I am trying to get information to help a friend in a bad spot.
Background: She & her H, within 2 or 3 months, had a baby, got married, then moved several states away and found out she has a pretty serious long-term medical condition. Since then (several years at this point) he has progressively become abusive (emotionally & economically - I don't think it is physical). Here are some things she needs help with:
First of all, she has told me that she has caught him in lies about how much money they have (told her their bank account is 0 when really they have a few hundred $s) so I wouldn't be surprised if he is squirreling away money in another account, and since he has actual access to their combined funds, he could have thousands squirreled away somewhere while telling her he can't possibly afford her meds or to buy food for their kid. How would she find out about that?
Second, is there any way to confirm whether or not he applied for a job/housing/etc elsewhere (if that's the case, then I would think it would be more important to file before he can, and worry about the 3-months-from-now-plan later - he has threatened to take their DC away to their home state and that she would never see her kid again)? I'm thinking that would have to involve a private investigator, but how much would that cost (and yes, I'm sure it varies, but ballpark, could it likely be done in $100s, or are we talking $1000s), and how would you find a good one?
Same question about a divorce lawyer. I know she needs to talk to one, but would she need someone who has experience with disability & abuse issues when it comes to custody? IDK how that works, or how to find the one that will have that info.
She has read "Why Does He Do That?" after I saw it recommended here, again, I recommended she keep it out of the house, but he found it, so he is aware that she is 'onto him.' What does this mean for her/how she should proceed?
And finally, I guess the biggest question, how do I help her without taking over? The fact that she can't get places by herself (can't drive due to medical condition & we don't live in an area with real helpful pub trans, at least if you have to bring a kid with you) definitely affects her feelings of independence. Not to mention, I don't want this to impact my own DD any more then it already has (and it definitely has). I don't want her to have to spend all her time in a car, in offices (if my friend were to need to get to a lawyer or investigator, for example), etc. because of this, you know? The only way she would conceivably be able to get to these places without her H knowing is if she tells him we are taking the kids somewhere together. That is literally the only time she goes anywhere without him.
So if you are still reading after all that, thank you. I really hope someone has some concrete ideas as to the best way to go from here, and would appreciate any suggestions.
I would recommend that your friend call not one, but SEVERAL lawyers for an initial free consultation, in addition to signing up ASAP for legal aid. It may take a while so better to get the ball rolling right away. As for questions to ask a lawyer, there's a thread floating around here with such questions, but really, your friend might start by brainstorming on the things that worry her, write those things down in point form questions AND THEN check out the thread to see if there's anything she forgot. I really advise seeking legal help because it will give her the information she needs to arm herself against an eventual custody battle/separation/divorce.
To find family law lawyers in your state, I would Google "Legal aid + YOUR STATE NAME", or "family law lawyer + YOUR STATE NAME". You can sometimes get lucky and find the websites for legal aid clinics that offer free information session. At this point, what she needs is correct information.
Second, I would recommend that you direct your friend towards some form of counselling, whether it be social services or some kind of support group. She needs support from those who are familiar with this type of situation, no matter how great the support she is getting fromyou. Also, it would help if she informed her family of the situation...finally, if she has more support, it would make things easier on you. You seem to recognize that you cannot do everything for her, and I applaud you for that. If she WANTS to get help, then great, but obviously, you can't lead a horse to water.
I would also have her put a couple of calls (being considerate whether they appear on the phone bill) to attorneys. Many offer free consultations and it will give her some basic strategy and information. She will also be able to ask for information on fees, retainers, etc. Ask them questions like how abuse, disability, etc. affect cases. The fact that she's the primary caregiver and he leaves the child with her is likely to help her argument. I worked out of the home while my XH was a SAH and many lawyers commented that I should consider putting my kids in day care.
In her situation she many qualify for a DV shelter or legal help through the DV resources where she lives. That is worth a call too before you go to see their restrictions (some only help with violence, others help with all abuse, some look at joint income, the rules for getting shelter help etc.) I would call the non-DV attorneys too because I have found (at least in my city) the DV resources weren't the most knowledgeable, overworked, etc. At least you would have some ideas, direction, etc. if you take advantage of the consultations. She can look there for shelter, counseling, etc. She may also have coverage on her medical plan that she can take advantage of. In my state once she's out and filed she can apply for child/spousal support that will accrue from that day. In my state it doesn't start until you file for it. The attorneys can give her the guidelines the courts are likely to give in the consultations (takes only a minute to calculate) so she can plan.
Would she be able to receive any aid like disability in your state since she just moved? It would be worth signing up so she can have some income of her own and maybe even get housing.
Another thing I would consider is for her to store things she will need (that he won't notice missing) in a safe place. It could be mailed to a relative, a safe deposit box, storage unit, etc. Things like birth certificates, passports, photos, etc. you don't want to have to worry about later but don't need on a day to day basis.
Last I would have her think about exit plans. It's usually the most dangerous time when someone leaves. It will be easier if she makes a plan to keep everyone safe (i.e., leave while he is at work) than to do something in the heat of a fight.
Thanks for the ideas! A support group is a great idea, and one we hadn't thought of. Would a DV shelter be able to point her in the right direction for that? I will find the post with the questions to show her, as well. I appreciate the help.
Most DV programs have them or can point you to one. The formal ones in my area were income based though and if you made too much you could not attend. Also check out meetup.com I found some groups on there too.
Great suggestions above. I would add encourage her to call national and local DV hotlines for support. The advocates can help her to develop a safety plan and inform her of support options in her area.
and then when we get to the ocean
we're gonna take a boat to the end of the world
Oh, and if she buys groceries and has a debit card, she can get cash back each time and squirrel away some money of her own.
and then when we get to the ocean
we're gonna take a boat to the end of the world
Good ideas. Also check if there is a clinic at a local law school that might be available to help...
Mom to two terrific kiddos, affirming every day that the Universe is unfolding as it should and all is well...
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