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Emotional Abuse During Divorce

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Divorce is almost always rife with challenges, regardless of the circumstances. When emotional abuse is involved, these challenges can be even more difficult to deal with. Emotional abuse can affect the terms of the final divorce settlement, such as child custody and alimony. If you are planning to divorce an emotionally abusive spouse, know that you can have support. The dedicated New Hampshire divorce lawyers at Friedman & Bresaw, PLLC, help clients with all aspects of divorce, including sensitive issues related to emotional abuse. Consider calling (603) 707-4800 today to learn more about how to deal with emotional abuse during divorce.

What Is Emotional Abuse?

According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, emotional abuse in a marriage happens when one spouse behaves in a way that is intended to control, scare, or isolate the other spouse. Common examples of emotionally abusive behaviors include threats, insults, manipulation, intense jealousy, dismissiveness, and humiliation. Although emotional abuse often lacks physical evidence in the form of bodily injuries, it can be profoundly harmful, disempowering, and traumatic for the victim.

Over time, emotional abuse can erode the victim’s self-worth, confidence, and emotional resilience. Victims often struggle to recognize the abuse due to their abuser’s gaslighting tactics, used to convince them that they are overreacting. Many victims also hesitate to seek help due to the fear that no one will believe them or take them seriously. However, emotional abuse must be taken seriously, as it is incredibly harmful on its own and often progresses to physical abuse.

Is Emotional Abuse Against the Law?

Although emotional abuse itself may not be included in specific criminal statutes, the law recognizes emotional abuse under the umbrella of domestic violence. Just like victims of physical abuse, victims of emotional abuse may seek protective orders with provisions against emotional abuse. In addition, those who emotionally abuse their children may be charged with certain types of child abuse offenses. Emotional abuse is also considered a legal cause of action in divorce and family law cases. Allegations of emotional abuse are thoroughly investigated in such cases. 

How Can Emotional Abuse Affect a Divorce?

When filing a contested divorce, the spouse who is filing must consider several important factors, including under which grounds to file. New Hampshire is technically a no-fault divorce state, meaning that a divorce is generally filed based on an “irretrievable breakdown of the marriage,” which is one of the most commonly applied grounds for divorce. However, a fault divorce can still be filed based on one of several approved grounds for divorce. In cases involving emotional or physical abuse, the divorce may be filed based on “extreme cruelty.” If there is emotional abuse in the marriage, it can potentially impact terms of the divorce, including the following.

Child Custody and Visitation Rights

Emotionally abusive spouses are often emotionally abusive to their children as well. Even if the abuse is only directed at the spouse, that abuse can also affect the children. Therefore, if the spouse filing for divorce can provide sufficient evidence of emotional abuse, the court will typically take that evidence into account when making decisions regarding child custody and visitation rights. 

According to the New Hampshire Judicial Branch, family law courts in the state work toward arrangements that are in the best interests of the children. If the court determines that one spouse is emotionally abusive, the judge may consider granting full custody to the other parent. The court may also impose restrictions on visitation rights, such as supervision and counseling requirements. If you have questions about how emotional abuse during divorce can affect child custody and visitation rights in your case, a New Hampshire divorce lawyer at Friedman & Bresaw, PLLC, may be able to help.

Protective Orders

Victims of emotionally or physically abusive spouses may request protection orders from the court, such as a temporary restraining order that requires the abusive spouse to avoid all contact. A judge will review the request and approve it if the applicant’s safety is reasonably in danger. If the abusive spouse violates the protective order, he or she can be arrested and charged with a crime. 

Property Division and Spousal Support

New Hampshire is an equitable division state, which means that family court judges attempt to divide property fairly, but that does not necessarily mean equally. Spousal abuse can sometimes be a factor when deciding how to divide assets and liability, as well as spousal support (also known as alimony). If the victim of emotional abuse can provide evidence of financial losses due to the abuse, such as therapy costs, the court may consider these expenses in determining the distribution of marital property.

Judges also consider emotional abuse when making decisions about alimony. In most cases, alimony is awarded based on the receiving spouse’s need, not as a punishment for the paying spouse’s abuse. However, the court will likely consider whether the emotional abuse affected the victim’s ability to provide his or her own support. For example, if the victim is unable to continue working in their chosen field due to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the court could potentially order the abuser to pay alimony to the victim.

How Can I Prove Emotional Abuse During Divorce?

Like any other type of court case, if the divorce is filed on fault grounds, evidence for all claims is crucial. Victims of emotional abuse must provide proof of their claims. Although proving emotional abuse can be more difficult than proving physical abuse, there are a few ways to provide evidence, including the following:

  • Record video or audio, capturing incidents of emotional abuse
  • Gather digital records that illustrate instances of emotional abuse, such as voicemails, text messages, and emails
  • Preserve medical documentation for mental health issues stemming from emotional abuse, such as anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Consider asking mental health professionals to testify as expert witnesses regarding how emotional abuse affects the victim’s well-being
  • Approach witnesses to the abuse, such as family and friends, and ask them to testify

Discuss Your Case With a New Hampshire Divorce Lawyer

If you are thinking about getting a divorce from an emotionally abusive spouse, know that there are professionals who are prepared to guide you through the legal process and provide unwavering support during this difficult time. Consider contacting a compassionate New Hampshire divorce lawyer at Friedman & Bresaw, PLLC, by calling (603) 707-4800 to learn more about how to handle emotional abuse during divorce.


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About the Attorney
Jesse Friedman

Jesse has personally represented thousands of clients throughout the State - from juvenile delinquency offenses through homicides. He has extensive trial and litigation experience and has obtained favorable outcomes for thousands of clients throughout the years.

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