to be emotionally linear. There will be ups and downs as you adjust to being out of the relationship. A caring, intelligent counselor can help you work through these challenges, while your qualified family law attorney can assist you on the legal end of things.

Resources For Emotionally Abused Spouses

If you’re enduring emotional abuse or fear for your safety, there are places you can turn. Check out these resources here in Minnesota:

  • Minnesota Coalition of Battered Women. This organization has 80 chapters spread throughout the state.
  • The Domestic Abuse Project offers counseling from professional therapists. They may also help you file an order of protection (restraining order) and find shelter away from your abusive spouse.
  • Minnesota Day One Crisis Hotline. By calling this hotline, victims can get the help they need from “day one”–not just when it’s too little, too late. Call 866-233-1111.

Filing for divorce after an abusive relationship may force you to leave your comfort zone, but we’re here to help. Please call our experienced, compassionate Minnesota family law attorneys to schedule a private call about your next steps at 763-323-6555.

Your partner has been calling you names for a few months. You don’t like it, and you’ve asked him to stop, but he just ignores you, laughs and calls you more names. Or maybe he manipulates you and plays emotional games, teasing you with hurtful jabs before doing an about-face, pretending like he’s joking. You think that since he’s not hurting you physically, his behavior is acceptable. But what if it’s not? What if he has already crossed the line into domestic violence?

Definition of Verbal and Emotional Abuse

The law defines domestic violence as continued abuse in an intimate-partner relationship, when one person tries to control the other. It might include mental, financial, sexual, emotional and physical mistreatment.

According to the federal government, verbal and emotional abuse technically constitutes domestic violence. Acts that isolate, control or scare you can affect your overall health and also presage future physical abuse.

Signs of Verbal and Emotional Abuse

•    Name calling
•    Constant criticism
•    Threats
•    Tearing you down
•    Yelling
•    Humiliates you in front of others
•    Using controlling statements, such as, “If I can’t have you, neither can anyone else.”
•    Blaming you for his or her actions
•    Shouting

Signs of emotional abuse include, but are not limited to, the following:

•    Controlling what you eat or wear
•    Constant monitoring of your activities
•    Questioning your faithfulness
•    Issuing false accusations
•    Using anger to intimidate you
•    Controlling money
•    Preventing or discouraging you from seeing friends or family
•    Using manipulative threats and blaming you for any actions
•    Making you quit school or work or attempting to keep you from going to school or work
•    Attacking your self-esteem or self-worth
•    Attacking abilities, such as cooking or house cleaning
•    Belittling you in front of your children.

Finding Help Fast

If you feel trapped in a relationship characterized by verbal or emotional abuse, call your local police station immediately, or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).

If you have been the victim of intimate-partner abuse or domestic violence, you might not know where to turn. Fortunately, Minnesota offers numerous state-wide and local resources to assist you during this difficult time.

1.    Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women. With more than 80 chapters across the state, the MCBW has promoted women’s safety for nearly four decades. The Coalition emphasizes the need to help women with all aspects of abuse – physical, emotional, financial and sexual – through education and advocating for social change.

2.    Battered Women’s Legal Advocacy Project. BWLAP provides legal resources across the state for women and children as well as those who advocate for them. In addition, the agency offers help with immigration, stalking, housing assistance, orders of protection, child custody and harassment restraining orders.

3.    Minnesota Day One Crisis Hotline. As a statewide network for domestic violence, the organization refers callers to the closest agency or service. Before Day One, victims had to make as many as 15 phone calls to get proper assistance. Now they can find help from “day one.” The group helps all victims without respect to gender identity, race, religion, sexual orientation, age or class.

4.    Domestic Abuse Project. Serving the state since 1979, DAP works to break the cycle of domestic violence in the Twin Cities. Services include crisis intervention, helping victims develop safety plans, finding shelter and filing orders of protection. The program also offers counseling for victims via professional therapists.

5.    Tubman Family Alliance. In addition to their other services in the Twin Cities, the Tubman program assists all victims of domestic violence. It helps with shelter, legal advocacy, community information and public education.

6.    Community Services for the Deaf of Minnesota, Deaf Domestic Violence Program. CSD of Minnesota targets the deaf, hard of hearing and deaf-blind people across the state, offering resources and education. Specific services include restraining orders, safety plans, referrals, education and legal advocacy. The group advocates for deaf victims of domestic violence, empowers clients and prevents revictimization that might occur due to cultural ignorance.

7.    OutFront Minnesota. OutFront Minnesota provides support to victims of same-sex partner abuse. This population generally suffers from domestic violence at a similar rate as the rest of society. The organization provides various services, including counseling, referrals to shelters, protective orders, safety plans.

In a proceeding for an OFP under the Domestic Abuse Act, the court may provide the following relief, upon notice and hearing:

  • Restrain the abusing party from committing acts of domestic abuse;
  • Exclude the abusing party from the dwelling which the parties share or from the residence of the petitioner;
  • Exclude the abusing party from a reasonable area surrounding the dwelling or residences;
  • Award temporary custody or establish temporary visitation with regard to minor children of the parties on a basis which gives primary consideration to the safety of the victim and the children;
  • Establish temporary support for minor children or a spouse and order the withholding of support from the income of the person obligated to pay the support;
  • Upon request of the petitioner, provide counseling or other social services for the parties, if married, or if there are minor children;
  • Order the abusing party to participate in treatment or counseling services;
  • Award temporary use and possession of property and make other orders regarding property;
  • Exclude the abusing party from the place of employment of the petitioner or otherwise limit the abusing party’s access to the petitioner at the petitioner’s place of employment;
  • Order the abusing party to pay restitution to the petitioner;
  • Order the continuance of all currently available insurance coverage without change in coverage or beneficiary designation; or
  • Order, in its discretion, other relief it deems necessary for the protection of a family or household member, including orders or directives to the sheriff or constable.

Relief that is granted by the order is for a fixed period of time, not to exceed one year, except when the court determines a longer fixed period is appropriate.