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Domestic violence can be the catalyst for a Brooklyn divorce filing. Unfortunately, a divorce filing can also result in the escalation of abuse.

In fact, the most dangerous time for a victim is when she finally makes known her plan to leave. Domestic abuse is all about control. Once an abuser fears a loss of control, he or she may become a serious threat.

Our Brooklyn divorce attorneys are well-versed in handling sensitive cases such as these. We not only help victims coordinate with local social service agencies to formulate a safe exit strategy, we can help file orders of protection on behalf of yourself and your children. We can also work to help you extricate yourself from the legal trappings of the relationship in a way that requires you to have little to no contact with your ex. This includes addressing your child custody and visitation concerns. If you can show the court that your children have witnessed abuse by your partner or suffered it themselves, the court may choose not to award visitation at all.

But again, these cases have to be handled with great care, not only for the safety of the victim, but also for the success of your divorce. The allocation of assets and property as well as potential child custody and maintenance determinations will have a significant bearing on your ability to move forward. If handled incorrectly, you may find yourself in an unfavorable situation.

Such was the case for an alleged victim recently in Yelena R v. George R., a matter weighed by the Alaska Supreme Court.

According to court records, the pair in this case were involved in an on-again off-again relationship for more than 10 years. They shared two children together.

The mother accused the father of sexually assaulting her in 2011, while the pair was still living together. She contends that this was the culmination of long-standing abuse he inflicted upon her, beginning some five months after they were married. She said in some cases, the violence was reciprocal, and they were both at various points arrested for inflicting violence on each other.

Her husband filed for divorce in 2004 in California. A court granted primary physical custody to the father, with regular visitation awarded to the mother. Despite their divorce, the pair continued to live together intermittently over the next several years. Their daughter was born in 2006. The mother would later say the father pushed her down a flight of stairs when she was six-months pregnant because he did not want her to have the child.

She claimed that after the family moved to Massachusetts, she found earrings in their bed that weren’t hers. When she questioned her spouse, he reportedly assaulted her while their daughter lay next to them. She suffered a punctured kidney, and he was later arrested.

The pair separated, but again moved back in together about five months later, against the advice of the husband’s commanding officer in the U.S. Coast Guard. This pattern continued for years. When the father relocated to Alaska for work, the mother soon followed. In the short lapse, the son developed a severe dental issue, which the father would later blame on the mother’s alleged neglect.

Still, the pair continued to live together, and it was during this time that the alleged sexual assault occurred.
The incident was immediately reported to her work supervisors (at a domestic violence shelter). The U.S. Coast Guard also launched an investigation into the alleged incident.  A military protective order was issued and a probable cause hearing on court-marital charges indicated reasonable grounds to believe the assault happened.

A short-term protective order was issued in civilian court, but the magistrate denied a long-term order.

The mother then fled with the children back to Massachusetts, leaving behind only a note to the father. The court-martial charges were dismissed. No civilian criminal charges were ever filed.

A hearing in Massachusetts resulted in the children being sent back to Alaska for custody proceedings. It was there the father was granted full custody.

The mother appealed, but the family court’s order was allowed to stand.

As in many domestic violence situations, particularly those involving a couple with extensive history, the facts here were incredibly convoluted. It takes an attorney with extensive experience to highlight to the court the accuser’s suffering, even in scenarios where the victim has returned again and again. This is in fact indicative of the classic pattern of domestic violence, which is only recently beginning to gain a greater understanding culturally and within the realm of family law.

The biggest mistake the mother made here was fleeing with her children out-of-state without court approval. She may have felt she had no other choice. We are committed to ensuring that all of our clients have a complete understanding of their options. It’s our goal that as you set off on the next chapter of your life, you do so in safety and with every advantage possible.

If you are interested in filing a Brooklyn protection order, call our offices at (718) 864-2011.

Additional Resources:

Yelena R v. George R.,May 23, 2013, Alaska Supreme Court

More Blog Entries:

Davidson v. Carillo – Importance of Attorney Representation in Child Custody Matters, May 30, 2014, Brooklyn Divorce Lawyer Blog