If Iam in an abusive marriage and want to leave the state with my kids, how can I doso legally?

I am a 29 year-old mother of 2amazing boys but unfortunately I am married to a both mentally and physically abusive man. I have been married for 11 years. We were married in IL and moved to FL about 18 months ago. I have had him arrested but it was in IL. We are currently living with his parents who are also controlling and mentally abusive to me. They will not let me call the police or leave; I cannot go anywhere really on my own to get away. I am on disability and make $686 a month. I want to leave my husband and move to another state but I will not leave my kids; I fear that I will never see them again. He has moved me to FL so I am no longer by my family or friends; I have to go north to have a financial and a emotional support of my loved ones. I cannot afford an attorney and every one I call wants to charge me to even tell me if I can legally move out of state with them. I don’t want to loose custody of my kids or go to jail. Is there any way that I can talk to someone?

Asked on July 13, 2010 under Family Law, Florida

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

To answer your question, if there is no court order in effect, than you you can take your children out-of-state.  However, your child's father can go to court and obtain an order which will require you to return FL.  If you then fail to return to the state, you can be charged with parental kidnapping.  Frankly, the best way for you to obtain custody of your children is for you to go to court first.  In making its determination as to custody the court will consider what is in the bests interests of the children, by looking a such things as: the ages of your children, the relationship of the parents with the children, their present living situation and like factors. You could try to wait an establish residency in your new state and file there but as stated above, your husband could file first in FL.

However, first you should address the issue of abuse.  You can call a domestic abuse hotline in your area.  Here is contact information for the Jackson County Domestic Violence & Rape Crisis Program:  Hotline numbers: 1-800-252-2597 or (850)763-0706.  They also be able to help you with free or low cost legal services.  Also, you can see if you qualify for representation Legal Aid (their are income limits) or see if they can recommend someone to help you.  Further you can check if there is a law school nearby to where you live; they typically run free/low cost clinics that handle these type cases.  Also, you can contact the local Bar Association in your county; they may have a list of attorneys who will take your case "pro bono" (for free) or at least for a reduced fee based on your income/circumstances.  Additionally, google women's support groups in your area, they can usually provide a list of attorneys who can help.  Finally, contact your state's Department of Social Services, they may be able to refer you to free legal services.


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