How to Leave an Abusive Relationship: The Exit Action Plan

First things first ladies, lets get our ducks in a row here! We need careful planning with military precision; leave no stone unturned, nothing to chance. Remember the object of the game here is to ensure he has no idea you are leaving and after you are gone will be unable to easily find you.

We also need to ensure that your new life gets off to a secure, problem free start. Now roll up your sleeves and let’s get started.

We will be giving a full comprehensive strategy for HOW to leave your abuser. Keep in mind that we can’t do the work for you — you have to be fully commited to making this change yourself. We provide the information, but the job is up to you!

Understanding Abuse: The Why

If you are going to make the step and leave an abuser, here are a few articles you might want to read to understand why abuse happens and how it affects you.

Once you Understand that you are being abused and in an abusive relationship and are READY to actually take the steps to LEAVE, then follow our exact steps BELOW.

The Steps for Leaving an Abusive Relationship

Here’s the basic plan of attack for leaving an abusive situation (especially if you are a woman leaving an abusive man). These are discussed in exact details in this article.

Before Your Leave…

  • Hide Tracks on Computer
  • Find a Place to Go
  • Seek Legal help

After You Leave…

  • Change Your Address
  • Change Your Social Security Number (SSN)
  • Get a (new) Bank Account
  • Change Telephone/Unpublish Number
  • Deal with Money and Job Issues
  • Get Credit In Your Own Name
  • Protect Your New Accounts
  • Contact Department of Motor Vehicles
  • Cancel Joint Accounts
  • Seek Custody
  • Seek Divorce
  • If You are an Immigrant Read This


Here’s a breakdown of each step exactly…

Change Your Address


If you live in California you’re in luck! Check out theSafe At Home program. This is a no-cost mail forwarding service designed to help victims of domestic violence and stalking keep their new addresses confidential.

If you read nothing else, read this. Did you know, that when you file a change of address with many financial institutions, they will automatically send a confirmation of your new address to your old address? If you are living with him (and I am assuming you are), this will tell him exactly where you have gone! Even worse, many of the employees of these companies do not even know that their computer automatically generates these letters and sends them out. One particular company told me that they could not override this automatic sending out of letters to the old address despite my pleas for their intervention and help.

What can you do? Get an alternate address right now, use your work address, a friend or relatives address or get a post office box and use it for anything that will be moving with you. Why take the chance? Use this address when opening new bank accounts in your own name, applying for credit cards, jobs, whatever.

When you do eventually move, simply file a change of address with the post office from your ‘alternate’ address to your new home. If you file a change of address with the post office from the home you share with the abuser, there is always the possibility he could go to the post office and ask if any mail has been forward and find out where you are. Don’t take the chance, this is easily avoided by getting an alternate address NOW.

Find a Place to Go

Where will you go when you leave? Do you have a friend or relative you can stay with? If not there are many shelters you can go to while you sort your self out. If you would prefer, you can always book yourself into a cheap motel for a few days until you find a more permanent place – I did. Start thinking about it now and have a short list of places to go. For more information on shelters in your area, check the links page

Social Security

If you feel the abuser may try to use your social security number to track you down or to abuse your credit, you can have it changed. The Social Security Administration domestic violence page offers new social security numbers to victims of domestic abuse, on request. For information on benefits, medicare and all other social security questions, go to their main site at (Tel 1-800-772-1213, TTY 1-800-325-0778)

Get a NEW Bank Account

Your gonna need one of these! And in your own name too. Remember that alternate address we talked about? Use that when opening your new bank account. When choosing a bank account, make sure they have branches in the area you plan on moving too; it’s no good getting an account at your local credit union in Ohio and then moving to New York! Do your homework, make inquiries, call banks or credit unions and ask questions.

Find Money / Get Financial Assistance

Yip! You’re gonna need this too. Where can you get if from? All kinds of places; if you work, have some of your salary sent to your new bank account. What if he is a financial control freak? All is not lost; collect change from his pockets, save some of the grocery money, do anything you can do and save up. When you are ready to go, don’t throw your wedding ring at him, pawn it! Don’t burn your wedding dress, sell it!

There are many boutiques that deal exclusively in used bridal wear. Sell/pawn anything you can get your hands on before you go. Right before you leave (like a few days before) see if you can cash in any mutual funds/savings accounts/CD’s or anything else you jointly own. This is a risky business, so only do it if you are sure he won’t find out until you are gone. Call the financial institution before hand and enquire about redemption procedures, it may be easier than you think.

After you leave, you can consider getting a new job (if you don’t have one), borrowing money from close family, or seeking out financial assistance.

Get Credit In Your Own Name

This is a must; you want an apartment, you need credit. If you already have good credit in your sole name, you can skip this section but if not don’t worry. Remember that bank account you opened? Time to go and get a secured credit card.

