The Law in Your Life

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Domestic Violence: Know Your Legal Rights

Whether to call the police, and start the process against someone who was once considered a loved one, is a difficult decision. Most victims make this decision as a last resort, or based on repeated abuse that "they cannot take anymore. " Decisions about abusive relationships do not have to be made during a crisis. Information regarding domestic violence abounds. Finding this information, reading and digesting it is the problem.

Purpose of this Section. The purpose of this section is to provide general information that can help if you or someone close to you is ever in a violent situation.

Knowing what your rights are can be the most difficult question. Yet, if victims were certain about their rights, they would often be less reluctant to leave abusive spouses. For example, many spouses fail to understand the effectiveness of certain court ordered "restraining orders. " If supported by the police departments, these court orders can provide serious protection that may allow victims to leave these relationships without excessive fear of their spouses.

The information here can provide a legal overview, but many state agencies can help provide information for free. Additionally, if necessary, our Plan Attorneys can provide a complete assessment of a particular situation and recommend various courses of action. In many cases, these lawyers can actually determine the likelihood that certain actions will be enforced. However, any victim should know that results of any professional or even law enforcement cannot be guaranteed. It should be clear, though, that information received from these individuals can make a huge difference in the decision-making process of victims. Many states also encourage the use of community resources, and in particular, domestic violence advocates. New York, for example, sets forth a community outreach program that provides an advocate to a person being abused and using the legal system or the police department. These advocates are designed to help "steer a victim through the many questions and issues in the legal system." If your state has such a system, we would encourage exploring this type of assistance.

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