In a family law context, "psychological abuse" refers to instances where one person consistently exposes another person to threatening or intimidating language or behavior. In many instances, psychological abuse exists from one spouse to another, or from one parent towards a child. Psychological abuse is often referred to as emotional abuse or mental abuse.

Psychological abuse is very closely related with physical abuse. Psychological abuse might not always lead to physical domestic violence. However, the vast majority of domestic violence cases involve some element of psychological and emotional abuse. In many domestic violence cases, the threat of physical violence is itself a form of psychological abuse.

Are There Any Legal Consequences for Psychological Abuse?

Psychological abuse can lead to various types of legal issues under family laws. In some cases, psychological abuse can result in:

  • A restraining order against the abuser
  • A damages award to compensate the victim for losses
  • In some cases, criminal charges may result (especially in cases involving physical domestic violence)

In addition, psychological abuse can affect other issues such as child custody and visitation rights. For instance, in a divorce case, a parent might lose their rights to custody if the court finds that they have been psychological abusive to the child.

What Are Some Forms of Psychological Abuse?

Psychological abuse often appears in cases involving child abuse or spousal abuse. The abuse can involve such aspects as:

  • Using a tone of voice that is very harsh or extremely loud (i.e. yelling or screaming)
  • "Feeding" the victim misinformation and lies
  • Forcing the victim to perform or witness demeaning actions
  • Depriving the person of various needs
  • Manipulating the victim’s thoughts and emotions

Thus, when analyzing a psychological abuse case, the court will consider the entirety of the situation to determine the extent of the abuse. In many instances, an expert witness may be needed to assist in the analysis.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

Psychological abuse is a very serious matter and often plays a role in many other types of family law cases. You may wish to hire a family lawyer if you need to file a claim that involves psychological abuse. Your attorney can provide you with legal representation during the court process. Also, your lawyer can help you with advice if you need to clear up any questions or disputes.