Violence During Divorce Proceedings in Mississippi

Recently, in Manchester, Tennessee, the local community experienced shock and outrage when a wife shot her husband after leaving a divorce mediation conference.  Brenda and Harry Bartee were in the process of divorce and met for a mediation session at the law firm of Rogers, Duncan & North, located on North Spring Street.  The mediation did not go well.  Heated arguments between Brenda Bartee and her physician husband ensued.  The couple left the law office and moments later, Brenda Bartee reached into her coat and retrieved a .45-caliber Ruger.  She fired seven or eight rounds at Dr. Harry Bartee, hitting him at least four times.  Two deputies quickly rushed to the scene and Dr. Bartee was transported via helicopter to the Erlanger Medical Center.  He is currently in critical but stable condition.

Brenda Bartee has been charged with attempt to commit first degree murder and remains in jail with a bond of $250,000.  Investigators have revealed that both Brenda and Harry have a history of domestic violence, some of which occurred right here in Mississippi.  In Boliver County, Mississippi, Brenda Bartee fired two shots at her husband while they were both seated inside the car back in 2012.  The reason for the dispute – Brenda allegedly accused Harry of cheating on her.  Harry Bartee was granted an order of protection against his wife and she was charged with aggravated domestic violence.

While the tale of Brenda Bartee seems like something out of a movie, domestic violence occurring during divorce proceedings is not all that unusual.   In 2011, Catherine Scott-Gonzalez arrived at a Broward County, Florida courthouse for the final hearing in her divorce case.  About 30 minutes into the hearing, when the issue of child support arose, Catherine’s husband, Paul Gonzalez, got up to leave the courtroom.  He stated calmly but unhappily that he was not going to pay child support.  He took one step out of the courtroom, then returned and suddenly attacked his estranged wife.  Paul threw punch after punch at Catherine while her attorney fought to restrain him.  Finally, the judge hit the panic button and several deputies arrived to arrest Paul Gonzalez.  Like Brenda Bartee, Paul Gonzalez also had a history of violent behavior and Catherine Scott-Gonzalez had sought several restraining orders against him which were denied.

While exact rates are unknown, incidences of domestic violence often increase during a divorce.  Domestic violence may already be present in a marriage, then the stress, anger, and hurt involved in a divorce causes heightened aggression.  For some individuals with no history of violence, the grave emotions evoked during a divorce can lead to violence.

If domestic violence may be a potential issue during your divorce, it is important to make your attorney and the court aware of this.  Had the attorneys for Brenda Bartee and Catherine Scott-Gonzalez known of the potential for violence, they could have planned separate mediation conferences or arranged for adequate security in the courtroom.  Never hesitate to call the police if any threats, whether verbal or physical, are made or if you are fearful of your soon to be former spouse.

You can seek psychological evaluation for your violent spouse.  Abusers often have mental health issues that perpetuate the violence and gathering a clinical understanding can help your estranged spouse, yourself, and the court understand the reason and possible solutions for the violence.  If you fear your spouse may become violent, do not hesitate to insist on separate counseling.  Finally, request child custody evaluations be completed by someone trained in domestic violence treatment.  Even children who are not the direct victims of domestic violence can be severely traumatized living with an abuser.

Matthew S. Poole has extensive experience representing divorce clients with domestic violence concerns.  With his vast knowledge in the field, Matthew can address all the special issues that arise in a divorce case involving domestic violence.  Matthew vows to keep you safe during the divorce proceedings by advocating at all times for your security.  Call Matthew today at (601) 573-7429 for a free initial consultation.

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