How Does Domestic Violence Affect Alimony?

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Domestic violence can leave profound and lasting scars for those who experienced it as well as their loved ones who witnessed it happen. Given its gravity, domestic violence can be grounds for divorce. Keep reading to learn how domestic violence affects divorce and alimony in New York state. And if you find yourself in danger, connect with an experienced and compassionate Suffolk County domestic violence lawyer.

What is Domestic Violence?

In day-to-day talk, we often refer specifically to physical altercations perhaps between a married couple, when domestic violence comes up. New York’s legal definition, however, is far more expansive. New York law defines domestic violence as an abusive act committed by one household or family member against another. So we see the legal definition is a wide net, wider than physical violence alone and wider the single context of a married couple.

Beyond physical, domestic violence can also include financial and emotional abuse, isolation, and stalking. Beyond just the family relationship, domestic violence can arise in the context of a parent and child relationship, a sibling and sibling relationship, or even between roommates, among many others.

In proving domestic violence before a family court, there is also a wide array of different kinds of evidence you may use: physical evidence like photos and videos, eyewitness accounts such as those from neighbors and coworkers, and expert witnesses who can explain to the judge and jury about domestic violence in general and in your case specifically.

Domestic Violence, Divorce, and Alimony

New York has different rules for divorce, depending on whether it is a “no-fault” or “fault” divorce.

In a no-fault divorce, which is the norm today, the former couple declares that there are “irreconcilable differences” that have “irretrievably broken” the marriage. This phrasing means that neither partner carries the blame for the end of the relationship.

A fault-based divorce is different. Rarely used particularly as compared to no-fault divorce, a fault divorce argues that the end relationship ended due to some bad act by one of the spouses. A qualifying bad act can be many things, like adultery or divorce.

Alimony was never designed as a punishment, but a remedial measure, typically for the homemaking spouse, that recognizes their contribution to the marriage while providing financial support to be used as the spouse gets on their feet economically.

However, if the abused spouse can show that the domestic violence they experienced limited their ability to be self-sufficient, the court may accept this as an argument for alimony. Spousal support is awarded when the court determines there is a reasonable need for it, and that reasonable need may be that due to domestic violence, the abused spouse wasn’t able to become financially independent.

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