Divorce at Altitude: A Podcast on Colorado Family Law

How to Stay Safe Leaving an Abusive Marriage with Tracy Malone | Episode 152

May 05, 2023 Ryan Kalamaya & Amy Goscha Season 1 Episode 152
Divorce at Altitude: A Podcast on Colorado Family Law
How to Stay Safe Leaving an Abusive Marriage with Tracy Malone | Episode 152
Show Notes Transcript

This week on the podcast, we focus on the topic of how to stay safe leaving an abusive spouse. We are happy to be joined again on the show by Tracy Malone, to talk us through the top ten tips for staying safe when leaving an abusive relationship. Tracy is an internationally recognized expert on both emotional abuse and narcissistic personality disorder, a narcissist abuse survival coach, an author, and is also a survivor of narcissistic abuse. 

We talk about creating a safety plan, gathering evidence, hotlines, notifying family and friends, and much more. These tips are practical and paramount in making sure you are safe. This episode may be a difficult conversation and topic for some, but above all else, if you are concerned about your safety, please contact your local authorities.

Key Points From This Episode:

  • Tracy gives listeners a quick overview of what she does and how to contact her.
  • Do not hesitate; in a situation where you fear for your life, call the police. 
  • A note on recording in Colorado (where it is legal).
  • Tracy shares the first tip for making sure you are safe: Create a safety plan.
  • Second tip: Gather and keep evidence, it will be valuable at some point.
  • Third tip: Reach out and seek help from available hotlines.
  • Fourth tip: How to go about notifying friends and family.
  • Fifth tip: The importance of changing routines and passwords, and that’s every possible password. 
  • Sixth tip: Why you should, and can, obtain a restraining order. 
  • Seventh tip: Be cautious about what you put out into the world, especially on social media.
  • Eighth tip: Seeking professional help regarding your safety. 
  • Ninth tip: Why staying alert is important.
  • The tenth tip: Advice regarding safe communication. 

What is Divorce at Altitude?

Ryan Kalamaya and Amy Goscha provide tips and recommendations on issues related to divorce, separation, and co-parenting in Colorado. Ryan and Amy are the founding partners of an innovative and ambitious law firm, Kalamaya | Goscha, that pushes the boundaries to discover new frontiers in family law, personal injuries, and criminal defense in Colorado.

To subscribe to Divorce at Altitude, click here and select your favorite podcast player. To subscribe to Kalamaya | Goscha's YouTube channel where many of the episodes will be posted as videos, click here. If you have additional questions or would like to speak to one of our attorneys, give us a call at 970-429-5784 or email us at info@kalamaya.law.



Ryan Kalamaya (3s):
Hey Everyone. I'm Ryan Kalamaya

Amy Goscha (6s):
And. I'm Amy Goscha.

Ryan Kalamaya (8s):
Welcome to the Divorce at Altitude A Podcast on Colorado. Family Law.

Amy Goscha (13s):
Divorce is not easy. It really sucks. Trust me I. know Besides. being an experienced divorce attorney, I'm also a Divorce client.

Ryan Kalamaya (20s):
Whether you are someone considering Divorce or a fellow Family Law attorney, listen in for weekly tips and insight into topics related to Divorce co parenting and Separation in Colorado. Welcome Back to another episode of Divorce Altitude. This is Ryan Kalamaya This week. we are going to talk about how to stay safe leaving an abusive spouse, And. we are joined by Tracy Malone, who's been on the podcast before. And. we have 10 of the best tips for people in an Abusive relationship. But before we get into the top 10 list, Tracy, Welcome, Back to the show.

Ryan Kalamaya (1m 5s):

Tracy Malone (1m 5s):
You for having me. I'm so happy to be here.

Ryan Kalamaya (1m 7s):
Yeah. And for Listeners, they are getting to this for the first time Tracy's come on, she's talked about narcissism and for Listeners that don't know who you are, Tracy, can you maybe just give an overview of, of the type of work you do and where they can find out more information on you?

Tracy Malone (1m 23s):
Sure. I am an international coach helping people through narcissistic divorces as well as just any narcissist that might be in their life. I'm an author of a book on divorcing Your Narcissist, And I am happy to be here.

