Can domestic abuse allegations complicate a divorce proceeding?

It is not always possible to approach a divorce collaboratively. For example, in cases of domestic violence, the protections offered by divorce litigation and a court can be well received.

In a recent example, a couple seeking a divorce were not able to cooperate during the intervening months while their divorce was pending. Only recently did the court make the divorce final and awarded the couple’s home to the wife. Unfortunately, their antics up to that point caught the media's eye.

Specifically, the couple’s divorce became a news item when the 61-year-old wife changed the locks on their million-dollar home and refused to let her 69-year-old husband back in the house. Instead of seeking alternate lodging, the husband camped out on the lawn for five months. He informed the media that he wanted his wife to change her mind about the divorce.

A year before, the wife had received a protective order against her husband. She apparently had also requested multiple restraining orders from the court. Such an order could have legally required the husband to keep his distance. However, in the months leading up to the finalization of the divorce, the woman’s requests for protection had apparently been denied. Perhaps the court didn’t view the husband as a threat anymore because of his failing health. Whatever the reason, local authorities could not require the man to leave the property in the absence of a protective order because the home was jointly titled in the husband’s and wife’s name.

A protective order is an extreme remedy, although it can provide vital protections in cases of domestic abuse. In this case, it’s unfortunate that the couple couldn’t agree on an approach to their divorce. Yet it’s also surprising that the man didn’t realize that a divorce filing generally does not require the consent of both parties. He was fighting a losing battle, and a divorce lawyer could have helped him seek a more private, graceful approach to the property division during the pendency of the divorce.

Source: USA Today, "Divorce standoff at million-dollar home ends," Kevin Reece, Oct. 9, 2015