My question involves a child custody case from the State of: Washington
(note, the title was changed and not by me, but this is not AFTER the divorce, but before). I want to leave my abusive husband and then divorce him because he will not do any paperwork or fight for the kids or do anything until I take the first steps. I have been with my husband for 12 years, but married for only 1 year now. We share 4 biological children together between the ages of 2 years and 7 years is our oldest. Our relationship has always been rocky. My husband is and has been abusive to me and my children. In the past physically abusive to me. When I was pregnant with our first child he didn't want the baby and wanted me to abort. He kicked me in the stomach and told me he hoped I died and he hoped the baby died or was born with a birth defect because he thought maybe I wouldn't want my baby if it was born with a defect. I said no to the abortion, but gave him the option to leave and even told him I would NOT come after him for child support or visitation if he didn't want any part. I don't know why, but he chose to stay. And I was so stupid and stayed with him and things got worse and worse until I left him for a month, but then came back when he promised to be different. We went to counseling and he did change a little bit and got a little better. But is always still such a sad and hard rollercoaster of his emotional and verbal abuse and I can't take it anymore. He is no longer physically abusive to me but VERY, VERY emotionally and verbally abusive. I have no proof except for him admitting this in couples counseling to the therapist as well as some Facebook messaging. He can be very verbally abusive to the children and sometimes hits them and it breaks my heart. We fight in front of the children all the time, it's so unhealthy. Asking him to stop or leave doesn't work, one time he literally spit on me and then only walked away only because he HAD to leave for work. He curses and yells at the children and I can't take it anymore. He has some serious anger issues and I strongly believe some serious mental problems. He smokes weed and drinks a lot, weed is legal in WA. However, I do believe this has affected his moods. Again, I have no proof except for he admit this to our couples counselor (but she may not legally be able to be a witness) and some Facebook messaging. However, my oldest son especially has grown to dislike his father and one conversation with our son and he will tell you everything his father has done to him and how mean his father is to him and he wishes his father was nicer and my own son has been asking me to leave his father. It's so sad. However, my son is only 7 and might not be able to speak for himself yet. So I don't know that I have any proof and it's his word against mine. And I know he will paint a totally different picture.
Anyway, I need to leave my husband and I want to leave the state and have full custody of my 4 children. I'm breaking and my children are suffering from the toxicity. I do not want to deny my husband visitation or contact. I am worried about how he will treat them without me there, but I do feel them seeing and knowing their father is important. So I am okay with him visiting them as often as he would like to. But I want full custody and want to move out of state. I am a stay at home mother and have been since the birth of our first child. I am the children's primary caregiver. I have been out only TWICE in 7 years with a friend without my children because I'm always with my children. My husband works 40 hours per week, plus goes out with his friends a minimum of an additional 12-15+ hours per week. So he is gone a lot. I have no family and zero support here and he has no family or support here. We are also poor and on welfare. We are on section 8, food stamps and every other welfare benefit and I HATE it. My husband works but only has a GED and does not make much money. I just graduated from college with my bachelors degree and in the future want to be a public school teacher. I want to move to a state with a higher paying teaching wage and lower cost of living and have found the area I want to move to. If I leave Washington which is too expensive for us and move somewhere with more jobs and that is more affordable, I can actually afford to support my children. Me and my husband own nothing together and there is no money or property to fight over. The kids are the only thing to fight over. I have the ability to transfer my section 8 housing to a different state and live there and I will also be closer to my mother who is retiring soon and may be able to help me with childcare so I can apply for jobs and get a full-time job. I will also be making more money than my husband when I start working.
I have told my husband of my plans and desire to divorce him and move and let him visit the kids. I even told him I would set some of the child support money on the side each month to help him pay for airline tickets to come visit our children at least 3-4 times per year. I'm trying to be adult and civil about this. But he has told me he wants 50/50 custody. He also told me he will go to a judge and force me to move back after I've left or that he will try to keep me here. He has threatened to do things like take away things and money from us to make it harder on us, as well as try to find ways to not pay child support. This scares me. He will not have the emotional capability of caring for the children without me 50% of the time. The section 8 is under my name and will transfer only with me. So I will have secure housing for me and the children where me move to. He will not, he may be able to afford a studio or 1 bedroom in our expensive area but that is not suitable for 4 children. This is not about me keeping them from him out of spite, which is what he thinks i'm doing. If he was a great, loving, supportive and kind father then I could live with 50/50 custody as I do feel it's in a child's best interest to see their mother AND father regularly. But I know the kind of father he is and the children will already be struggling with the divorce. Being with him being emotionally and verbally abused 50% of the time will not be healthy or okay.
What can I do? How can I leave the state to be closer to my mother and in a place that's more affordable without him stopping me? What is the best way to go about this? What are my rights and what are his right? And no, there is no parenting plan in place and no chid support set up and no divorce paperwork yet. I was going to do all of that after the move. How easy will it be for him to force us back to WA? Any advice would be helpful? Thanks!