Ryan Kalamaya (1m 37s):
We're gonna talk about the top 10 pips in terms of how to stay safe leaving in an Abusive relationship. Before we get into that, if you're listening to this, this is a difficult conversation, a difficult topic for people to listen to. And above all else, if you are concerned about your safety, then you need to call the police before we kind of get in. But we're gonna talk about the top 10 things that people should consider. And so let's jump into it. Tracy, what's the first tip for people staying safe in an Abusive relationship?

Tracy Malone (2m 11s):
Thank you. What we need to not understand is when you're in an Abusive relationship, many people not only fear for their safety, but they could be fearing for their lives. So not all Abusive people beat people and break ribs, but I've seen that happen with true narcissist and Abusive people. So you don't know where that line will be crossed. So lots of warnings don't ever underestimate them, right? They will not hesitate to call the police on you. They will not hesitate to call Child protective services get restraining orders on you. So please, if you feel like you're in danger, this is the most important thing that Do not hesitate.

Tracy Malone (2m 51s):
As riot said, call the police, right? And we're here in Colorado where recording people is legal. And that's an important thing to know because if they start to escalate a conversation, do record them. You never know what's gonna happen. And in domestic violence situations, you might not have the wherewithal to like turn the camera and pull the phone out to them, but just turn it on and record when you can. They actually have a recording pen, which for those on the podcast can't see, but it's an Amazon pen that records for 16 hours. If you're having such high conflict conversations, that might be a good investment to make sure that you can capture more. Never underestimate their need for a vengeance during Divorce because they flip into something we call black and white thinking.

Tracy Malone (3m 37s):
Black and white thinking is you're either all good or all evil and you don't get the chance to be friends and have a nice friendly Divorce when you're with someone who's Abusive. So keep that in mind. Planning for your safety is the most important part. And so if we start by looking at that, a safety plan is what do I need and can I get some spare clothes or some money to my friends or my mother's house and keep them in the garage in the event that you have to get away, think about hotels and what kind of things you'd need. You wanna take your your passports, you wanna take the birth certificates, you wanna take the thing, so my safety planning and go And, I got this bag at my moms that has all this stuff, you're gonna be in a much better place.

Tracy Malone (4m 18s):
Documenting the abuse, as we know is such an important thing. And yet, when in the heat of the moment when someone's yelling and screaming at you, you don't document it, but try to do it afterwards. This is what happened. Start to put that in even as much as going into an an email exchange with your lawyer or with someone just to say, this is what's happening. So now you've got that piece of proof and maybe the recording and it's gonna make that evidence show the truth of what happened. Keep this in mind when we talk about recording. We're here in Colorado where it is legal, so if you're recording they could be recording just as easily. So narcissist, who is my specialties or any kind of abusers, often push us to reactive abuse just so that they can record you and say, look at how angry she is or he is, right?

Tracy Malone (5m 7s):
So know that if you are recording, they could be too. So as much as you want to scream back and defend yourself, try to walk away when you can. But if you are able to record them again, you're in a better place than not having it. My last narcissist did record me and then he edited the, the recording and he then submitted that to court and they added more charges when he had me arrested for going to forgive him when he was sleeping with someone else. So again, the recording can go both ways. They can edit it. So if you have your own, which is what the police said to me, well Myam, if you had recorded jurors And, we could see that he tampered with evidence making this fake one you're calling.

Tracy Malone (5m 51s):
Then we would have something. But you don't have the original So, we only have that. We're gonna add the charges. So I want people to understand how, how vital that is. Right? The normal things that we would think about are domestic violence, hot worms. But here in Colorado we also have agencies that can help us. So you call the hotline and they can refer you to people that can help you get a safe house if you need it. They can give you counseling if you need it. So there's a lot of benefit to calling domestic violence hotline. So just get that in there.

Ryan Kalamaya (6m 22s):
Yeah. And Tracy said the tip for people to, to kind of summarize, the first tip is to create a a C P plan and you address that. The Second tip is to take evidence and that is what you were getting into with the, the recording. As a former prosecutor, I can tell you that in terms of keeping evidence, the documentation such as text messages, pictures, oftentimes people will take a picture if there's some sort of physical abuse and it doesn't look actually that bad right after, and that's because you might see some red spots. But it just, with the lighting, it's often the day or two after where the bruising unfortunately takes place.

