Fran Brochstein - Mediator & Attorney in Houston Texas
Tuesday, July 16, 2013
Emergency Separation Plans -- Safety comes first!
The following are just a few ideas for men & women that suspect that they are in a potentially dangerous relationship.
If you think you might be in an abusive relationship...you might be in one... 1. Develop an emergency plan.
Go on-line and do some research. Remember, to erase your history on your computer. Even if you go to the bathroom for a moment, don't leave your computer screen on and risk getting caught doing research. This a potentially life threatening time.
I've lost a friend and a family member (male) to murder/suicide. I take this subject very seriously. Separation is the most dangerous time in your relationship. Even sane, nice people can go temporarily insane and possibly hurt you.
Figure out a safe place to go, and think about who can help you on short notice. You need a place to go where your spouse** cannot find you. Therefore, your parents or siblings home is not the ideal place to go, especially if they keep a key hidden outside.
Remember, your smart phone and your computer will give your location away.
It is nice to have credit cards and a debit card, but your spouse might cancel the credit cards and the debit card, so you need some ready cash available.
If you can safely do so, make a copy of all important papers (like bank accounts) and keep them in a safe place.
You need to have some clothes & prescription medication stored in case you need to leave suddenly. If you have children, you need to have their things stored too. Only do this, if you can do it safely.
If you have precious, irreplaceable items, move them to a safe place. Often, things get broken or "disappear" during this time.
A safe place is not at home, not the joint safety deposit box, a relative's house, a friend's house, and not in your vehicle. A safe place would be somewhere your spouse could never find them - like a friend's house that the spouse cannot have access to ever.
Do not discuss your plans and your feelings with friends and family. Some well meaning person might talk to your spouse and try to "reconcile" the two of you. This well-meaning person could actually get you killed. Be careful about sharing your thoughts and feelings.
2. Keep a calendar & diary -- As soon as possible after an event occurs, write down accurate & detailed description of the event including the date & time & location (who, what, when, where & why). If necessary, take photos. If you are injured, go to an emergency room. 3. Remember that everything you say & do may be recorded. Assume that you are being followed by a private investigator and act accordingly. It is not illegal to follow you around & take pictures of you -- so smile! Communicate very carefully and respectfully with your spouse, because anything may be introduced into evidence. Therefore, all communications (texts, emails, voice mails, etc.) should be cordial (at least - civil) and brief. Assume everything is being recorded and saved. 4. Protect your children from conflicts between you and your spouse. Don’t say anything against your spouse, no matter how irritated you might be or feel justified in doing so.
Discussing legal matters with the minor children
Asking what happens at the other parent's house
Making negative comments about the other parent within ear-shot of the children
4. Obtain a therapist to help you understand your partner’s behavior, anticipate problems, deal with your emotions around the divorce or separation, and learn about yourself. 5. Hire an attorney with good communication skills, and consult with this professional to prepare for predictable crises and accusations. 6. Stay off Facebook and other social media. If someone makes negative comments about you, refrain from commenting. If you want to comment, then quit looking at these sites. You might be a "set up"! Beware that your social media might link to each other. Twitter & Facebook, etc. now all easily link to each other & also transmit your location. So I advice you to stay off of all of them for safety purposes.
7.If necessary, call the police. Get the officer's full name, badge number and cell phone number. The white slip of paper that an officer hands you is not enough. (Paperwork is your friend). If the police agree to do a terrorist threat report, YOU must follow-up with them. You must call them & go downtown to fill out the paperwork. They say that they will call you back but they don't!
8.If other people were present, write down their full legal name, address & phone number(s) and a brief description of what they could testify to in court. A person can testify in court to anything they have personal knowledge of if they were present at the time the event occurred. So if they heard, smelt, tasted, felt, saw an event then they can testify to it since they have first hand knowledge of the event.
9.Save email and text-message correspondence in a safe place, especially copies of hostile, harassing, and controversial exchanges.
10.If your spouse is hostile it does not mean that you are allowed to reply in the same tone. Avoid being setup for violent confrontations!
11.If you are a male, avoid physical confrontations since YOU will be arrested for assault in the State of Texas and then a protective order will be granted against YOU. (FYI: This is a way to get spousal support in the State of Texas so be careful & immediately consult a family law attorney.) Also if immigration is an issue, the spouse seeking immigration papers needs to claim spousal abuse in order to stay in the US, so again immediately seek the services of an experienced family law attorney.
12.Make sure your passwords are secure. Somehow accounts get "hacked" all the time during divorce/separation. I recommend changing bank accounts to a small local bank that your spouse does not bank at or know about immediately -perhaps a credit union.
13. Tell your family and friends what to expect, how to respond, how they can help, and how to avoid splitting either of you into being viewed as all good or all bad. Beware of "helpful" friends and family what want to assist in "reconciling" you or trying to talk you into giving him/her one more chance. They might be wonderful people -- but they might be putting your life in danger without knowing it.
14. I usually suggest that you select one person to talk to about what you are going through. Do not discuss your problems with everyone. Your attorney will usually suggest this too because it could hurt your case at trial. 15. Your pets are important, but sometimes you have to leave your beloved pet behind. Your life is more important than your pet. Life is unfair but your life is more important that your pet. Your spouse might hold your pet hostage. This is common. Don't fall for this ploy.
** I use the term "spouse" but it can mean partner or significant other