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Out of Harm’s Way: Domestic Violence and Divorce

Divorce can be an extremely emotional experience, fraught with sadness, anger and even a sense of helplessness. These feelings are exacerbated for someone who has been the victim of domestic violence.  If you are the victim of domestic violence, it is important to take steps to ensure that you are as safe as possible. It is also critical to know that in many cases, domestic violence is at its worst just before divorce proceedings begin. The Michigan Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence is an important resource. They can help you make a safety plan, find a safe place to stay and can assist you in taking steps to help prevent your abusive spouse from contacting you.

Below are some of the specific legal questions which are particular to divorce situations where one party has been the victim of domestic violence:

  • Will the domestic violence be considered in questions of child custody?
    • Domestic abuse is one of 12 factors the court must consider when making custody decisions. However, the court will consider all 12 factors as a whole, and it is important to know that the court may not give special weight to the domestic violence factor.


  • Will the court consider domestic violence as a factor in child custody if my spouse has abused only me but never physically hurt the children?
    • Yes. The court must consider the violence against you as a factor in determining child custody even if the children have never been hurt and never witnessed the violence.


  • Can I be charged with kidnapping if I hide my children from the abusive spouse?
    • Parents can be charged with kidnapping their own child if you keep your child from your spouse in violation of a custody order.
  • May a court consider domestic violence as a factor in determining spousal support and an award of property?Yes, domestic violence is one of the factors the court must consider when making spousal supports award. It is also a factor the court considers in making a property distribution.


Certainly you may have questions when divorcing an abusive spouse.  It is critical to understand your rights and to keep yourself and your family protected.  Contact the experienced Michigan divorce attorneys at Boyer, Dawson and St. Pierre today at 586-731-7400 to help you navigate this very difficult time.

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