Accusations of Domestic Violence: How Will it Affect Your Divorce?

If you're contemplating a divorce or in the middle of it, you know that the process can be stressful and life-changing. You're probably worried about your finances and your children. But if there are allegations of domestic violence in your relationship, you're probably wondering if it will derail the entire process or affect custody and visitation. At Caulder and Valentine, we're here to help take some of the uncertainty out of the process and support you along the way.

Divorce from Bed and Board 

In North Carolina, domestic violence can be the basis for an involuntary legal separation. You can obtain what's known as a “divorce from bed and board.” This “divorce” is not really a divorce, but a court-ordered legal separation permitted when only one spouse wants a divorce. If you allege “cruel and barbarous” treatment that endangers your life, you can obtain a temporary order from the court providing for your safety and the safety of your children. The court's order can also delineate who will stay in the marital residence, divide property, provide monetary support, and decide temporary child custody.

Support and Alimony

Domestic violence in your marriage typically won't affect the court's division of marital assets. However, it may affect spousal support. When a couple separates, a spouse can seek support for separation until the court finalizes the divorce. A dependent spouse can also seek spousal support or alimony for an extended period after the court finalizes the divorce.

Under North Carolina law, “the marital misconduct of either spouse” is one factor the court will consider in determining spousal support and alimony. See N.C.G.S. § 50-16.3A(b)(1) (1998). The court will also consider things such as: 

  • The relative earnings and capacity of the parties,
  • The duration of the marriage,
  • The contribution of a spouse as a homemaker,
  • The relative needs of the spouses,
  • The assets and liabilities of the spouses, and
  • The contribution of each spouse to the marriage, among other things.

See id.

Child Custody

The court will strongly consider credible domestic violence allegations when making decisions about child custody and visitation in North Carolina. The law tasks the court with making decisions in the best interests of the children. As a result, the court will limit or restrict visitation or access for a parent a judge believes committed domestic violence. An abusive parent will not necessarily lose custody automatically. Still, the judge will consider who will provide the most stable and safe environment for the kids and who will best provide for a child's physical and emotional needs.  

A judge could determine that a domestic violence situation necessitates:

  • Supervised Visitation:With supervised visitation, visits only happen with one parent in the presence of an authorized adult. Supervised visitation can be a temporary or permanent part of a custody order.
  • Termination of Parental Rights:Once a court ends a parent's rights, another court or custody order can't undo the action. As a result, courts will only terminate parental rights in extreme cases involving felony assault, sexual abuse, and murder or attempted murder.

Divorce is always difficult, and divorce involving allegations of domestic violence can be even more so. Whether you are the victim of domestic violence or your spouse made allegations of abuse against you, you need the help of an experienced family law attorney. If you consult your attorney and make a plan, you can ensure that you protect yourself and your children during and after your divorce. If you are considering divorce, the attorneys at Caulder and Valentine can help. If you're in the Shelby or Gastonia areas of North Carolina, give us a call. We can help you prepare and give you some peace of mind.