If you’re contemplating divorce and you answer most of these questions affirmatively, you need to take a good hard look at yourself. It may be time to admit that you’re partner isn’t the problem, and divorce won’t solve anything. It will only add to your problems and if you have kids, the divorce could do them irreparable harm. Find a good therapist, start couples counseling, and refocus your energy on what you can do to save your marriage.
Suppose, on the other hand, that the answers to those questions are not so positive. Gale was the mother of an infant child. She and Jack had been married less than two years. In those two years he had gotten heavily into drugs, and for the last year he had been dealing. When Jack got high, he got physically abusive to Gale. When I met her, she still carried the traces of her most recent black eye.
“I’m really involved in my faith and my church,” she explained to me. “So, I’m not eager to be divorced. But my pastor told me I should come and talk to you. What can I do?”
The law can help a person like Gale get some leverage with her husband. A judge could, on proper request, make an order that would give her immediate, temporary relief by imposing emergency restraints on Jack. Jack would have to appear in court to explain his conduct. He would have to comply with the temporary restraining orders and he could be ordered to begin paying Gale support money. Those restraining orders would tell him he was not allowed to live in or even come to the front door of her apartment. They would tell him he couldn’t harass Gale in any way, in person, by phone or by email.
I sat and explained all of that to Gale. Then I continued, “If he disobeys any of those temporary restraining orders, he faces the possibility of arrest and imprisonment for contempt of court. And he’ll also have to show cause why he shouldn’t have to pay for my services to you and for the court’s costs.”
“Not one bit. Women across the country are faced with the same predicament you’re in. And, if they’ve got the courage to stand up to their husbands, the courts are ready to stand with them.”
I had known, almost from the moment she walked into my office, that Gale was not a woman who was used to being a victim. She had not come to me looking for safety and she didn’t have any sentimental notions that Jack was going to change because of his love for her. Instead, her agenda was entirely straightforward: She wanted to stop getting beat up and she wanted to help her husband make a change if that were possible.
Gale signed the requisite documents then and there. I took them to the court the next morning and they were served on Jack that afternoon at his job. Gale had his bags packed and waiting for him that evening. A sheriff’s deputy stood by while Jack picked them up. Then he was gone.