Ryan Kalamaya (7m 5s):
But really tip number two is to keep evidence. and that is gonna be very helpful if you need to obtain a restraining order or call the police. And then for tip number three, it is to contact a domestic violence hotline. And there's various organizations, nonprofits, depending on where you are located, batter women or safe houses, which is what you were referencing, the Fourth tip Tracy. can you tell our Listeners, in terms of notifying friends and family, what should people be doing in notifying friends and family?

Tracy Malone (7m 41s):
Well, when they notify friends and family, they notify them of their concerns. Maybe they're showing them some texts, maybe they're even someone that you could forward texts or emails to screenshots of things. So if you're worried about your phone being erased because they've gotten the keys to that phone plan, telling your friends, Hey, I'm gonna send you some stuff, hold onto it for me. Keeping those documents in your friend's garage and going, Hey, could you help me with this? And making sure they're there to support you and, and that's really what you wanna do when you're notifying them your plans.

Ryan Kalamaya (8m 14s):
Yeah, and And I was just actually down in Boulder talking to a law class on domestic violence. And it, the professor had asked me to come and talk about experts and how they're involved in divorces because there's this intersection between criminal and Family Law, domestic relations. I showed a clip of Big Little Lies, the H B O series with Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon. It gets into these issues cuz for Listeners that have watched that it very visual in a fantastic realistic way kind of goes through Nicole Kidman. She's married to a character Perry, but she has to Create a safety plan.

Ryan Kalamaya (8m 54s):
She goes and sees a therapist. But the friendship between these friends, it's a real central point of that story. But all of these things that we're getting into, you can see it because she is an Abusive, you know, relationship. And, I, think, can I get into the narcissism? Is that people don't wanna believe it. This is actually happening to them and there's shame and they feel that there's some mental health aspects and that is something else that people should consider And. we will get into that. But notifying friends and family is a really key important. It's our our Fourth tip. Tracy tip number five. and that is changing your routines and passwords.

Ryan Kalamaya (9m 36s):
can you tell our Listeners a little bit more about what people should be considering in terms of changing their routines and passwords?

Tracy Malone (9m 43s):
Well, again, it falls into the stalker world, right? And by changing your routines going in different direction, you'll actually start to see if someone's following you. If someone is following you in a stalker situation, it would be really helpful to pick up your phone, take notes of license plates. That might be, take pictures of people that you see stalking you. That's part of changing your routine. If you're still seeing it and you always went to school to dropped up, the kids left, right, left right, and you went a different way, but the car's still following you, then you might even wanna pull right up into the police station and go, Hey, this guy's been behind me. He'll probably dodge before then, but you're still at that place and now you've gotta report, you're sitting there in the police station, you can help yourself by going, Hey, I'm really scared.

Tracy Malone (10m 30s):
This is their license plate and get that taken care of. But changing your passwords is so important and it's not just changing your password on, you know, your laptop. You certainly wanna do that. You wanna change your password on say your Amazon account. I've seen them ring up all kinds of bills and it's, it went on your card because that's the card that was always on there. So you have to be really very cautious about what you're changing. But I think another thing that's huge that people often forget is the garage door opener key code. They get in and you forgot and you changed the locks and you forgot the garage and poof, they're in your house, right? Because they knew where the spare was under the pot in the garage.

Tracy Malone (11m 10s):
Once they're in, they're in, right? So knowing that that's important, but I also like to tell people that the internet password, if you can change that the minute they leave, because they can sit in your driveway late at night and if your computer's on and you're on the network, they can just dial into it and access your, your emails and what your communications are to the lawyer. I recently had a client that this is exactly what happened, and he obliterated the folder, called everything for the lawyer, and then she had to start again. So make sure those things are backed up to a cloud or something that again, a friend or some your lawyer, just get them off of there because everything they do from your phone to your social media to your computer, they're gonna hack into it and find things.

Tracy Malone (11m 55s):
If you've got, let's say, a QuickBooks, I had someone yesterday whose QuickBooks was hacked and all the records were entered. So anything you can think of that has a password, just do it. It doesn't matter if it's like audible, I don't care. But guess what? If you have an audible password hacked, then they're seeing that you just bought my Divorce on divorcing your narcissist and oh, you know, the gig is up. So setting up new accounts for things that they might have access to is also a good thing.

