girl covering her ears

Emotional Abuse is Spousal Abuse

When one thinks of abuse, the first thought is often physical abuse. However, emotional abuse can be just as damaging to an individual. Many times emotional abuse can be a significant concern in custody battles. Courts will look at what is in the best interest of the child. They consider any sort of abuse situation as not being in the best interest of the child.

Arkansas Code § 9-15-403 considers “emotional abuse” as any of the following acts:

  • Verbally attacking or threatening a spouse by yelling, screaming, or name-calling;
  • Dominating the other spouse by using criticism, social isolation, intimidation, or exploitation;
  • Criminally harassing a spouse;
  • Stalking a spouse;
  • Threatening a spouse or any of his or her loved ones;
  • Damaging a spouse’s possessions; or
  • Harming the pet of a spouse.

Emotional abuse is one of the three types of abuse considered by the State of Arkansas to be spousal abuse. The other two are physical abuse and sexual abuse.

Other forms of emotional abuse that a court may look at as not being in the best interest of the child is when a spouse or former spouse says things like, “It’s your dad’s fault you can’t spend the night” or “Your mom is a liar.” Language like this affects a child’s opinion about the other parent causing harm and emotional distress.

If you are experiencing any sort of emotional abuse, I advise you to document, document, document everything. I can’t say it enough. I know that you think you will remember it, but two to three months into a custody battle makes it difficult to remember details. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, just jot down little notes that will help you remember in a calendar, on your phone, wherever you will be able to access it when needed. However, a word of caution, I advise you to keep this documentation somewhere the abuser will not be able to access it.

Spousal abuse in any form is not something I take lightly. I always advise my clients to create an Escape Plan.

  • A code word is important in abuse situations. This is a word known by you and trusted friends and/or family that lets them know that you are in danger.
  • You need to determine a safety route if you must leave in an emergency situation. I suggest devising two routes: one by foot and one by Share this route with your trusted friends and/or family that know your code word.
  • If you have a safe place to hide it, I recommend keeping a throw-away phone Do not use your regular mobile devices as this gives your abuser a way to monitor and track your activity.
  • Keep important documents where they can be easily assessed. Recommended documents are insurance cards, address books, custody or divorce papers, and any other court documents such as a restraining order. I also recommend leaving copies with a trusted friend or relative.
  • Know and use resources available to you.

If you are in an abusive relationship, contact Kevin Hickey Law Partners to help you file all the appropriate petitions with the courts to help protect you. We provide services for divorce, restraining orders, child custody, visitation, and many other family law matters in Arkansas. We have two locations to better serve you. Northwest Arkansas, 479.802.6560 and Fort Smith, 479.434.2414.