The Great Escape

 Leaving for Good

(Part III)

So, let us assume you have safely left your abuser and starting a new life.  You may need to consider getting a divorce and with that, should you have children in common, custody will have to be decided.  You will need legal aid.

Legal Help  Now would be the time to contact your local women’s crisis center for information.  They will know the law in your state and will be able to help you with legal aid as well as counseling and assistance with housing, protection orders, child custody, divorce, etc.  The Women’s Law Initiative (www.womenslaw.org) is an excellent resource and can tell you exactly what the law is where you live, how to file a restraining order, information on state statutes, how to download court forms and what resources available in your area.

Custody  The U. S. Family and Custody Law Statutes and Code (www.familylaw.org/familylawcode.htm) gives a state-by-state description of family law in each state.  You should be informed before you take any action. Know the law in your state.  You can also find excellent information to protect you and your children at www.rightsforchildren.org.  In some states, statutes make a provision for the father to have custody if the wife abandons the marriage.  Sadly, many women lose custody to the abuser because they find themselves on the wrong side of the law and lack evidence to prove the father is not a suitable parent.  Call law enforcement and make a police report. Make sure this does not happen to you. 

You must prove that custody of the children with you is in the best interests of the child.  Allegations of abuse, beatings and substance abuse in the courtroom are not enough.    You must also prove to the court that this behavior makes him unable to care for the children.  “He drinks heavily and is often intoxicated leaving him unable to supervise and care for our children.  Giving him custody in not in the best interest of our child,” will be much more convincing.

Keep copies of police reports, photographs of injuries or damages, medical reports, affidavits signed by witnesses, evidence of drug arrests or D.U.I. convictions.  You must have evidence..you cannot just say it’s happening.

If you must leave in a hurry to protect you and your children, call law enforcement and get a police report.  They will also be able to help with emergency shelter and with a temporary protection order.  This is solid evidence of abuse and could help you prove your case for custody of the children is in their best interest.

We do not advocate representing yourself in any type of court case; however, if you cannot afford an attorney or do not qualify for legal aid, it is in the children’s best interest to be well prepared for court.  We do recommend hiring an attorney if possible.

Your Day in Court 

Here are some points to remember if you do have to go to court:

  • Know in advance where to go.
  • Be on time.
  • Dress smartly. Wear something that you would consider appropriate for a job interview.
  • Look professional. Look like a business woman (tie back long hair, go light on the makeup).
  • Be calm. Even when lies are being told about your behavior or character, don’t lose it.  Take a deep breath and speak calmly.
  • Tell the truth.
  • Have copies of any evidence (photos, affidavits, police reports, protection order, etc…)

Appearance DOES make a difference.  Remember, if you are in court for child custody, the court is interested ONLY in the best interest of the child. You are the better parent, so make sure you LOOK like the better parent.

If you need help, contact:

  • The Wellspring Alliance for Families              318-323-1505
  • LPSO Victim Advocate                                  318-992-2067
  • Legal Services of Northwest Louisiana           318-352-7220
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