There are two ways you can do this, you can put say $200 in a savings account which you can’t touch (yet) and get a credit card with a $200 credit limit or you can get a friend or relative to co-sign for you. Please, please, please be financially responsible. In order to get a good credit rating, you must use the card and pay it off in the same month, after about three months, it will start reporting to one or all of the credit bureaus. Now you can go to your favorite store and get a store card. The aim here is to build about three good (always paid on time) lines of credit.

Protect Your New Accounts

When you call up a financial institution, or anyone you hold an account with (telephone company, utilities etc) you are asked for your social security number and maybe your mothers maiden name for security identification. He has that information doesn’t he? Protect your new accounts by instructing the institution to replace your social security number with a password known only to you for security verification purposes.

Here’s a valuable piece of advice I received from T. Rowe Price: change your account number. They do not advertise this service, but in the case of divorce or separation, they will change your account number. As this is one of the pieces of information requested from a caller before transactions on the account can be completed, if you have a new account number which is unknown to your ex, he can’t meddle in your financial affairs.

Take Your Vehicle (Here’s How to Take It)

Department of Motor Vehicles (The following information may be California Specific)

Do you have a vehicle you intend to take with you? If it is registered in your sole name, great. If not, look carefully at the title. If the title states (his name) OR (your name) you are good to go. When you move, you can make an appointment with DMV (yes, they do take appointments, that way you don’t have to stand in line for hours) file your change of address and have his name taken off the title, the title change costs about $15.00. Because the title states OR either one of you can take the other off title at any time without the other parties signature or knowledge. However, if the title states (his name) AND (your name) you will need his signature on the title turning it over to you… If you leave in a Jointly titled vehicle and his name remains on title, he will be able to trace you through the vehicle. Find the DMV office near you.

In the United Kingdom go to The DVLA.

Seperate from Joint Bank Accounts

When you leave, you will want to cut all ties. If he is the principal on any joint accounts, you can in most cases, contact the financial institution and sign a form removing you as a co-signer. This will be easy if it’s a bank account or any kind of account with money in it, harder if you owe. If you are the primary, well, you can just remove him! Again, be prepared, call all institutions in advance and check on their policy, you don’t have to give your name, just tell them you are making a general enquiry.

Get Legal Help

If you haven’t done it already, now would be a good time to go to your local women’s crisis center for information. They will know the law in your State and will be able to help you find legal aid as well as offer counseling and assistance with housing, protection orders, child custody, divorce, etc…

Here is an excellent resource:

The mission of Women’s Law Initiative is to provide easy-to-understand legal information to women living with or escaping domestic violence.

They can tell you exactly what the law is where you live in words that we can all understand. They will tell you how to file a restraining order, information on State statutes, how to downloand court forms, who to call and what resources are available in your area.

Get Full Custody of Children

US STATE FAMILY AND CUSTODY LAW STATUTES AND CODE a State by State description of family law in each State. Please read this before you take any action. Be a step ahead of the game and know the law in your State. Help for mothers and their children. This site gives excellent resources and information if you wish to protect your children from your abuser.

Some States make provision for the husband to get custody of the children if the wife abandons the marriage. Sadly, many women lose custody of their children to the abuser beacuse they find them selves on the wrong side of the law and lacking in evidence to prove the father of their children is not a suitable parent. Make sure this doesn’t happen to you! Check your State Family Law now and see what the law is.

So, you know the law in your State, now what? You must prove that custody of the children being awarded to you is in the best interests of the child. Remember, standing up in court and saying “he is abusive, he beat me, he drinks…” won’t do you any good. Alligations of drug abuse, alcoholism and domestic abuse are common in child custody cases. Pointing them out is not enough, you must show the court that this behavior makes him unable to care for the children.

He drinks heavily and is often intoxicated leaving him unable to supervise and care for the child therefor giving him custody is not in the best interests of the child will help your case for custody a lot more.

When awarding custody, the court always looks out for the best interests of the child.

You must also prove that domestic abuse, drug use or alcohol abuse is happening. To do this, keep copies of police reports, photographs of injuries or damage, medical reports, affidavits signed by witnesses, evidence of drug arrests or drink driving convictions. You must have evidence, you can’t just say it’s happening.

If you need to leave urgently to protect yourself or your children from harm, call the police and get a police report. The police will also be able to help you with emergency shelter accommodation and help you get a temporary protection order or domestic abuse order, which ever is used in your State. This is also good solid evidence of the abuse and could help prove your case that awarding custody of the child to the father is not in the best interests of the child.