Ryan Kalamaya (12m 23s):
This episode is brought to you by our law firm, Kalamaya Goscha Amy And I describe our law firm as an innovative and ambitious trial team. The bushes, the boundaries to discover new frontiers in Family, Law personal injuries and criminal defense in Colorado. We currently have offices in Aspen, Glenwood Springs, Edwards, Denver, and Boulder. If you wanna find out more, visit our website, Kalamaya dot law now to the show. Yeah, we have seen and have kind of an advisement for our clients, the Apple password. And when you have the share my location, you can see the stalking.

Ryan Kalamaya (13m 4s):
There's also the sync where you can get your text messages on your iPad, your watch, your phone, and if they have a child's iPad, they sometimes you can see the text messages of the other So. we frequently advise people, you, you need to change the password on that, the bank information, the password, your pin, all of those things. It's fine when you're married. Oftentimes we share with those pieces of, of information, but it is best practice to to change those, especially when you wanna stay safe and you are dealing with an abusive spouse. The Sixth tip Tracy obtain a restraining order. I can weigh in on the legal issues, but can you maybe talk about from the perspective of a Divorce coach or someone that has been the kind of victim of, of abuse, what are things that people should consider when they are Seeking a a restraining order?

Tracy Malone (13m 60s):
Sure. So obviously all your evidence is gonna be needed. Why do you need this restraining order? But it's also a scary thing when somebody is like, oh gosh, I'm gonna get a restraining order on my spouse. It is an emotional thing, right? That's again, another time where you would need some emotional help to get you through and do it, but it will protect you. And as crazy as it sounds that you have to get a restraining order on your spouse, please do it. If you feel that you are in danger or you don't feel safe and you've got some evidence to, hey, they texted me 800 times, they're banging on my door, I've got it on the ring camera. If you've got some evidence that shows Why, you should get that.

Tracy Malone (14m 40s):
Please do. Because it will save your life.

Ryan Kalamaya (14m 43s):
Yeah. In Colorado, when you file for Divorce, there's an automatic injunction that goes into place, which is the same as a restraining order and it prevents one party from harassing, annoying molesting or disturbing the piece of the other. You can ask for an expansion of that. And so what molesting the piece of somebody could kind of be up for interpretation. And as you've spoken on on other platforms and on this podcast about narcissist, they'll figure out a way to kind of push the envelope and work around kind of the rules. But there are ways that people can get around that. The response to that. In other episodes, I've talked about the interrelationship between criminal restraining orders and a protection orders and there's kind of a, a relationship there and people can find out more information in terms of our how-to series, but you can obtain a restraining order in Divorce and you know, those are serious legal remedies that people should consult an attorney on.

Ryan Kalamaya (15m 44s):
But our Seventh tip, as we kind of round out the second half of our list here, Tracy be cautious on social media. And I mean, this is one of the things I tell clients, you gotta be cautious, just begin with. But it is even more important when you are wanting to stay safe when leaving an abusive spouse. So talk to me about being cautious on, on social media. You're all over social media, so, but you have to be cautious. So Tracy, what are the considerations that people should keep in mind in social media? Well,

Tracy Malone (16m 17s):
The biggest mistake I see is if their spouse blocked them and then they go, I'm safe. They block me. I don't have to worry, but guess what? It's like a door. They can open it. So if you double block them, they open the door, they still can't get in and see what you're doing. Again, putting out posts and, and just be careful what you're posting. This should be a time where if you posted every single day, you dial it down. You don't give anything that could be used against you, not only in in the Divorce, but as far as she took the kids to Disney World. Oh my gosh, if that comes out and, and you forgot to block your spouse's brother or their child, your nephew, right?

Tracy Malone (16m 59s):
It doesn't matter, whoever it is, you, you block the whole tree. I forgot to block my best man, And. I didn't see that he was watching, but for two years after my Divorce, he was feeding intel to my ex, right? So, oops, big mistake. Go through your friend's list and if you have any doubt, please block them. If you have their mother, their aunt, their cousin, I don't care if they were your best friend, if they are your best friend, go listen, best friend. I know you're my ex's sister, but I have to block you. We can still chat if you want to and we'll chat this way, but I'm not gonna let you be on there and, and please don't take offense. So you have ammunition to explain to people other than that you don't have to explain, but just block them.

