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Divorcing From an Abusive Spouse in Texas: What You Need to Know

Divorcing from an Abusive Spouse in Texas: What you Need to Know

In Texas, understanding the complex legal landscape is crucial, especially for individuals facing challenging circumstances such as divorcing an abusive spouse. This requires not only a deep understanding of specific laws but also knowledge of the resources available for support during such trying times. Securing assistance from an experienced domestic violence divorce lawyer can be a pivotal step in this process. This article aims to offer essential insights and practical guidance for anyone navigating the process of divorce from an abusive partner in Texas, ensuring they are well-equipped to handle the legal intricacies and emotional challenges that may arise.

I have recently had several consults with woman who have been the victims of domestic violence. In one consult, she confessed her husband had tried to kill her. In another she and her children had fled the home and were living in a battered woman’s shelter. I thought an appropriate blog topic based on these consults would be domestic violence in a divorce case.

Introduction to Domestic Violence

Family violence, also called intimate partner violence or domestic violence, can be defined as a pattern of behavior that is:

  1. coercive
  2. controlling and
  3. used to gain or maintain power over another.

It can include:

  1. physical abuse
  2. emotional or psychological abuse
  3. financial abuse and
  4. sexual abuse

According AVDA (Aid to Victims of Domestic Abuse) in Texas Harris County led the state in women killed by their intimate partner with 34 women (22%) in 2015. In 2015, Harris County had the highest percentage of calls to the Domestic Violence Hotline.

Special laws in Texas are designed to provide quick and effective relief from domestic violence. The most important thing a victim of this kind of abuse can do, is find the courage to take action.

Don’t Become another Statistic

Some people I consult with feel as if they are not prepared handle dealing with the legal system on top of the abuse they have suffered. Often when people finally find the courage to step into my office they have been putting up with abuse for years.

In some cases, the women I meet with have found the courage to leave but do not take any other legal action until something traumatic happens. In one case one of our clients moved away with her children into a new apartment. She told me “I was afraid I did not on to court. I just wanted it to be over with” Her husband’s response was to track her down and hit her again. That was the last straw that brought her to our office.

If Your Spouse is Violent, Take Immediate Action

Should your spouse become violent you should take whatever steps are necessary to protect yourself and your children including:

  1. Leave the house
  2. Take your children
  3. Call the police

Only after you are safe is it time to focus on legal issues.

File Criminal Charges if Warranted

Texas law should be on your side. If you were attacked, there are several crimes your abuser may be charged with:

  1. Rape and Sexual Offense
  2. Assault,
  3. Domestic Criminal Trespass
  4. Communicating Threats
  5. Stalking or Harassing Phone Calls

It is a good idea to contact the police as soon as possible.

Talk to a Lawyer When you are Safe

When you are safe, contact a family law attorney in your area. They can give you advice on what your next steps should be. Some the things that I discuss are the steps necessary to get a:

  1. Divorce and
  2. A protective Order

I explain what a protective order would mean for the woman and her husband and how a protective order would affect the divorce. If my consult is interested in obtaining a protective order I will usually encourage her to go through a government agency because they will handle it for free and then once the paperwork is filed to come back and we will help with the divorce.

Below is information on government office that can help obtain protective orders:

County

Address

Phone Number

Harris County

1201 Franklin, 2nd floor,

Suite 2160

Houston, TX 77002

713-755-5888

Montgomery County

207 West Phillips Street

Suite 100

Conroe, Texas

936-539-7828

Fort Bend County

1422 Eugene Heimann Cir

Richmond, TX 77469

281-341-4460

Galveston County

600 59TH Street

Suite 1001

Galveston, TX 77551

409-766-2355

Brazoria County

111 E Locust,

Ste. 500

Angleton, TX 77515

979-864-1230

Liberty County

1923 Sam Houston St

Suite 202

Liberty, TX 77575

936-336-4650

Waller County

846 6th St

Suite 1

Hempstead, TX 77445

979-826-7718

Chambers County

104 Washington Ave

Anahuac, TX 77514

409-267-2682

Here are some things you can bring with you, if they are available:

  1. Your picture I.D.
  2. Pictures of any injuries.
  3. Names and contact information for any witnesses.
  4. Address for the Respondent for a protective order.
  5. Any evidence that you may think is important for us to know.
  6. Medical records of injuries you received from assaults.

