A common reason for divorce one party being abused in some way by the other party. This could be emotional or physical abuse and for the divorce court comes under the heading of “unreasonable behaviour”. Whilst the divorce proceedings trundle on through the civil court system, victims can find themselves also going through the criminal courts if the Police are involved and there is enough evidence to bring a case. 

In recent years, there has been much talk in the UK regarding the law around the subject of Domestic Abuse and divorce with draft legislation proposed by Theresa May in February 2017.  This draft was finally released in January 2019 and will now be brought to Parliament for debate. The bill sets out a statutory government definition of domestic abuse which includes controlling and manipulative behaviour. For the first time, abuse does not have to be physical or violent.

The bill will recognise economic abuse, (also known as financial abuse) which is where a partner is prevented from accessing bank accounts or employment. The victim becomes financially controlled. They may not be allowed to go out to work, or if they are employed, their wages may be paid into their partners account or they may not have access to benefits as they are given to a partner. December 2016 saw the introduction of the new law meaning that coercive or controlling behaviour is now a crime. This offence carries a maximum sentence of 5 years imprisonment, a fine or both.

Slowly changes are being made. Escaping a domestic abuse situation leaves victims susceptible to many issues which also affect children as a parent may find themselves homeless, relying on foodbanks for daily essentials along with dealing with their mental health as they navigate the family court system against their perpetrator. Emotions run high and post separation abuse can be rife. The abuser is losing control and many say that economic abuse is the “tail” of physical abuse as the victim is out of arms reach. 

Divorcing a narcissist

Dealing with a narcissistic ex can lead to a very volatile and unstable situation and the abuse continues in other ways as the victim tries to break-free and start a new and rewarding life. Divorcing a narcissist or sociopath is tricky as they are very complicated characters. They need to be dealt with using specific methods. They do not think or behave in a normal manner and litigation can become a long and painful process with solicitors, barristers and judges not even realising their complexities. 

Fortunately, there are many charities which offer support and a number of counsellors and coaches who can help victims to regain the power in their lives. Victims may also find that the are eligible for Legal Aid if they have escaped an abusive marriage.  Finding someone to trust is crucial and measures such as non-molestation orders and injunctions can be put in place to protect victims from further abuse. 

Healing is all about regaining life control and different people turn to different methods to overcome their chronic apprehension and anxiety. Re-training to get work and earn a decent salary can make a victim see a world of possibilities ahead of them. Being able to become financially independent is a huge issue for many who flee domestic abuse. Many of those who have been through it and are now out the other side, speak of feeling empowered and free. They say they are stronger than they have ever felt before and found it all to be a journey of self-discovery as they rebuild their new lives.  

Domestic abuse and divorce law

Although there is a lot of work to be done around domestic abuse laws, at least there is movement in the right direction. With economic abuse being at least mentioned in the new bill and those guilty of coercive control being jailed, the media is publicising these stories and the issue is no longer underground. It is out in the open and being spoken about. The issue was previously seen as only a problem for Women but recently Men are becoming less ashamed to say that they have been abused by a Woman. Females in same sex relationships are not embarrassed to say that their partner has mistreated them. It’s all positive and sharing stories and being open and honest is only going to help the cause and lead to happier, healthier lives for everyone.