Tracy Malone (17m 44s):
Be cautious about what you're putting out there because it can and will be used against you.

Ryan Kalamaya (17m 50s):
I've also seen people, the, the kind of location that is affiliated with social media, Strava, which is somewhat of a social media in terms of activities, bike rides running. It inherently will kind of reduce the last bit so that people can't figure out exactly what your address is, where you started, where you stopped. But that aspect, when you kind of tag yourself and you say, I am in Aspen Colorado or I am older right now, there may be some safety considerations certainly with that. And so people need to be cautious on social media. Number eight, Tracy that you fall directly within this and that is considered professional help.

Ryan Kalamaya (18m 33s):
So when people are Seeking out therapy or counseling, can you walk people through what are considerations they should keep in mind when considering professional help in staying safe with an abusive spouse?

Tracy Malone (18m 47s):
So there's so many things when it falls under the professional umbrella of support, making sure that they're trauma informed therapists or coaches, make sure they understand what's gonna happen or could happen and guide you. Making sure that you can get to a support group. I have a support group that meets down in Lakewood Colorado and I'm about to do a Zoom one next month for, for the members from my two groups Boulder in Denver. And having other people that get it is gonna help you. So whether it's an actual therapist or a coach like me, or whether you're going into support groups, whether they're in person or on Zoom or even into a support group, I have 16,000 people in my Facebook group.

Tracy Malone (19m 31s):
They get it. There's people on the other side of the world. So if it's two o'clock in the morning and you're freaking out, you could put it on there. Get help. And that's another reason why we wanna make sure that our ex doesn't have access to our social media, right? If you join something like that and they still have your password to get into Facebook, they could go in and take screenshots of all the things you said about them. So again, caution and changing that password when any of your social media is really gonna help.

Ryan Kalamaya (19m 57s):
Yeah, and our Ninth tip is, it should be obvious, but it's staying alert. And so maybe provide some examples or talk a little bit about staying alert, but does seem to be fairly obvious Tracy, but I think a lot of people, they just don't really realize how important it is. You be aware of their surroundings.

Tracy Malone (20m 20s):
Yeah, And, I, it's an important one because a stalker, an Abusive person gets riled up for no reason at all. And they can make it into something much bigger than we can imagine. So just keeping alert if there's a strange car behind you, I was followed once, And I was like, okay, I'm gonna turn left. I'm not going that way, but I'll turn. Oh man, they just turn, how about if I pull into this weird cul-de-sac? Oh my god, they followed me, right? Being alert and seeing your surroundings because they could easily hire a private investigator or they could have some more nefarious person out there just checking on what you're doing. I had a client that always had to do her calls and a park because her house wasn't safe.

Tracy Malone (21m 2s):
Every single time we were there, there was another stalker. She'd sit there, she'd have to take license plates and report them. So it happens more than you think. So really stay alert.

Ryan Kalamaya (21m 12s):
And our final point to round out our top 10 is don't communicate in person or alone. And so Tracy, can you get into the communication when you are trying to stay safe in an Abusive relationship? Yeah.

Tracy Malone (21m 28s):
If you're trying to stay safe and you're afraid of them, it should be a, we have to find another way to communicate versus in person. But again, there's that exchange with the kids and you might see them, but set up a plan, have somebody help you go, okay, you still have to do the exchanges, here's how we're gonna do it. And make sure that if you do have to see them, that's important. But if anything happens to be said during those in-person exchanges or something, I want you to put it in an email to them and say, so you're asking me to switch next week with you? And just whatever it was, recap it in an email so you have documentation because they will immediately say, that never happened.

Tracy Malone (22m 8s):
If you go and tell somebody the, the truth of what happened. So that writing it out in an email recapping something is really important.

