Domestic Violence and Family Law

Domestic Violence and Family Law

Domestic Violence and Family Law

Domestic violence, also referred to family abuse, intimate partner violence or domestic abuse, refers to not only physical, but emotional, sexual and/or financial abuse within a marriage, cohabitation or intimate relationship. If you or someone you care about is currently in an abusive relationship, we hope that this information will help you reach out for the support you need to stay safe.

Experts estimate that around half of family violence matters go unreported in Canada. Nevertheless, in Canada alone, nearly 100,000 cases of domestic violence were reported in 2018. Oftentimes, victims of family violence feel that they are powerless to change their situation because their abuser has led them to believe that they have limited rights. More often than not, this is not the case.

In March of 2021, the Federal Divorce Act is undergoing significant changes that will help the Federal law mirror provincial regulations. The changes to the Divorce Act include family violence as a factor for the court’s consideration when determining the best interests of the child(ren) in custody and access disputes. This is a significant step in protecting victims of domestic violence and ensuring a just result for their children. For more information on these legislative changes, visit Fact Sheet – Divorce and Family Violence

Types Of Abuse

An abusive relationship is not necessarily one that involves physical violence. Physical abuse is often the easiest to spot: a victim will tell an unconvincing story about how a wound originated, or a witness will call the police to intervene when they see physical violence. However, other forms of abuse are just as traumatic, and sometimes more difficult to spot.

Physical violence: Refers to hitting, slapping, punching, pushing, choking, grabbing, the throwing of objects, and any other physically aggressive behaviour. This does not have to occur on a regular basis to be considered abuse. Even one time is cause for concern, as it can speak to a pattern and can often escalate to more serious and frequent incidents over time. If you are a victim of physical abuse and fear for your or your children’s physical safety, call the police immediately.

Mental Abuse and Emotional abuse: This type of abuse can be more subtle, but just as damaging. Emotional or psychological abuse refers to any verbally derogatory, insulting, threatening behaviour. This can include derogatory nicknames, name-calling, or mocking. For a list of more examples, please click this link that we have included for your reference.
64 Signs of Mental and Emotional Abuse: How to Identify It, What to Do

Financial abuse: This type of abuse, while not as commonly known, can have devastating effects on its victim. This type of abuse occurs when money, property or other assets are withheld from the victim as a consequence for their behaviour, and are used as a “bargaining chip” in order to get the victim to comply with the abuser’s wishes.

Financial abuse can be overt in a case where a spouse is denied money for groceries for example, but can also be much more subtle, through manipulation. In many cases, victims are made to believe that they can’t earn money or they’re prevented from working in order to maintain the financial and power imbalance. One of the most common reasons for a victim to return to an abusive relationship is financial insecurity.

Sexual violence: Sexual violence occurs when one party does not consent to sexual behaviour. Consent need not be explicitly denied and includes sexual activity while the victim is intoxicated, unconscious or otherwise unable to agree to the behaviour. Here is some additional information on Sexual violence

Family Law - The Facts When It Comes To Domestic Violence

Make Sure That You And Your Kids Are Safe

Your safety and the safety of your children are paramount. If you are fearful for your safety or theirs, it’s important to know where to reach out for help. There are many resources available and shelters that can help you. This can seem very overwhelming but it’s important to get the help you need.

In there are many helpful resources, helplines and programs for victims to contact. We have included this sheet of phone numbers for you to keep on hand.

At Hummingbird Lawyers LLP, our family law team has much experience working with victims of domestic violence, and we would be happy to point you in a helpful direction and get you the support you need. Please contact our office if you would like to learn more about how we can help put you in touch with the right people.

If you feel that you are in immediate danger, please call the police or 911.

The Cycle of Violence

Many victims of domestic abuse stay in their current situation for many reasons. Quite often, the victim is afraid to leave because they are financially dependent upon the abuser or because they are scared of the repercussions of leaving. Abusers create a dependency upon themselves, making it increasingly difficult for a victim to leave. This is a very common problem with domestic violence, and why it is never easy to break the cycle. Domestic violence and abusive situations do not get better on their own or work themselves out. The pattern typically is to becomes progressively worse over time. In other words, the longer one stays, the worse their situation and the abuse will become.

It takes courage to break the cycle. It also takes knowledge about one’s rights and liabilities and an escape plan. A qualified lawyer can assist you in establishing a plan and building a safety net so that you are not forced to return to the abusive relationship.

Gaslighting – What Is It?

Gaslighting refers to a type of psychological manipulation that causes the victim to question their perception of reality. It is a psychological game with devastating consequences by causing the victim to question their own judgment, perception and self-worth.

Trust your gut. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t just assume that it’s “in your head” or you’re imagining it, or that you’re “making a big deal out of it”. These are common phrases that a gaslighter will use to manipulate their victim. A qualified therapist, can assist you in ascertaining whether you are a victim of gaslighting.

Family & Divorce Lawyer In Toronto And Vaughan

Family Law – The Facts When It Comes To Domestic Violence

  1. Money and Domestic Violence

    If you are married, there is a presumption that any increase in your and your spouse’s net worth will be equalized following the separation. If you need to take money in order to get out of an abusive situation, take some. The financial situation will be sorted out later following disclosure and your safety is paramount.

  2. Custody and Access

    With the new changes to the Divorce Act, the courts now must take domestic violence and domestic abuse situations into account when deciding on custody (decision-making) and access (parenting time) of the children involved. This new legislation is a positive step in getting justice for victims of domestic abuse and from protecting children from the lasting harm of suffering as a result of an abusive parent.

  3. Don’t Be Bullied

    An abuser’s nature is to constantly threaten their victim. Oftentimes, these threats are baseless. It is both important and empowering for an abuse victim to speak to a family law professional to determine whether threats being made have substance. Knowing and understanding your rights is the fastest way to balance the power in the relationship.
    If the threats involve physical harm and you believe them, remove yourself from the situation as quickly as possible or call the police for help.

  4. You May Be Eligible For An Immediate Divorce

    In Ontario, one of the criteria for a divorce is that you must be living separate and apart for at least one year before the court will sign your divorce order. In the case of domestic abuse, the court may take this into account and you may be able to get a divorce order signed sooner. Please speak to our team at Hummingbird Lawyers LLP for more information.

Hummingbird Lawyers LLP has two offices for your convenience. Providing qualified, skilled and experienced lawyers in Toronto and lawyers in Vaughan, we are committed to giving our clients the convenience, expertise and guidance they need.

If you are a victim of family violence, reach out to our divorce lawyers to learn your rights. Contact our office and we are happy to help.

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