Getting a divorce is a very taxing experience emotionally. Sadly, some cases require one of the parties to take additional precautions in order to protect themselves or their children. In some situations, it can be difficult and painful to protect yourself during divorce. One option, of course, is to get a restraining order against the other party*. At the end of the day, however, a restraining order is only a piece of paper. It can certainly discourage someone from committing an act of violence, but it cannot prevent him or her from actually committing the act. The real value in having a restraining order is to ensure that the restrained party will face repercussions if they continue to stalk, threaten or commit abuse. In short, it is very important not to get a false sense of security simply by having a restraining order.
If you feel your safety or your children’s safety is in danger because of the threats or acts of your significant other, there are steps you can take in addition to getting a restraining order. Pre planning is critical in these types of cases. Ask yourself what documents you may need if you have to leave at a moment’s notice. Here are the fundamentals:
- Your driver’s license
- Your social security card
- Cash on hand
- A credit card
- An address book or palm pilot containing all your important telephone numbers
- A cellular phone and/or a long distance telephone card
- Health insurance documentation
- Medications and/or prescription information
- Bank account numbers
You may also want to consider opening a safety deposit box to secure such items as your birth certificate, passport, will and other legal papers, any jewelry that was bought by you prior to the marriage, inherited or gifted to you, irreplaceable treasures such as cards from loved ones or family photos, diplomas or degree certificates and extra sets of keys to vehicles and the residence.
Next, decide in advance where you can go if violence erupts. This could include a domestic violence shelter, the home of a family member or close friend, or even a neighbor. The key is to plan ahead and let people know that you may need their help in an emergency. This is no time to be embarrassed! It is a good idea to have a couple days worth of clothing and toiletries for you and your children either in the trunk of your car or readily available at a friend or family member’s home.
If you are living on your own, consider getting an alarm system installed with a panic button that can immediately summon the police. If your significant other has been ordered to move out of the marital residence, change the locks immediately as well as the code on the garage door. Have a fully charged cordless or cellular telephone nearby that you can take with you to a secure, locked area in the home if the other party gets into the residence. If you have children, establish where they should go in the home in case of an emergency and a have a code word or signal that will alert them of the same. You will also need to discuss with them places outside the home they can turn to for help, as well as how to contact the police in a crisis.
Keep a log that details every incident of violence or threats of violence. Additionally, save all menacing written correspondence, e-mails and telephone messages. This information is very handy should you need to testify about past, traumatic events. Most importantly, never second-guess your instincts and get help immediately if you feel you are in danger.