Making the Tough Times a Little Easier Schedule a Free Phone Consultation
Shadows of a quarrelling husband and wife

How to Leave an Abusive Marriage in Rhode Island

The Law Offices of Howe & Garside, Ltd  June 12, 2024

Leaving an abusive marriage is a difficult and emotionally taxing decision. For victims of domestic violence in Rhode Island, understanding the steps to leave an abusive relationship can help you protect your safety and well-being. This guide will provide you with essential information and practical advice to help you through this challenging time. 

The Law Offices of Howe & Garside, Ltd. in Rhode Island is a trusted resource for those seeking legal aid in abusive situations. Located in Newport and Lincoln, they serve clients throughout Providence, Warwick, Bristol, Westerly, Woonsocket, Lincoln, and Pawtucket. 

Legal Rights and Protections in Rhode Island 

Rhode Island offers several legal protections for abuse victims, including restraining orders and protective orders. These measures are designed to safeguard victims from further harm and provide a legal framework for leaving an abusive marriage. 

Abuse can manifest in various forms, including: 

  • Physical abuse: Hitting, slapping, punching, or any physical harm 

  • Emotional abuse: Insults, criticism, manipulation, or any behavior that undermines self-esteem 

  • Sexual abuse: Any non-consensual sexual behavior 

  • Financial abuse: Controlling access to finances, withholding money, or preventing employment 

  • Psychological abuse: Intimidation, threats, or coercion 

Restraining Orders and other Protection Options 

In Rhode Island, you can file for a restraining order (also known as a protective order) against your abuser. This legal measure can prohibit the abuser from contacting you, approaching you, or causing further harm. To obtain a restraining order: 

  • File a petition: Visit your local family court to file a complaint for protection from abuse. Some jurisdictions may offer online filing options. 

  • Temporary restraining order (TRO): Initially, you may receive a TRO, which provides immediate but temporary protection until a full court hearing is held. 

  • Full hearing: During the hearing, both parties can present their evidence. If granted, the restraining order can last up to several years, depending on the severity of the case. 

If you are in immediate danger, contact law enforcement. The police can provide immediate protection and documentation of the abuse, which can be critical for future legal proceedings. Additionally, consider seeking help from legal aid organizations such as Rhode Island Legal Services. They can provide free or low-cost legal assistance to individuals escaping abusive relationships.  

Legal Process for Leaving an Abusive Marriage 

For those leaving an abusive marriage, there are several key steps. The legal process, in broad strokes, would involve the following:  

  • Filing for divorce: In Rhode Island, you can file for a fault-based or no-fault divorce. Grounds for fault-based divorce include adultery, extreme cruelty, and other similar behaviors. 

  • Obtaining a restraining order: This legal measure can prevent the abuser from contacting or approaching you. 

  • Child custody and support: The court considers the best interests of the children, often favoring arrangements that protect their safety and well-being.  

When approaching the legal process of leaving an abusive marriage, the value of enlisting a trusted attorney cannot be overstated.  

How an Attorney Can Help When Leaving an Abusive Marriage 

A lawyer can provide experienced advice on your rights and options, helping you make informed decisions at every step of the process. Some of the specific ways an attorney can help include:  

  • Filing paperwork: Legal procedures involve extensive paperwork and strict deadlines. A lawyer can help by filing all the necessary documents correctly and on time. 

  • Representation in court: Having legal representation can significantly impact the outcome of your case. A lawyer can advocate for your interests in court, whether it’s for restraining orders, custody battles, or divorce proceedings

  • Coordination with other services: Lawyers often work closely with other professionals, including social workers, counselors, and domestic violence advocates, to provide a comprehensive support network for you and your children. 

The Law Offices of Howe & Garside, Ltd. provides comprehensive legal support to help victims of domestic violence. Whether guiding clients through divorce proceedings with empathy and professionalism, assisting in obtaining protective orders, or advocating for the best interests of any children involved, they are here to support you every step of the way, aiming for as smooth a process as possible. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a safety plan, and what steps should I take first when leaving an abusive marriage?

A safety plan is a personalized and practical plan to help you remain safe while preparing to leave an abusive situation. Some suggestions for protecting yourself when preparing to leave an abusive marriage include: 

  • Pack an emergency bag: Include essentials like identification documents, money, keys, and clothing. 

