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How to prove emotional abuse when seeking help from the courts

Domestic violence does not always entail physical abuse. Oftentimes, physical abuse is predicated by emotional, also known as psychological, abuse. In this situation, an abuser uses words and manipulations to control a victim, usually in a threatening tone of voice. They may also force the victim to lie, or perform demeaning tasks. An emotional abuser's victim is often not only their spouse, but also the children.

It is easy for victims of emotional abuse to feel trapped. Without any visible evidence of their pain, it becomes a "he said, she said" matter, and brings a burden of proof to a victim in the courtroom.

So, how would emotional abuse be proven in a divorce case? First, the court would analyze the case in its entirety, taking into account the timeline of the entire relationship. They would look at events along that timeline to determine any noticeable progression of alleged abuse, or a particular event that seemed to "set off" an abuser. Further, the court may call in an expert witness to assist in the analysis. For these reasons, it can be very important to work with an experienced family law attorney when going into a divorce case where domestic violence is a factor. He or she will be able to assist those seeking help in best showing the progression of abuse in the relationship.

There are several possible avenues for legal relief for those facing emotional abuse. The victim can obtain a restraining order against the abuser. The court may award compensation to the victim, and in some cases, depending on the severity of the situation, criminal charges may be filed. When children in a relationship are also suffering from emotional abuse, the abuser may also lose custody rights.

Source: Psychology Today, "Forms of Emotional and Verbal Abuse You May Be Overlooking," Darlene Lancer, Apr. 3, 2017

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