Preparing to Leave Your Abuser: Critical Steps
When you are considering leaving your abusive spouse and are preparing to start the divorce process, it is essential to take appropriate steps so that you have the best possible outcome. When it comes to divorce - especially from an abuser - your first few steps are the most critical, and set the stage for the whole process and its outcome.
Here are the critical steps to take when preparing to leave your abuser.
The fundamentals. You will need:
money to pay essential bills until you are able to get financial assistance
a go-to bag with all important documents
copies of all of your financial and health information
documentation of the abuse.
Set up your own private bank account, with your own name on it. If you don’t have cash and money in an account in your own name, your abuser will likely drain the joint accounts so that you cannot leave.
Ensure your children’s safety. If your abuser is physically violent, take your children and get out immediately. You cannot afford to take the time to prepare. The most important thing is your family’s personal safety and survival. Abusers are prone to escalate intimidation and violence once they become aware that they are losing control of their victim. Do not remain in a dangerous situation and do not leave your children behind. You may lose custody of them if you do. Do not let your husband force you to leave the house without them under any circumstances. Call the police if you must. To access the free emergency resources available to you, review our Emergencies resource.
Protect your credit. Protect your credit by making sure that bills get paid, get a credit card in your name alone, and put a freeze on joint credit cards so that you can prevent additional charges from being added to joint debt. You may need help from your lawyer to insure that you receive financial assistance from your abuser to support your family and to ensure that he continues to pay the bills during the divorce.
Keep things private, sharing information only with your lawyer, professional advisors, and therapist/counselor. Be very careful whom you confide in, as word may get back to your abuser before you are able to leave. Some people may be judgmental or repeat to others what you have said to them in confidence. Protect yourself and confide mostly in your therapist. If you don’t have one, set an appointment to see one on a regular basis.
Prioritize and take care of yourself. Take good care of yourself so that you can take care of your children and have the stamina to handle the stress of divorcing a very manipulative and unscrupulous person, which will take a period of many months. Get enough nutrients, exercise, and rest so that you will be able to think clearly and make good decisions. Your abuser will try to scare, humiliate, and confuse you, so do not argue or engage with him. The best approach to avoid being worn down by him is to maintain no contact. It is very important that you feel empowered by taking actions that boost your self-esteem and confidence. Spending quality time with your children will help to remind you exactly what you are fighting for.
You can do this. You must.
Breaking Bonds is dedicated to your specific needs as an abused woman, and we offer free holistic support as well as practical guidance to help you through this difficult time. Download the free 11 STEP PREP Guide here to get started, grab a copy of Breaking Bonds: How To Divorce and Abuser & Heal, and check out our full list of resources for complete support during the process of your divorce. We are with you.
Rosemary Lombardy is a financial advisor with over 35 years of experience, and the founder of Breaking Bonds, a comprehensive resource platform for abused women. Although her professional expertise is in financial matters, her perspective on marital abuse, divorce, and recovery is deeply heartfelt and holistic. She draws on decades of personal experience, as well as the experiences of others, to help inform abused spouses so that they will become empowered to leave their abusers and begin to heal.
Rosemary Lombardy's new book, Breaking Bonds: How to Divorce an Abuser and Heal - A Survival Guide is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and anywhere that sells books.