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5 tips for documenting spousal abuse

You feel trapped in an abusive relationship, and you want out. You want to be safe. Ultimately, you want to get a divorce.

Abuse can have a massive impact on your case. For instance, if you have children, it could be the key to sole custody. The judge wants to keep your children out of danger. If there is clear evidence of physical danger from your ex, your kids should not stay in that environment.

Denials

There is a good chance your spouse may deny the allegations. Your spouse could claim you took things seriously when he or she was only joking or that you keep blowing one small incident out of proportion. People deny these allegations all the time.

That's a tricky situation in court. It becomes a he-said, she-said dynamic. You know you're telling the truth, but does anyone else? Below are a few things you can do to prove it:

1. Keep all digital evidence

This could include text messages, online messages, phone call records, voicemails and emails. Remember that some things automatically get deleted from your devices. People communicate through electronic devices so much these days that this evidence may paint a clear picture of what transpired, and it can provide a view into your relationship as a whole. For example, even if insulting messages are not illegal, they may still show your spouse's attitude toward you.

2. Write down any abuse

Keep a diary or a journal. Write out what happened and when it happened. Keep tracks of dates and times as closely as you can. Ultimately, you want to create a schedule that, even if your spouse denies it, you can back up with your other evidence. This way, you never forget anything or get confused with your story.

3. Keep all files in a safe place

Store files with backups in a way that makes it unlikely that they'll ever get deleted. For instance, rather than just keeping files on your phone, back them up to the cloud. Rather than keeping your journal at home, get a safe deposit box and keep it there. Remember that your spouse may try to tamper with evidence. Keep it safe.

4. Tell someone else

Get another person on your side. Confide in this individual so he or she can act as a witness. This person may even be able to keep some of your physical evidence for you.

5. Seek medical treatment, even for minor injuries

Medical records back up your case. Your spouse may say you never got hurt or that it was minor, but a doctor's unbiased report can tell the court exactly what happened. These records also show roughly when abuse took place.

As you gather evidence, make sure you understand what steps you need to take to legally seek a divorce. Your safety, and your children's safety, must remain your top priority.

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