Leaving an abusive marriage is never a straightforward and simple process. Many people who engage in overtly abusive behavior toward their spouse will also take many steps to make it difficult for their spouse to leave.
From lack of access to financial resources to social alienation that has cut you off from family and friends who might help you, there may be a range of issues that make it harder for you to leave an abusive marriage safely. Fear of how your abuser may respond to receiving service for a divorce could also be a factor.
While they are not a panacea that will immediately solve your problem, a protective order against your violent spouse could make it safer for you to leave an abusive situation.
How does a protective order work?
Under Virginia law, victims of physical, sexual or emotional abuse can request that the court issue an order of protection to stop their abuser from contacting or physically attacking them. At the very least, a protective order creates consequences if an abuser does not leave the subject of the order alone.
Generally, a protective order requires the hearing, although emergency orders are available in certain circumstances. People trying to leave behind an abusive marriage may file for a protective order the same day that they file for divorce so that their spouse doesn’t know their intentions, allowing them time to seek a safer place to stay or to arrange the legal protections they need to feel secure.
If the other party violates the order, the victim can call law enforcement to document the issue and request help. The orders can last for up to two years, and people can request extensions before the order expires.
Protective orders only help if you enforce them
Even if your spouse has become abusive, the chances are good that you do still care for them on some level. Your ex may try to manipulate you by using your affection for them against you.
Agreeing to meet your ex after securing a protective order can put you in a precarious position where you will have fewer grounds to push back on violations you did not approve of in the future.
While it can be difficult to completely sever communication with someone you once lived with, the more carefully you adhere to the protective order, the more likely it will be for you to secure enforcement if your ex eventually violates the order.