The Reality of the Family Court System and Protection from Abuse

The family court system is meant to be a place where you can seek justice and protection from your abuser, whether it's physical, mental, or emotional abuse. But unfortunately, it can't always do that.

When you're married and ready to leave your abuser, whether you have children or not, you have to move through the family courts to seek divorce, custody, and protection. However, turning to the legal system can leave you feeling frustrated and disheartened as you use your voice to seek protection. 

Narcissistic abusers, once they begin to feel as if they are losing control, will turn to the courts as a way to escalate in an attempt to disarm you, retaliate against your legal action, and bring you down further. With children, abusers will especially use the safety of your children against you, from threatening to take custody to potentially harming them. 

Abusers will use these legal strategies to keep power and control over you by throwing everything they can at you. What's most shocking is there isn't any way to stop them because there is no way to limit a person's ability or right to file court orders. When it reaches this point, battling a narcissistic partner can feel like an uphill battle.

The family court system believes that amicable resolutions and keeping a family together are the first path to take, seemingly regardless of the situation. Lawyers, social service workers, people serving as guardian ad litem, judges, clerks, and more, work to assist both parties, often negating the dangers, falling victim to the narcissist's weapons of manipulation tactics and charm. How do you move forward with your life if you constantly struggle for control and protection for yourself and your children? 

How the family court system can fail abuse victims

The family court system was built to protect both parties with the ability to provide an opportunity to present both sides. However, this antiquated system was built on ideals and beliefs hundreds of years old. Although laws and procedures have been written and rewritten, it still is not enough to always support abuse victims, especially in family law matters.

One of the massive failures of the court system is the burden of proof. If you don't have evidence to support that your ex-partner is a danger to yourself or your children, it's often dismissible or unable to be used in court. This is especially true in narcissistic or emotional abuse, which can be difficult to present in a court of law. 

Many judges and court officials strictly adhere to the law and work hard to avoid bias and empathy influencing their decisions. While that may be helpful for others, for abuse victims, it's challenging to convey the depths of the abuse they have experienced at the hands of their abusers, making them feel isolated and adding a layer of complexity to an already complex system. 

On top of working through the burden of proof, and the lack of empathy, the court system is incredibly slow and cumbersome. Cases can drag on for months, even years, leaving victims feeling exhausted and like they are constantly in an endless battle. 

Sadly, too many abuse victims feel helpless, alone, and terrified due to the failures of the family court system and the justice system overall. It's hard to see the light, find closure, and be able to move on with your life if you're working with a system that feels like it's constantly pushing back. 

What should you do if you have an abusive partner or ex?

In an abusive relationship, knowing what's coming for you and what your abusive partner will use is incredibly hard. The first step is separating you and your children from your abuser. You want to avoid escalating the situation when you're in a legal battle, when tensions are high, and you don't know how your partner will react.

The most important action you can take as early as possible is to collect evidence. From police reports, harassing voicemails, videos, threatening text messages, and photos of damage to voice recordings, everything can only help build your case. 

There are a lot of resources to help you find support as you work through legal battles with your narcissistic abuser, from free legal assistance to lawyers working pro bono and more. Getting legal help when your abuser uses the legal system to file an action after action can be costly. You can get help from legal websites such as the American Bar Association or through your state or local government website. 

The family court system often fails abuse victims and, unfortunately, leaves them feeling helpless and victimized over and over again. By collecting evidence, seeking legal help, and staying strong, you can work through the system with the support you need to successfully break free of the hold your abuser has on you and protect your family, allowing you to finally move forward with your life.

As you navigate this heavy and emotional time, the best thing you can do to find peace and healing is to seek help through counseling or coaching. My Emotional Abuse Breakthrough Course can help you work through the recovery you need to take control of your life and set yourself up for success. 

You can also listen to my podcast, Relationship Recovery Podcast, which covers every aspect of emotional abuse and managing ongoing relationships with narcissists. Each episode can provide valuable insights to help you navigate your healing journey. Start with episodes Post Separation Abuse and the Family Court System, The Yellow Rock Method for Communicating with a Narcissistic Co-Parent, or Parallel Parenting Explained to provide helpful insights as you navigate your co-parenting journey. 

About the author
Jessica Knight, MA, CPCC, NICC, is a Certified Life Coach through the Coaches Training Institute (CTI). After receiving her certification in 2016, Jessica has helped women of all ages heal from toxic relationship patterns. After navigating through her own divorce and single mommyhood, Jessica received training in Narcissistic and Emotional Abuse from the Post Traumatic Growth Academy and is a Certified Narcissistic Abuse Specialist. Jessica works with clients virtually and serves women all around the world.
You can connect with Jessica here: Millennial Life Crisis Coaching | Narcissistic and Emotional Abuse Coaching. On Instagram: @jessicaknightcoaching | @emotionalabusecoach