Divorce Can Be Dangerous!

Posted on Nov 6, 2023 by Katie Carter

I don’t want to be accused of being dramatic, at least not where divorce and safety is concerned.  I totally get that this probably isn’t a topic that you want to discuss, but if yours has been a difficult marriage, it’s a good idea to move forward keeping your safety in mind.

You absolutely should not stay in a relationship where you feel unsafe, even though I understand that knowing (or worrying) that you might not be perfectly safe as you dissolve your marriage doesn’t exactly make you want to speed the process along.

It’s important to enlist the support of an attorney (and law firm, in a larger sense) that is dedicated to helping maintain your safety.  There are a lot of things that your attorney can do to help you, and it’s helpful to know what to ask for.

  1. Get the divorce information you need – anonymously.

We have four free books and a number of free reports, all of which are available for download electronically.  In the case of the books, we can even send a hard copy to you.  I will never downplay the importance of knowing what you’re working with as far as divorce is concerned, but especially your specific rights and entitlements under the law.

How do we make sure you’re safe?  Well, whenever you sign up for a book or free report, we recommend that you create a spouse-safe email account.  (Incidentally, we recommend gmail.)  You’ll want to use an email address and a password that he doesn’t know (and couldn’t guess), and then use it as a repository for all that important information.  Additionally, you’ll want to make sure you don’t save your password anywhere that he could access it.

If you want to receive paper copies of the books, we send them in plain, unmarked envelopes – and we’ll send them wherever you like.  We can send a book to your mom’s house, your work address, or a friendly neighbor.  No one (not even the mailman) will know what’s inside.

  1. Attend a seminar.

You might need more information, want to ask a specific question, or feel confused.  That’s okay!  That’s why we have seminars, too.

It’s not technically a confidential forum in the sense that it’s a seminar – there’s more than two people (you and the attorney) present.  Still, we take pains to make sure no men are in attendance, and we always ask that our attendees not share any confidential or case-specific information.  Ask questions – in fact, we encourage it! – but do so in general terms so that no one can figure out who you are.

Your name and face will not show up on screen at any point.

Worried about how to pay for it?  Not a problem.  We definitely recommend using a gift card – Visa or American Express work just fine, and you can get them at any Wal Mart or Target – so that the transaction record doesn’t show up on your bank statement or credit card bill.

  1. You’re in charge of your case.

I get it.  Divorce is tricky, and timing is everything.  There may be a right (or very, very wrong) time to present a separation agreement, serve a spouse with divorce papers, or even respond to a proposal.

It’s important to maintain an open line of communication with your attorney so that you can share when – and if- its appropriate to share what you’ve been working on with the other side.

I once worked on a case with another local area attorney (who will remain nameless).  I saw her at a baby shower for a mutual friend, and the attorney cornered me to discuss a case.  At the time, I knew that we had already filed for divorce, but my client had asked me not to share that with husband just yet.  (Telling his attorney is the same thing as telling him!)  She was still hoping he’d respond to a proposed agreement, and, anyway, I agreed.  Not my case, not my husband, right?  SHE knows/knew best when to share that information, and it’s not up for me to decide.

When the other attorney found out, I got yelled at.  One of the most dramatic and nasty emails I’ve ever received in my entire career – trashing my professionalism, my integrity, ethics, you name it.  It was really an awful experience, I can tell you.  But what choice did I have?  My client told me not to share.  And I didn’t.

I don’t say this because it’s a point of personal pride.  It’s not really.  It was never even a question.  It’s just what I had to do in that set of circumstances.  I was distressed to be yelled at that way, but I never considered any other alternative.

You never know what’s going on in someone else’s home.  I could have put my client in a position where she’d be unsafe.  I wouldn’t do it.  You should find an attorney who wouldn’t, either.

  1. We can escort you to your car.

The word can be scary.  And whether you’re leaving a consultation, mediation, a judicial settlement conference, or a court appearance, you don’t have to walk to your car alone.

I don’t go to court that much in this stage of my career – though all the other attorneys in the firm do – but back in the day it was always my policy to walk a client back to her car after an event where both parties were present.

In my very, very early days as an attorney, I can remember a consult where a prospective client came in, and then received a very threatening call from her husband, who was outside.  Things like that don’t happen very often, but I still remember that the police were called and that we escorted her to her car.

You don’t have to walk to your car alone, and you should feel comfortable asking even if the attorney or staff members you meet with in the office don’t immediately suggest it.  (You know better than us, so clue us in!)  We can help.

At the end of the day, your attorney (and her paralegal and support staff) are an important part of your team.  You should never just feel unsafe in isolation when you can talk to your attorney directly and let her help you through whatever is happening.

Another note on safety/domestic violence and divorce

The thing about safety is…  there’s always a first time.  I don’t think its enough to say that your partner has never been violent before now, therefore he won’t be violent now.  For a lot of people, especially partners with mental health or addiction issues, initiating the divorce process is a big deal.  It can lead to violence even in cases where there’s never been violence before.

So, pay attention.  Listen to your intuition.  Talk to your attorney about your concerns.  And, working together, come up with a plan to keep you safe.

If you DO experience violence, don’t be afraid to take steps to get a protective order in place, either

For more information, to request a copy of our divorce or custody book, to register for an upcoming seminar, or to schedule a consultation, give our office a call at 757-425-5200.