by Kristen Hilty
Just because you have decided you want to separate does not mean your spouse wants the same thing and is willing to move forward peacefully. If you have a contentious spouse, what you do may depend on whether you are able to stay in your house or if you need to leave. Here are some immediate steps you can take to protect yourself and your family.
If You Are Able To Stay In Your Home:
- Consult an attorney on getting permission to change your locks
- Reprogram garage code
- Install a security system or cameras
- Change ALL passwords – Don’t forget all social media sites
- Open a phone plan in your name only
- If you have children, establish where they should go in the home in case of an emergency and a have a code word or signal that will alert them of the same. You can also discuss places outside the home they can turn to for help, as well as how to contact the police in a crisis. It’s a good idea to consult a therapist or counselor to ensure you are doing this in a way that doesn’t alarm your children or cause them any anxiety.
- Keep a log that details every incident of violence, threats of violence or harassment. Additionally, save all menacing written correspondence, e-mails, texts messages, and telephone messages. This information is very handy should you need to testify about past, traumatic events. Most importantly, never second-guess your instincts and get help immediately if you feel you are in danger.
- Restraining Order, depending on the intensity of your situation. However, a restraining order is only a piece of paper. The real value in having a restraining order is to ensure that the restrained party will face legal ramifications if they continue to stalk, threaten or commit abuse. It is very important not to get a false sense of security simply by having a restraining order.
Can’t Stay In Your Home?
If you are unable to stay in your home because you feel your safety or that of your child(ren) is in danger because of threats or acts of your significant other, there are steps you can take in addition to getting a restraining order. Pre-planning is critical: Ask yourself what documents you may need if you have to leave at a moment’s notice. Basics include:
- Your driver’s license
- Your Social Security card
- Credit card
- A cellular phone
- Health insurance documentation
- Medications and/or prescription information
- Bank account numbers
You may also want to consider opening a safety deposit box to secure such items as your birth certificate, passport, will and other legal papers, any irreplaceable mementos (jewelry, cards, photos, certificates, extra keys, etc.).
Know where you can stay. This could include a shelter, the home of a family member or close friend, or a neighbor. The key is to plan ahead and let people know that you may need their help in an emergency. It is a good idea to have a couple days’ worth of clothing and toiletries for you and your children either in the trunk of your car or readily available at a friend or family member’s home.
In short, you are never alone. If you’re contemplating leaving a spouse that you feel may put you or your children in any danger, there are resources available to make sure you take the right steps to keep you safe and protect your privacy.
Contact us at Better Divorce Solutions for a consultation on what steps may be best for your unique situation.