Whether it’s for a divorce or a custody dispute, its rarely a happy period in the lives of most clients when they seek out the help of a family law attorney. However, there is nothing truly as heart breaking as when one spouse is having to endure domestic violence. It is a dynamic that is truly hard to explain to people that have never encountered or dealt with the issue. All to often you hear people say things like “well, if it was really all that bad, why didn’t she just leave.” If only it were that simple. Throughout the course of my career in helping victims of domestic violence I have seen individuals of all races, educational level, economic situations, religious views. People truly of all walks of life. There is however one thing that seems to unite all victims. Fear.
Whenever I have a consult with a woman who is a victim of domestic violence, you usually hear the same reasons as to why they CAN’T leave. Among the most common are: “His name is on the titles to the house and cars, I have no place to go and no way to get there; he is the bread winner, I haven’t worked in years and have only been a stay at home mom. I have no way of getting a job and taking care of my children.” Through all the reasons given, most women feel that they are doing what is best for their children, their safety and well-being.
Laws prosecuting those who commit domestic violence are getting better and strong. Recent changes in South Carolina laws have made it easier to prosecute offenders and provide stiffer penalties. While the law is slowly getting better for the victims of domestic violence, these changes fail to compare to the concern for the well-being of children who are exposed to domestic violence. In seeking a modification in a custody order or in an action for custody, the argument can be made that if a parent can’t even protect themselves, how do they have any ability to protect their children. This agreement has become more and more persuasive in Family Court cases and parents that are victims of domestic violence are finding themselves on the losing end of divorce and custody cases.