IN A DOMESTIC DISPUTE, WHO LEAVES?
- May 13th, 2013
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In the privacy of the home, domestic violence puts a painful bruise on the lives of about 4 million people every year, and the vast majority of them are women. Besides the physical and emotional injuries a battered woman suffers, her abuser’s violence impacts the lives of everyone around her: her relatives, friends, and especially her children.
To a person who has been the victim of domestic violence, simply gaining a physical separation from their abuser seems easier and less traumatic than taking a domestic violence claim to court, and there can be an overwhelming desire to just move out.
Fortunately, the reality on the ground is that when two cohabitants of a residence are involved in a domestic that’s disruptive enough to require one of them to be forcibly evicted or otherwise compelled by the law to move out, the two people are almost always a coupled pair.
Certainly, domestic violence does occur between roommates, against elders or even children, but 95% of victims are adult women involved in relationships with their abusers. It would be wise for any such woman who fears for her safety to leave the residence first and deal with the legal aspects from a position of safety. Unfortunately, some abusers seek out their victims and even follow them to their new residences.
If domestic violence has taken place and one party is arrested, obviously that person is going to spend at least a night or two in jail, a safe window of opportunity for victims to flee.
However, for married victims headed for divorce, leaving the residence without what a court considers a good reason can affect a victim’s alimony award. If she leaves the house, she may not be able to return to it for personal property or for any other reason, until a court divides the property. This process can take a long time.
Domestic violence affects landlords as well
If two roommates rent their dwelling, the primary lessee is the one who has a contractual relationship with the landlord and the best claim to the residence, although landlords do have legal recourse to terminate the lease of an abuser.
The bottom line is that most of the time, the person who feels victimized will flee the residence rather than stay and attempt to force out the abuser through the legal system. The best advice for victims considering leaving their shared residence after a domestic dispute is, if possible, to continue to occupy the dwelling until after consulting with an attorney – but only if there is no domestic violence taking place. Unfortunately, victims of violence can’t always make that choice, and getting out is the only safe option.