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Video Transcribed: Hello, this is Tulsa attorney Justin Mosteller with the Wirth Law Office and you’re watching part four of a multi-part series I’m doing on domestic violence in the State of Oklahoma. Today’s installment is titled The Great Escape.
There comes a point when a victim of domestic abuse is ready to make good on their escape, and as I believe we addressed an earlier installments, oftentimes you will go through a cycle of leaving and returning and leaving and returning on average between five and seven times before finally ending the relationship with the abuser and separating from that individual.
Unfortunately, and it’s a dark fact, but many of these opportunities for escape come when the abuser has done a particularly vicious assault or has gotten themselves arrested and the system is now involved.
It provides the victim with an opportunity to initiate a separation that can be on very good terms for that individual.
In family law in State of the Oklahoma, evidence of domestic abuse creates a presumption that it’s not in the best interest of the child for the abusive parent to be the primary caretaker, and that it’s in fact in the best interest for the abused victim to be the primary caretaker of the child. So that gives you a built-in advantage litigating custody.
There’s also law under Title 43 that allows for victims of domestic abuse to recover attorney’s fees and costs in the matter. So that is a very rare advantage in American jurisprudence, that abuse victims can avail themselves of.
But additionally, the criminal process that will be instituted against the abuser will create advantages that can be used in the actual divorce or custody case.
For instance, filing a protective order to maintain your personal protection and the existence of this criminal case and the existence of a family case, it’s going to create a lot of leverage against the abuser.
And we find with that, you’ve got lots of legal documents and orders separating you and the abuser. It makes it much more likely when you’re in this kind of scenario that you can escape and finally finish this divorce and get away from that person.
I’d also like to kind of address this situation that you are ready to escape, but your abuser is still in the home and what you might do in that situation. And there is where you need to have a safety plan in mind. If you are being abused, you need to have a safety plan.
You need to go over that safety plan. You need to have trusted friends or advocates that you’re reviewing the safety plan with. That’s got to show you where you’re going to go, who you’re going to call, who might give you money or temporary housing.
You need to have all that planned out and you need to make for sure that you carry essentials with you when you leave, and when I say essentials, it might be a little different list since I’m an attorney.
I want to make for sure that when you leave that house, you have your ID, your birth certificate, your social security cards for both you and your spouse if possible, school vaccination records, money. You will need money.
Whatever money you can hide away and if you could hide it in a different place that you’re going to go get, it’s even better.
I want you to have your checkbook and your ATM cards, your credit cards, keys, driver’s license, any prescription meds, have the deed to your home, have all the pictures. Have pictures of the results of the abuse.
That can be critical as you litigate this issue going forward. Bring proof of all your insurance, ownership documents, either joint or soul, and any important paperwork that you might have. If you have all of that with you, it’s going to make the process of moving your case forward through divorce much, much, much, much quicker.
And finally I want to mention something that we do as part of this initial exit strategy to rescue abuse victims from their abusers that not a lot of other law firms in the state do. We actually file marital torts in cases where our clients are victims of abuse.
What that means is it is a separate lawsuit that gets consolidated with the divorce itself where you’re asking for monetary compensation for the harms that were done to you as an abusive victim, both psychological and physical.
We do this because it is a way of achieving some justice in these cases because oftentimes criminal prosecutions are not coming or are ineffective at providing restorative justice in the case.
So that’s something that I mention just because it’s unusual and if you’ve never heard of it, I’d like you to know that that’s something that if you are a victim of abuse, you should consider, no matter who you use as your attorney.
Talk to them about marital torts so that you can be compensated for some of the harm that was to you over and above what you are entitled to as a share of the marital estate.
Now again, if you are in an emergency situation, you need to seek out help immediately, call the police. But if you’re in a safe place where you can do some planning, think about what you’re going to do and when you decide to make your escape, give us a call so that we can help. We’re the Wirth Law Office and we can be reached at (918) 932-2800. Thanks.