She loved you, once. She loved her children, too, presumably. But for whatever reason — drugs, alcohol, mental illness, gambling addiction, criminality — she has become a threat to not only you but to your children. How can you cope?
Priority One: Get Your Kids and Get Out
As experts at Domestic Shelters states, getting yourself and your children to a safe place is priority #1. Ignore her threats to report you for parental kidnapping. Such threats are meaningless and reveal her ignorance of the law. Unless a custody order is already in place, you as the children’s parent have every legal right to take them wherever you like.
Indeed, under Virginia law, if they are threatened, you have an obligation to protect them from that threat, which may mean escaping the abusive household.
Treat the departure as an emergency. Consider first your Priority #1: get to a safe place. Motel, shelter, friend’s house, relative’s home — get the kids and get out. Second, contact your Virginia family law attorney. Ask your attorney to file for a protective order against your wife or the mother of your children.
Have a Plan
Pulling off the flight from the abusive home cannot be a momentary impulse, especially if you are responsible for safeguarding little ones. You need to plan for the moment, because she may decide to report credit cards or your family vehicle stolen. She may know where weapons are stored in the home. She may invite unsavory “friends” to seek you out.
A few pointers:
- Keep a regular diary that catalogs your concerns, her abuse, and the states of mind of your children
- Use passwords on every electronic device to prevent her spying on your plans
In addition, consider these steps:
- Document with pictures, and send the pictures to the Cloud in case your partner tries to steal or destroy your cell phone
- Pack go bags for everyone; these may be dropped ahead of time at your destination (one by one over days) or left in the trunk of your vehicle
- Keep in touch with several relatives or friends so you know you have a safe place no matter the day or time
But How Should You Tell Your Children?
You alone can gauge the awareness and understanding your children will have to their plight. They certainly can see, hear, and feel the abuse:
You can explain how you intend to protect them by leaving the family home. You can divert them and, perhaps, be less than forthcoming by saying you are taking them on a short vacation, to a movie, or to a relative’s home.
Last minute changes of heart about “the plan” can come from all quarters: little kids, teens, or yourself. If you have broadly hinted to your abusive partner that you will be leaving, she may try to bargain with you, hoping to entice you to stay. Look back at your diary to confirm the wisdom of your choice to leave.
Actually Leaving The Abuser
For your own protection and to keep your children safe, you can consider crowdsourcing your moment of departure. If you invite friends and family over, the mother of your children may be less likely to engage in abusive behavior in front of witnesses. You can even call law enforcement if you feel she is volatile enough to warrant it.
Have a code word with your children so they know, for example, not to walk home from school but to go to a nearby relative’s house. They can also know to be prepared for an exit that day or evening.
With go bags elsewhere or in your trunk, make a last sweep of your home for medications, vital records (birth certificates, immunization records, printed prescriptions, immigration papers), and perishable necessities (formula, refrigerated medicines).
Decide ahead of time if a favorite family pet is part of the exit plan. If so, have a go bag for Rover or Tigger, too. Use a cat carrier or dog leash to speed departure.
You may be unnerved and unable to think clearly, so keep a checklist that includes the names of your children. Count to make sure you have everything and everyone. You could make a game of it by having them respond to a roll call.
Just get in that car and go!
You have done your best to protect yourself and your children. That’s all anyone can ask.
Once you are safe, once your children are by your side and out of harm’s way, please contact our child custody attorneys at The Firm For Men or telephone our offices at 757-383-9184. We can help you with every aspect of your family law crisis. We defend the rights of Virginia’s men every day, and provide needed legal protections for their children, too.