by Alicia Wanek
How many times have you caught yourself saying something to your kids that your parents said to you like, “Don’t make me pull this car over!” or perhaps “One day you’ll thank me,” or “Because I said so!” Like it or not, we have a tendency to approach raising our children in much the same way we were raised because we learned it from our own parents.
However, what happens if you grew up in an abusive home? What if your children are growing up in a home where they witness abuse? What are they learning about how a father or a husband should act?
Jim Mueller, family law attorney and managing partner with Verner Brumley Mueller Parker, says, “So often, I have clients tell me, ‘I stay in it (the marriage) for the kids.’ Then I remind them that their children are forming mental constructs of what a dad is, what a husband is. Boys are looking to them as a role model, and a daughter is looking to what she should expect in a future husband. Often that helps the client to see it from a different angle.” He reminds them that even if the spouse is not really abusive to the kids themselves, they are still victims of domestic violence. Domestic violence can take many forms, not just physical; emotional abuse can be just as scarring.
What should a woman do if she decides she’s had enough?
1) Call an attorney. An experienced family law attorney will meet with her to discuss her options and let her know there’s someone on her side.
2) Let the attorney help decide about the next steps. If there has been abuse, the attorney files an application for a protective order or a temporary restraining order that ensures the other party has to keep a minimum distance. “These cases are expedited,” Jim says, “so the case is usually heard within two weeks.”
3) Bring in a counselor and/or psychologist. After the hearing and the restraining order is in place, the attorney begins working with a counselor and/or psychologist for all parties. “The court doesn’t want kids to testify, so the psychologist can ensure that the child’s voice be heard in court,” Mueller explains.
4) Proceed with the divorce.
In any case of divorce, there may be other parties that become involved. At any time a parent suspects there may be abuse that their children are being exposed to, they can file a protective order like the one mentioned above on behalf of their children, even in another home. Again, an experienced family law attorney can help someone through that process. Mueller reminds us that “Lawyers, like doctors, have a duty to report suspected abuse,” so if a client is reporting these situations to them, they have an obligation to call Child Protective Services.
The most difficult part for most women is making the decision to leave. Mueller likens “You have to take care of yourself before you’re prepared to help your children.” Remember, those kids will respect the strong role model they see in you.
Source: Jim Mueller
As managing partner of Verner Brumley Mueller Parker P.C., Jim specializes in child custody and divorce matters. He is board certifed in Family Law, a member of the Texas Academy of Family Law Specialists, and one of the youngest members of the prestigious American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. AV-Preeminent rated by Martindale-Hubbell, the highest possible rating in both legal ability and ethical standards, Jim prides himself on handling complex matters with honesty and integrity. As a result, he has been consistently recognized in The Best Lawyers in America by Woodward White and Texas Super Lawyers. Jim received his bachelor’s degree, magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, from Rhodes College and graduated cum laude from the Dedman School of Law at Southern Methodist University. For questions or a consultation, contact Jim at 214.526.5234 or vernerbrumley.com.