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Family Violence

My ex-spouse has access and is constantly harassing me. What can I do?
I’ve heard that when a woman leaves an abusive situation, it is a good idea not to “set him off” by asking for custody or child support.
If a parent leaves an abusive partner, will the Court ever give the abuser custody or access to the children?
If one spouse leaves the home, will they lose all rights to a share of the property? If they leave the children behind will they be able to ask for custody?
What might happen if an abused woman with children ends the violence by taking the children and running away where he can’t find her?
Can an abusive spouse stop the other spouse from getting a divorce?
When my partner is convicted of a crime will the judge settle our family law issues at sentencing?

My ex-spouse has access and is constantly harassing me. What can I do?

You may ask the court to order that your ex-spouse pick up and drop off the children at a neutral, safe location – such as a grandparent’s house or a social service agency. You also may be able to use legal remedies such as a restraining order, a peace bond, or criminal harassment charges to protect yourself from phone calls and other unwanted contact.

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I’ve heard that when a woman leaves an abusive situation, it is a good idea not to “set him off” by asking for custody or child support. 

While it is true that many abused women are willing to walk away without child support, a share of property or any formal agreement about parenting arrangements, this should only be a temporary solution.  Many people think that if the mother doesn’t ask for child support, it will end the partner’s right to be in the children’s lives. But, child support is the entitlement of the child and courts will want to be sure that the access parent is contributing.  

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If a parent leaves an abusive partner, will the Court ever give the abuser custody or access to the children?

Generally, courts only consider spousal abuse relevant if it can be shown to impact on the parenting ability of the parent applying for custody or access.  Courts have been slow to recognize research which shows the harmful effects to children exposed to family violence. Courts are reluctant to deny a parent access because of spousal abuse.  However, when spousal abuse is present, they may decide that “joint custody” is not appropriate.

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If one spouse leaves the home, will they lose all rights to a share of the property? If they leave the children behind will they be able to ask for custody?

The Court does not expect a person to stay in an abusive relationship.  A legally married woman can leave, for whatever reason, and it does not impact on the equal division of the marital property. However, once divorced, there are only 60 days to ask the court to divide the property.  As well, leaving the home without the children does not interfere with the right to apply for custody. 

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What might happen if an abused woman with children ends the violence by taking the children and running away where he can’t find her?

Because separation is often a dangerous time, it may be best to leave without telling the partner ahead of time.  Seeking temporary shelter to explore options is often necessary.  But running away and hiding forever may cause other legal problems. She will need to deal with all her family law issues as soon as possible by getting legal advice and possibly going to court.

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Can an abusive spouse stop the other spouse from getting a divorce?

Either spouse can get a divorce even if one does not want it.  The most common way is to live separate and apart for one year. However, a judge may not permit the divorce until formal custody and child support orders are in place.  If one partner contests the divorce, then both spouses will need separate legal advice. 

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When my partner is convicted of a crime will the judge settle our family law issues at sentencing?

Criminal courts hear criminal cases.  Family law issues are heard in a different court so the judge sentencing someone convicted of an offence – even one that was of a domestic nature - will not handle family law issues. The victim will have to take steps to deal with things like custody and support in family court.

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