If you reach the point that exiting your marriage is the right course of action, there is not a one size fits all plan to do it safely – each case is unique and poses its own obstacles and challenges.
If there is the possibility of violence, I would recommend you contact local authorities to minimize the exposure to danger. Contact your local police or victim’s services to let them know about your intent to leave and to discuss your safety plan.
Here are some guiding principles that can be applied to exiting any marriage that you feel may have the potential to erupt into inappropriate behaviour. The goal is to extricate yourself from the marriage with minimal exposure to nasty behaviour and maximal safety for you and your children.
Figure out where you and your children can stay once you separate
Do not expect wonderful behaviour from your ex. Most angry high-conflict characters will not vacate the matrimonial home, and that is fine. It may be safer to stay with extended family or close friends. It is always safer to be surrounded by people.
Write down your game plan in advance
This way you can systematically evaluate and even share it with a victim’s advocacy (what is “a victim’s advocacy” most people wont known what you are talking about here). Don’t just have it in your mind. Sometimes we forget things when we are in a fearful situation.
Collect and pack supplies
A few weeks in advance of your planned departure, pack up about 14 days of clothing and supplies for you and your children. Stow at the location where you intend to reside
Collect important documents
Take the originals or copies of birth certificates, passports, and medical records for yourself and the children prior to leaving and put in a trusted spot.
On the date of separation take a screen shot of all of your joint and personal bank accounts and investments. You will need this for your financial statements.
Speak to your work colleagues
A few days ahead of your planned departure, let your supervisors at work know what is going on. If there is a chance of violent behaviour – give them a picture of your ex so that they can call the authorities if your ex shows up unannounced at your place of work. This can be a simple conversation like: “I am separating from my husband – l expect him to be difficult and potentially violent. If he shows up at work, I am not willing to meet with him and please have reception call the police” Often they will give you the time off to make the move.
When and where to tell your ex you are leaving
Tell your ex of your intention to separate while the children are safely at school or in a daycare facility. Do this in a public space – not in the matrimonial home then and do not go home unless accompanied by another adult or the police.
Inform your children’s school
Once you have separated, have a meeting with school administrators to inform them of the change in circumstance and potential dangers.
Inform your neighbours
After separation, especially if you have stayed in the matrimonial residence, inform your neighbours about the change in circumstance. This is to help keep you safe. There is no need to feel shame – you have done nothing wrong.