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Understanding Emotional Abuse in Family Court: Can You Prove It?

Not all relationships are healthy. Unfortunately, some relationships become abusive over time. It can be difficult to see the warning signs of abuse until well after a relationship has already been established. By then, it can be very difficult for the victim of the abuse to muster up the ability and resources to leave the relationship. This can be even more true in the context of a marriage. In many cases, abuse doesn’t begin until the victim is in some way dependent on the abuser.


Not all abuse is physical. Physical abuse leaves readily apparent marks and injuries that others can see. This can validate the abuse in a court. Emotional abuse on the other hand doesn’t leave any physical marks, even though the wounds can be just as deep and sometimes even more lasting. Behavior that can qualify as emotional abuse includes but isn’t limited to name calling, isolation, gaslighting, yelling, making unreasonable demands, constant criticism, invalidation, stonewalling, emotional blackmail, and more. Emotional abuse has the ultimate end goal of destroying the victim’s self-esteem and sense of worth, making them completely dependent upon the abuser. However, because none of this is immediately visible to the naked eye, it can be difficult to prove. It can be proven in court though, using a few key strategies.


Gather Witnesses

While emotional abuse often takes place behind closed doors and doesn’t leave any physical marks, that doesn’t mean that it occurs completely in secret. Others can be subpoenaed as witnesses to the abuse. This can include everyone and anyone who might have knowledge of what went on in the home, including pastors, teachers, friends and family, police officers, etc. Having witnesses to the abuse is vital, especially in the case where you may have children, as it is one of the strongest rebuttals against a common tactic raised by abusers – so called “parental alienation.” Witnesses to the abuse are strong evidence against this claim.


Document Everything

Documentation of abuse is strong evidence in court. Police reports, diary entries, video evidence from Ring cameras, and text messages can all serve as documentation. Additionally, the state of Arizona is a one-party consent state. This means that it is legal to covertly record a conversation that you are a party to and participating in. If it is safe to do so, you may be able to record your abuser in the act. This further serves to rebuff the claims of parental alienation that the other party may raise.


Be Prepared to Testify

If you are alleging emotional abuse in a divorce, you are likely to have to testify as to the facts of the abuse. You will have to practice telling your story and be prepared to be cross-examined. You should tell your story clearly, and concisely. As you testify, you should ensure that everything that you’re saying remains relevant to the divorce case.


If you have been abused and are going through the process of getting a divorce, it’s important to remember that you are not alone. Our attorneys here at Simon Law Group can guide you through your case and ensure that you get the outcome that you deserve. Reach out to us today & know that you are not alone, and we can help!

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