Ryan Kalamaya (22m 15s):
And for people that are going through Divorce and kids are involved, there are communication platforms, there's our family wizard, there's talking parents civil communicator actually will have a neutral third party review the communication. And so if it's Abusive, it's if it says the F word or is gaslighting, it's not gonna make it through. And so that's one way that people can protect themselves. The other aspect is that really you gotta work with your attorney to figure out a way that parenting exchanges and decision making are done in a safe manner. And, and that law does contemplate that decision making under 14 10, 1 24, which is the statute on the best interest of the the children, the domestic violence and abuse.

Ryan Kalamaya (23m 3s):
It is a consideration And. so we don't want, the law does not wanna force, if we have Eric and Melanie Wolf going through a Divorce and there's abuse, it doesn't make sense or the law is going to protect the victim if it's Melanie, from having to make joint decisions with Eric because that power dynamic exists, And. So we can, the, the way that people communicate about where Johnny and Sally go to school is certainly really important. But then you also get it in terms of the exchanges. And so, you know, obviously you're gonna try to use the school, you're gonna try to use the preschool, you're gonna try to use the soccer or tutor as an exchange where Eric drops off the children and then Melanie picks them up and they don't have to see each other.

Ryan Kalamaya (23m 51s):
and that keeps Melanie safe. But if that is impossible, then I certainly have arranged for parenting exchanges at like in front of a police station, for example, in a public, you know, area. But really it's to remain safe and that is of paramount importance, but having maybe a neutral third party, Melanie's mom could accompany her or her friend if it's absolutely necessary. And you know, it may seem as if it's overkill and that we're really fear-mongering, but Tracy I'll share kind of final with our Listeners that I was down in Boulder helping kind of onboard one of our, our new associates that's practicing Family, Law And.

Ryan Kalamaya (24m 35s):
We went to the Boulder Courthouse and it was a, an event put on by the interdisciplinary council and it's was parenting, you know, evaluators, it was Divorce lawyers, it was the judges in Boulder County. And one of the therapists, you know, she said, you know, she stood up and she said, I've been in this business for 30 years. And I feel like the lethality, the risk of lethality in terms of someone getting killed is at an all time high. And you know, really everyone just kind of acknowledged the risk. And it's when you have these Abusive relationships, access to firearms and some of the other mental health and aspects that we're, we're seeing in society, it is really important that people take this stuff seriously.

Ryan Kalamaya (25m 26s):
And you know, if you are listening to this episode and you're at this point, you've listened to the top 10, seek out someone like Tracy or a Divorce lawyer, but you know, really make sure that you know, you're, you're aware of all the, the different risks and there is a different gradation or spectrum of these cases. But we hear these stories and I've seen them in, in practice, And I, it can be really scary and staying safe is of paramount importance.

Tracy Malone (25m 54s):
Absolutely never underestimate someone who is willing to abuse because you don't know how far they will go. I never expected mine to do the things he did and it was pretty scary. And I, I even had somebody hired to break into my house and there were three men on my roof trying to break in. I never in a million years would've suspected that my husband of 10 years would hire that. I mean, that was so scary. I can open my windows for like two years. It was really just petrifying. So never underestimate them and keep yourself safe. That's the most important thing here.

Ryan Kalamaya (26m 30s):
Yeah. And And I think the leave on more optimistic note is that, you know, you can, the legal system, it protects people. There are remedies, there are ways to leave an Abusive, you know, relationship into kinda what you said at the beginning is that you can be stuck in these relationships and it's likely not gonna change, but are ways to leave and to seek, you know, ERs a new opportunity where you can be safe and not be under the thumb of an Abusive narcissistic spouse. And hopefully people have learned something, but there are people out there willing to help.

Ryan Kalamaya (27m 12s):
You just need to know where to find them and, and how to. Until next time, thanks for joining us on Divorce at Altitude Tracy, thank you for your time and, and wisdom. We're gonna have links to your profile on the show notes if people wanna learn more. Thank you Hey Everyone, this is Ryan again. Thank you for joining us on Divorce at Altitude. If you found our tips, insight, or discussion helpful, please tell a friend about this podcast. For show notes, additional resources or links mentioned on today's episode, visit Divorce at Altitude dot com. Follow us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen in. Many of our episodes are also posted on YouTube.

Ryan Kalamaya (27m 54s):
You can also find Baby and me at Kalamaya.law or 970-315-2365. That's K A L A M A Y A.law.