Hiring an Attorney

CLICK HERE for an excellent list of questions you should ask before hiring an attorney, provided by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence,

Your Day in Court: What to Know

If you do have to go to court for any reason, here are some points to remember:

  • Make sure you know in advance, exactly where the court is and which room you need to go to.
  • Turn up and on time – the court doesn’t like to have it’s time wasted.
  • Dress smartly – wear a suit or very smart clothes. If you don’t have a suit, borrow one or buy one from your local thrift store or charity shop.
  • Look professional – look like a business woman (long hair tied back, go light on the makeup).
  • Be calm at all times. Even if you are facing lies about your character or behavior, don’t lose it. Take a deep breath and speak calmly.
  • Tell the truth.
  • Make sure you have copies of any evidence (photo’s, affidavits, police reports, protection orders, etc…) on you.

This may sound obvious, but you probably have a million other things on your mind right now and sadly, appearances do make a difference. You need to give yourself every possible advantage. Remember, if you are in court about child custody, the court is interested ONLY in the best interests of the child. We know you are the better parent, make sure you LOOK like the better parent.

Here are some other useful sites: – Federal Laws and Domestic Violence

The Domestic Violence Survival Kit is an invaluable resource in all matters to do with the police, protection orders and the law regarding domestic violence.

Call your local county court house and ask for “family law”. Most court houses now have a clerk who can help lay people understand the law and answer questions. Many now have web sites describing the procedures for filing divorce, protection orders and arranging child custody in your area.

Call your State Coalition on Domestic Violence for additional information in your State.

Another great resource is the American Bar Association’s Consumer’s Guide to Legal help on the Internet

a listing of pro bono (free) legal services nationwide provided by the American Bar Association.

FindLaw, Inc. ( offers a wealth of legal resources and information.

You can always call the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-7233)for information on the law in your State and they will redirect you to a local resource.

Check out a wonderful web site run by Susan, a Patrol Officer in NC. This web site offers lot’s of information on Domestic abuse and the law.

I asked Susan about child custody in cases of domestic abuse, she said in NC all a woman has to do is file a domestic abuse order and if it is granted he should not have a chance to get the kids. However, the abuse must be reported, she can’t just say it’s happening. Susan’s advice : Report the abuse, every time.

Get a Divorce (Some Advice)

You can file divorce in California without his knowledge. Divorce can be a costly business, but the cost is significantly reduced if you use a paralegal instead of a divorce attorney; look for them in the yellow pages. If you are smart and have followed all the tips so far, you will have your own bank accounts, credit, address and have gotten all the money you need and taken your self off (or made arrangements too) any joint accounts. In California you can always contact the Family Law Facilitator at your superior county court house for more help and information on divorce. Most court houses have information available to the public, call up and ask for “family law”.

Following is a list of documents necessary to start the divorce process. If you can get copies of these yourself, it will speed the process and save you money.

  1. Tax Return for the last 2 years.
  2. Pay stubs for the last 3 months.
  3. Bank Statements for the last 3 months.
  4. Any Brokerage account information for the last 3 months.
  5. Retirement Account or Pension Plan statements for the last 3 months.
  6. Union statements for the last 3 months.
  7. Copies of any Life Insurance Policy that has a cash value.
  8. Copy of the Deed of Trust to all properties owned.
  9. Copies of the Pink Slip to all owned vehicles or a copy of the registration if the car is being financed.
  10. Documentation of any other assets, debts, or income not already mentioned.
  11. A list of all your monthly expenses.
  12. A list of all debts owed including loans, credit cards, etc.
  13. If children are involved, their names, ages and date of birth, and every address they have lived for the last 5 years.

Here is the process in my county in California, check with your local court house as the process varies around the country. First, you see a paralegal/attorney and have your divorce papers drawn up. My paralegal charged me about $200. Then you go to the court house for the first filing (there are two filings) this will cost you another say $200. Then you need to have him served, you can not do this your self, you can have a friend do it but if he is violent, best call in the professionals. I paid a professional server $40 to serve my husband, ask your paralegal to recommend one or just look in the phone book under “bail bonds” or “process servers” these people often serve divorce papers too.

Once he is served, he has 30 days to contest the divorce. If he does not contest the divorce and the thirty days is past, you (or you can send a friend if you are already out of town) do the second filing. Just hand in the papers your paralegal/attorney sends you in at the court house, and that’s it! You are done. If he does contest, contact the Family Law Facilitator for help.

In my case it was that simple, we had no children or joint property. If you do have children, contact the Family Law Facilitator at your local county court house for advice.

What If You’re an Immigrant?

Fortunately aliens, if you have been abused by your US Citizen or Resident Alien spouse, the law is on your side here. Under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) passed by Congress in 1994. Under this act, the spouses and children of United States citizens or lawful permanent residents may self-petition to obtain lawful permanent residency without the abusers knowledge or assistance. For more information, check out the INS web page . You can also call the National Immigration Project 617-227-9727, unlike the INS they are immigrant friendly and will direct you to a non profit organization in your area, specializing in immigration issues.