  • Establish a safe haven: Identify a safe place you can go, such as a friend's house or a shelter. 

  • Develop a code word: Create a code word with trusted friends or family to signal when you need help. 

When you are ready to begin the process of leaving, here are some initial steps to take to prioritize your safety. You can reach out to local organizations that specialize in supporting abuse victims. They can provide shelter, counseling, and other essential services. Additionally, you can make use of crisis hotlines like the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-SAFE) for immediate support and guidance. 

Additionally, Rhode Island has several organizations that are dedicated to helping victims of domestic violence, including the Domestic Violence Resource Center of South County, which provides comprehensive support services for survivors, and Blackstone Valley Advocacy Center, which offers emergency shelter, counseling, and legal advocacy.

How can I navigate the divorce process if I fear for my safety during proceedings, and what steps can I take to prevent my ex-partner from having continued contact with me?

To go through the divorce process and prevent your ex-partner from contacting you, take the following steps into account:

  • Secure legal representation: An experienced family law attorney can guide you through the process, represent your interests, and ensure your safety concerns are addressed. 

  • Divorce filings and protective orders: When filing for divorce, include requests for protective measures. These may include restraining orders to prevent contact and temporary custody arrangements to protect your children. 

  • Courtroom safety measures: Inform the court of your safety concerns. Courts can implement measures such as separate waiting areas, security escorts, and virtual hearings to ensure your protection during proceedings. 

  • No-contact orders: In addition to restraining orders, you can request a no-contact order as part of your divorce settlement. This prohibits your ex-partner from contacting you directly or indirectly. 

  • Child custody and visitation: If you have children, the court will prioritize their safety. You can request sole custody or supervised visitation rights if your ex-partner is a threat to the children’s well-being. 

How can I ensure that my spouse is held accountable for their abuse?

There are several steps you can take that can help hold abusers accountable. With the support of a trusted attorney, you can pursue the following legal actions:   

  • Criminal charges: Report all incidents of abuse to law enforcement. If there is sufficient evidence, the abuser can be charged with crimes such as assault, battery, harassment, or stalking. 

  • Civil lawsuits: In addition to criminal charges, you may also pursue civil action against the abuser for damages related to the abuse, such as medical expenses, emotional distress, and loss of income. 

  • Documentation and witnesses: Maintain thorough records of all abusive incidents and gather any evidence you can, including photographs, medical reports, and witness statements. This evidence will strengthen any legal actions taken against the abuser.  

What resources are available for people leaving abusive relationships in Rhode Island?

Rhode Island offers various resources to support individuals leaving abusive relationships. These include:

Support Groups and Counseling: 

  • Day One: An organization providing counseling, advocacy, and supportive services for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. They offer individual and group counseling sessions. 

  • Crossroads Rhode Island: Provides emergency shelter and support services, including domestic violence advocacy and counseling. 

Financial Assistance: 

  • Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence (RICADV): Offers financial assistance programs to help cover expenses such as housing, legal fees, and basic needs. 

  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF): Provides financial aid to low-income families, helping them achieve self-sufficiency. 

Legal Aid and Advocacy: 

  • Rhode Island Legal Services: Offers free legal assistance to victims of domestic violence, helping with restraining orders, divorce proceedings, and custody issues. 

  • The Rhode Island Bar Association's Volunteer Lawyer Program: Connects low-income individuals with volunteer attorneys for legal representation. 

Hotlines and Emergency Services: 

  • National Domestic Violence Hotline: Available 24/7 at 1-800-799-7233, offering immediate assistance and connections to local resources. 

  • Local law enforcement: Always contact the police if you are in immediate danger or need urgent protection. 

Contact The Law Offices of Howe & Garside, Ltd. Today 

Remember, leaving an abusive marriage is a courageous step towards reclaiming your life and safeguarding the well-being of yourself and your children. Seeking professional help and utilizing available resources can make this challenging journey more manageable.  

For those residing in Rhode Island, The Law Offices of Howe & Garside, Ltd. is a reliable resource for legal aid. Their compassionate and experienced team is ready to assist you in taking the necessary steps towards a safer future. Reach out to them today and take the first step towards reclaiming your life.