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How Does Domestic Violence Factor into Your Family Law Case?

Whenever a relationship ends, drama and emotion are sure to be involved. However, for many, the end of a relationship can be tumultuous and even dangerous, especially if domestic violence played a role in why the relationship ended.

Domestic violence does not only play a part in the actual divorce proceedings, but also in determination regarding conservatorship and access for the parties’ minor children.

What is Domestic Violence?

Under Texas law, domestic or family violence happens when a family member causes or intends to cause some type of physical harm or fear of immediate harm, injury or sexual assault to another family member.

Harm can include actual physical violence, but it can also be verbal in the form of mental or emotional abuse.

Obtaining a Protective Order

If the domestic violence is so severe that it is believed an order of protection is necessary for one of the spouses or even the children of the marriage, several options exist. These types of requests tend to happen at the start of the case, but they can also occur at any time during the process.

We can assist in all of these stages and types of orders, including the following:

  • Temporary Protective Order: If the individual believes his or her life and safety is in danger, a petition for a temporary protective order can be filed from the beginning. If an emergency situation exists that requires action quicker than when the parties can get into court, a temporary ex parte order can be requested. These orders are often requested to kick one of the spouses out of the home and can also restrict the communication the offending spouse has with the filing spouse.
  • Final Protective Order: Within three weeks after the temporary order has been issued, a hearing must be held regarding a final protective order. The “offending” spouse has the right to fight the allegations in the petition and the relief requested. Having an attorney at this stage of the proceedings can be helpful since these types of hearings tend to be confrontational and quite emotional for the spouse requesting the petition.

Child Custody and Domestic Violence

Domestic violence also plays a part in making child custody determinations. Whenever a judge makes a determination on where a child should live, the best interests of that children considered first and foremost. This includes what arrangement will serve the child’s physical and emotional needs.

In the State of Texas, child custody involves two different determinations, conservatorship and possession/access.

Conservatorship involves selecting which parent will have the right to make important decisions for the child involving medical, educational, religious, and other decisions. Possession or access involves with which parent the child will live and how often the child will spend time with the other parent.

When one of the parents has a history of domestic violence towards the other parent and/or the child, this factor will certainly play a part in the judge’s decision.

Texas law does prohibit the court from issuing an order making both parents joint conservators if a history of pattern of domestic violence by one parent against the other parent, a spouse or child has been established.

If one of the parents also has a history of domestic or family violence during the previous two years or has sexually assaulted or abused the parties’ minor child, the law does not allow that parent to have possession of that child.

This history of domestic violence does not mean the parent has no chance of retaining custody rights and access to the child, however.

The court may choose to allow the parent to be a part of the child’s life if…

  • the court believes that the child’s physical and emotional well-being would not be endangered by that child seeing his or her parent
  • allowing the parent to continue to see the child is in the child’s best interests
  • a visitation order designed to protect the child exists
  • that abusive parent may be able to complete some type of treatment program while having visitation supervised

Supervised visitation is always a possibility where the parent can spend time with the child but in an environment where the interactions are supervised by a professional or designated adult. It is not a permanent arrangement. Instead it is one where the court can monitor the interactions until it is determined that it would be in the best interests of the child to have increased time with the parent.

Contact A Custody Lawyer Today

If you have questions about how domestic violence may affect your divorce or family law case, please contact family lawyers at Scott M. Brown and Associates. You can reach us by calling (979) 318-3075 or completing our online form. We have offices in Angleton, League City/ Clear Lake, and Pearland.

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