Here’s the skinny: If you are a permanent resident and you obtained your residency through marriage and have been married less than two years, your Perment Resident status is conditional. That means your card has an expiration date on it of exactly two years after it was issued. In order to remove the conditional status, you and your spouse must complete Form I-751 (petition to remove the conditions on residence) 90 days before the expiration date on your card.

If you are already separated/divorced from your spouse by this time or your spouse refuses to sign it, you can file a waver of the joint filing. Use the same form but tick a different box. If your spouse did sign the form, but you separated before it was approved (it can take up to a year), just file a change of address with the service center, your old local office and the new local office where you have moved to.

Another valuable piece of advice; don’t tell them anything unless they ask. Just file the change of address, don’t tell them why you have moved. People move all the time right? It’s not a red flag. Just give them the old address, new address, your name, alien registration number, receipt number and date of birth and THAT’S ALL. Follow up on the change of address because they are terrible for not updating addresses.

For more information on immigration, check out the INS web page or call toll free 1-800-375-5283 for general information. Don’t worry about calling this number, they won’t ask for your name only your zip code and you can give them a zip in Alaska if you like!

In any case, you will want to cover your back, right? I was advised by several agencies to gather as much “proof” of the abuse as possible. If you have any friends who have witnessed the abuse, get them to write an affidavit describing what they have seen/heard and sign it. Get copies of police reports if the police have ever been called, a copy of your protection order if you have filed one, or your divorce/separation papers. If you have been to see a counselor about the abuse, ask them for transcripts of the sessions or a letter outlining why you were there. Collect anything you can think of that PROVES he has abused you. The law IS on your side, you probably won’t need this, but why take the chance?

If you are not a legal US Resident or or not married to a legal US Resident Click on For help.

Change Your Telephone (Here’s How)

If you want your number unlisted, tell your local phone company you want to be non-published, that way neither your address nor your telephone number will be listed with information or in the white pages – check up on it periodically.

When a number is non-published with Pacific Bell it takes effect with 1 to 12 hours, call later on that day and check your number really is not listed. All numbers, which are published (listed) in November, will appear in the white pages the following year.

check with your local phone company regarding their policies and directory change lead times.

Another tip: Ask your local telephone company to list only your first initial with your last name instead of spelling out your first name and including your middle initial – this makes it much harder to identify and find you.

Pacific Bells Business Center is 1-800-310-2355 website: www.

Hide Your Tracks on Your Computer (Here’s How)

If you are using your home computer (the one he has access to) to do research regarding your escape BEWARE – he could find out!

If you use Microsoft internet explorer, here’s how to delete your history. If you use a different browser, check out the American Bar Association Commission on Domestic Violence page on internet privicy.

To delete the record of all the sites you have visited, while still online, left click your mouse on the HISTORY icon in the tool bar at the top of your screen. At the left hand side of your screen, a list of all the sites you have visited appears. Using this list, you can delete individual sites or the whole day’s history by right clicking your mouse over the selected area and then selecting DELETE.

You can also delete your HISTORY by left clicking TOOLS on the tool bar at the top of the page and from the drop down menu select INTERNET OPTIONS, go down to HISTORY and click DELETE. You can also reduce the number of DAYS TO KEEP PAGES IN HISTORY here. While you are here, look for TEMPORARY INTERNET FILES click DELETE. This will remove all of the addresses stored in the drop down ADDRESS bar.

Now to erase all trace, go to START,click on WINDOWS, click on COOKIES, this will display every site you have ever visited, ever. DELETE anything you don’t want him to see.

This is not sure fire. If you you want to be absolutely sure he can’t check up on your internet use, use a computer he does not have access to or go to your local library for free internet access.

Remember to change your passwords often and especially after you leave him. Just in case…
For more info on protecting your internet privacy visit the American Bar Association Commission on Domestic Violence.

Need a Job? Train for Free

So, you will now be free to get a job or you may have to get a job to support yourself. What if you haven’t worked for years and you have no marketable skills? Here is what I did: I registered with an employment agency which offered computer training in a variety of programs for free. Most agencies are free to you, the applicant. Call and check what kind of in-house training they offer. You can train for free and they could even find you a job! Look in the Yellow Pages under employment agencies.

For employment, we suggest you look at Best Jobs for Moms.

There are also some Legit Work From Home Jobs such as Article Freelancing, Niche Marketing, and Blogging. Read those articles for detailed information on such.

Resource List

The list below is not comprehensive, but provides links to known available help. For local help, internet search your state, province or county. These organisations should not ask for money in return for help. If any do, search again for charities and organisations that offer the help for free.

Hotlines & Resources

Cultural links

Social Security & Welfare


Legal Help

  • Michael Aaron

    First of all why is it just for women !!!! ive been treated like shit more times than ive ever treated any woman in my life like that , how bout you level the playing field here

  • jessica gilbert

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  • jessica gilbert

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