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Don't let an abuser stop you from filing for divorce

Are you a professional or a business owner in Nassau or Suffolk County who wants to file for a divorce but fear for your safety? People in all occupations and lifestyles fear their spouses may harm them in some way to prevent them from leaving. Abuse need not be physical -- any harassing or threatening acts qualify as domestic violence if you are legally married to the abuser, formerly married, have a child together or live together.

Tools for protection

Harassment sometimes continues after the divorce. You may find comfort in learning that both family and criminal courts in New York offer protection against offenses like assault, stalking, sexual misconduct or abuse, strangulation, threatening, and more. You can apply for a protection order, which is a powerful tool that stops the abusive behavior in most cases. Your circumstances will determine which of the following two types of protection orders you need:

  1. Emergency Protection Order (EPO): When law enforcement responds to a report of domestic violence, officers may remove one party from the premises or ask him or her to leave the residence. If police arrest the abuser, the officer or a magistrate can issue an Emergency Protection Order. This is typically a short-term measure, only valid for three to seven days to allow the victim to apply for a protection order for a longer term.
  2. Protection order: This measure will offer you protection for up to five years, but if your case is extreme, it could be valid for your lifetime. If the threat remains, you could renew the order upon its date of expiration. The protection order can include provisions to address your unique situation, including the following:
  • No contact -- This will prohibit any contact with you, including calling, emailing, texting and stalking along with physical contact such as hitting, attacking or any other type of disturbance.
  • Peaceful contact only -- For contact related to the care and visitation arrangements and exchanges of your child, the provision will only allow peaceful communication in limited circumstances.
  • Stay away -- This will prevent your ex from coming closer than a specified distance to you, your home, car, job or the child's school. The distance is often set at 300 feet or 100 yards.
  • Move out -- If your abuser refuses to leave the home you share, this provision will order him or her to move out.
  • Surrender firearms -- If there is a threat of guns, this will order your ex to give up any firearms in his or her possession.
  • Counseling -- The judge can add a provision that will order your ex to attend anger management or batterer's intervention counseling.

Sometimes, abusers target loved ones or pets to punish their victims. If your ex-threatens any other individuals in your family or friends circle, the protection order might even include children, pets, family members and current romantic partners if you seek protection after your divorce. The threat of violence should not keep you in an unhappy marriage, and although a protection order will not guarantee your safety, it will give you the right to have the abuser arrested if he or she violates the order.

If you are concerned about your safety -- and the safety of your children or other loved ones -- you can get help with obtaining an order of protection. An experienced family law attorney in your area can act on your behalf by preparing and properly filing the required paperwork. Your lawyer can also advocate for you in court and ensure the protection order includes all necessary provisions.

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