While it doesn’t leave the scars of physical abuse, emotional abuse can leave a victim with lifelong trauma and fear. If you’ve suffered emotional abuse during your marriage, you might wonder how that will affect your divorce. Your spouse may have vowed to keep the kids from you if you leave or told you that you’ll get nothing if you leave them. This is just another abuse tactic, and it’s important not to take legal advice from someone who doesn’t have your best interests at heart.
If you’ve been victimized by your spouse, we are here to help you get through the divorce process safely and with the support that you need to move forward. Call Olmstead & Olmstead at 703-361-1555 to schedule a consultation now.
What is Emotional Abuse?
Emotional abuse can be hard to identify. Physical abuse has a clear limit—no partner should ever put their hands on you in anger or with the intent to harm you. But there’s an entire spectrum of verbal and emotional behavior in a relationship, and it’s difficult to tell when it crosses the line from arguing to abuse.
An abuser will use your emotions to make you feel embarrassed, ashamed, or guilty. They often do this to make it easier to control you and keep you from leaving. They may attack you at your weak spots, such as your parenting, your physical appearance, or your contributions to the marriage. This isn’t just an argument—it’s an intentional attempt to manipulate your behavior, feelings, and words.
Emotional Abuse in a Virginia Divorce
Most states have no-fault divorce laws. While you can seek divorce because of emotional abuse, the abuse itself may not significantly influence the divorce process. Virginia, however, is one of just a few states with fault-based divorce laws. Under Virginia law, abusive language, humiliation, and other forms of emotional abuse are considered cruelty. You can seek a divorce on those grounds.
Note that the court won’t simply take your word for it. You will need proof of your spouse’s emotional abuse. This may come in the form of recordings, witness testimony, or evidence of the physical changes you’ve suffered due to abuse.
Custody and the Division of Property
The primary areas of divorce affected by emotional abuse are child custody and the division of property. Child custody could be impacted in a variety of ways. In some cases, it doesn’t affect child custody at all. If there is no sign that your spouse has abused or will abuse the children, they may still be able to receive joint custody.
The court may find that the children’s right to both parents is not affected by one parent’s abusive behavior toward the other. However, they may allow you to do handoffs through a third party to avoid direct interaction.
If you have evidence that the emotional abuse extended to your children or affected them, the court may be more wary of allowing the other parent to share custody. This is a nuanced issue that you should discuss with your attorney.
Since Virginia uses the equitable distribution model for marital assets, your proof of emotional abuse could change how assets are split up. One person’s role in causing the divorce could result in the other party getting a greater share of assets.
We understand that you’re likely feeling scared, overwhelmed, and unsure of what to do next. The most important thing to do is contact a skilled and compassionate Virginia divorce attorney. Your spouse knows what it takes to manipulate you, and if you try to negotiate a divorce settlement with them directly, you’ll likely lose far more than you should. On top of that, working with an attorney allows you to limit communication with your ex-partner, giving you more peace and space to heal.
Discuss Your Divorce Needs with Olmstead & Olmstead
If you’re ready to start the divorce process and discuss what you hope to get from it, it’s time to talk to Olmstead & Olmstead. We’re here to talk about your concerns and come up with a plan that meets your needs. Set up a meeting now by or calling us at 703-361-1555.