Family legal issues, including divorce and child custody, are emotional issues that sometimes drive people to cause harm to others. Domestic violence may occur before, during, or even after a divorce or child custody case. The Texas Family Code provides restraining orders and other protections against domestic violence in divorces. These protections can be temporary or permanent. Similarly, Texas family law allows restraining orders to protect assets to prevent spouses from draining or hiding property during a divorce.
What is Family Violence under the Texas Family Code
Texas law calls domestic violence or domestic abuse “family violence”. Family violence is a criminal assault that carries criminal penalties, including possible fines and jail time. It also has implications for family law cases. In many situations family violence can affect division of marital property, possession and visitation rights to children and pets. Family violence is a especially dangerous form of violence because it tends to reinforce itself and escalate quickly.
In a relationship or family, the violence typically occurs in a cycle of violence. This cycle perpetuates both the violence and the relationship so the victim remains in a dangerous and abusive relationship. The cycle often escalates over time with increasing abuse each time it repeats. What begins as verbal abuse can escalate to minor physical abuse and then serious bodily injury or death. If there are children in the house they are often also victims of abuse but have no control whether they remain in the abusive situation.
In divorce and child custody cases, family violence or threats of family violence can arise even when there was no prior family violence. These cases can be very emotional for everybody involved. As the cases unfold, emotional issues can erupt and overflow in the form of violence. Family violence or threats of family violence are also used to intimidate or as punishment for leaving the marriage, trying to take assets or deprive the abuser of access to or decision making over the children and demanding child support.
If family violence already exists in your home or is likely to arise during a divorce or child custody case you need to take steps to safely protect yourself the dangerous environment. That may mean having to leave your home or obtaining a court order for your protection.
Who Can Be a Victim of Domestic Abuse or Family Violence in Texas
Under the Texas Family Code, family violence or domestic abuse is defined as more than just violence against a spouse or child. The legislature intentionally expanded the legal definition to include a broad definition of family to protect the people most at risk to be victims of family violence. A victim of family violence or target of a threat of family violence can include:
- Spouses – either the man or woman
- Children – of either or both parents involved in the suit
- Any other person living in the household involved in the suit, such as siblings or parents
- Foster children living in the household
- Pets of anybody living in the household
- The romantic companion of a spouse or parent involved in the suit
The list broadly includes the entire household plus somebody you might be dating. Sometimes the perpetrator of family violence or threats of family violence thinks they can intimidate or punish you more effectively by targeting somebody else close to you, including your pets. It can be particularly problematic when the perpetrator targets a pet because women’s shelters will accept women and their children but generally not pets.
The Power of a Restraining Order or Protective Order in a Texas Divorce
Restraining orders and protective orders allow you to use the judicial system to protect yourself, your children and your property. Violating a restraining order is contempt of court, which may include adverse rulings by the court. These orders make the person restricted by the order subject to certain limitations, such as restricted access to children and your property. Protective orders allow the police to intervene for your protection.