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Domestic abuse victims should seek divorce help

People in Massachusetts may have heard about the recently-passed expansion of the Violence Against Women Act, which President Obama signed into law earlier this month. The bill provides outreach and assistance for victims of domestic abuse, one of the most pervasive and damaging family law issues in the United States today.

While it's never easy to make the decision to file for divorce, nobody should ever remain in an abusive relationship. People who have experienced divorce and do not seek a separation or divorce may be putting themselves and their children in a dangerous situation.

In Massachusetts, domestic abuse is not taken lightly, especially when children are involved. Even if the victim is a mother who chooses to stay in an abusive relationship, the state may intervene on the children's behalf, perhaps even removing the children from the household.

The reason is simple: children who are exposed to domestic violence grow up to bear the scars of these traumatic episodes and may be more likely to perpetuate the cycle of violence in their own lives. The other harsh truth is that abused spouses are more likely to suffer abuse if they do not seek a divorce after the initial incident.

Women in abusive marriages should always seek safety for themselves and their children first, and then seek legal assistance. Women can obtain domestic orders to keep an abusive spouse from contacting them or even seeing the children. After the most important initial safety concerns are dealt with, women can begin planning for other aspects of the divorce, such as child custody and property division.

Source: Huffington Post "Violence Against Women Act: A Divorce Lawyer's Perspective," by Nancy Van Tine, March 15, 2013

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