There is More than One Type of Protective Order

There is more than one type of protective order. The different types of protective order include :

  1. Magistrate’s Order of Emergency Protection
  2. Protective Orders Available in Civil Court

Magistrates Order

A Magistrate’s Order of Emergency Protection (MEPO) is the only type of protective order that is not obtained through a civil, district, or county court. It allows for immediate, temporary protection for a victim of:

  1. family violence,
  2. stalking, or
  3. sexual assault

A justice of the peace or municipal judge may issue a Magistrates Order at an arraignment after a family violence, stalking, or sexual assault arrest on the magistrate’s own motion or on the request of:

  1. the victim of the offense;
  2. the guardian of the victim;
  3. a peace office; or
  4. the attorney representing the state

A Magistrates Order may remain in effect for:

  1. 31 to 91 days following the date of issuance, based upon the magistrate’s discretion.
  2. 61 to 91 days following the date of issuance if a deadly weapon was used of exhibited during the commission of an assault.

A MEPO may prohibit an offender from:

  1. committing family violence or assault against the person protected in the MEPO;
  2. communication directly with the protected person or through a third-party in a threatening or harassing manner;
  3. going to or near the protected person’s residence or place of employment or business;
  4. going to or near a protected child’s residence, child care facility, or school; and
  5. possessing a firearm.
  6. Additionally, a magistrate may order a defendant to participate in a global positioning monitoring system (GPS monitoring) and may allow the protected person to also participate in the system.
Divorcing from an Abusive Spouse in Texas: What you Need to Know

Civil Court Protective Orders Use them to Your Advantage

In many cases, it is possible to get a civil court protective order without the typical notice requirements, so you can:

  1. keep possession of the house and car, and
  2. temporary custody of your children
  3. the order may also provide that your spouse must stay away from you and the children.
  4. If your spouse violates such an order, he or she will be arrested.

A victim may obtain a civil protective order within a short period of time and at no cost. The follow are types of civil protective orders that are available:

  1. Temporary Ex Parte Protective Order and
  2. Family Violence Protective Order
  3. Sexual Assault/Stalking/Trafficking Protective Orders

Temporary Ex Parte Protective Order

Many victims who apply for a civil protective order do not have a Magistrates Order, and therefore do not have any type of protection.

When they file their application for a civil protective order they can request a Temporary Ex Parte Protective order so that they have immediate protection prior to the hearing on her protective order.

Family Violence Protective Order

A victim of family violence may apply for a family violence protective order (FVPO) as long as the victim has a current or former familial relationship with their Ex, such as:

  1. a current or former spouse,
  2. dating partner,
  3. child (including step-children and foster children), or
  4. household member

Dating violence victims of any age may apply for a Family Violence Protective Order and any adult may apply for a FVPO in order to protect a child from family violence.

A prosecuting attorney or the Department of Family and Protective Services may also file an application for the protection of an alleged victim of family violence.

Only two prongs must be proved for a court to issue a FVPO:

  1. that family violence has occurred in the past, and
  2. that family violence is likely to occur in the future.

A Family Violence Protective Order is good for two years after the date issued.

Sexual Assault/Stalking/Trafficking Protective Orders

A victim of:

  1. child sexual abuse,
  2. indecency with a child,
  3. sexual assault,
  4. human trafficking, or
  5. stalking

may apply for a sexual assault/stalking/trafficking protective order (SAPO).

A parent or guardian acting on behalf of a person younger than 18 years of age who is a victim of the above offenses or a prosecuting attorney acting on behalf of the victim may also apply for a SAPO.

A court may issue a SAPO if there are reasonable grounds to believe that: the applicant is the victim of sexual assault or abuse, stalking, or trafficking. SAPO may remain effective for any duration up to the lifetime of the victim or the offender.

Divorcing from an Abusive Spouse in Texas: What you Need to Know

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, divorcing from an abusive spouse in Texas is a journey that demands courage, resilience, and the right information. While the road may be fraught with challenges, understanding your legal rights, accessing supportive resources, and seeking professional guidance can make a significant difference.

Remember, you are not alone in this journey. Empower yourself with knowledge, lean on the support of professionals and loved ones, and take each step towards a future of safety and well-being with confidence and hope.

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  1. The Complete Beginner’s Guide to Texas Protective Orders
  2. 5 Things You Need to Know About Family Violence in Texas
  3. Common Law Marriage and Texas Divorce Guide
  4. I Want a Texas Divorce but My Husband Doesn’t: What can I do?
  5. Am I Married? – Marital Status in Texas
  6. Can I sue my spouse’s mistress in Texas?
  7. When is, Cheating Considered Adultery in a Texas Divorce?
  8. 6 things You Need to Know Before You File for Divorce in Texas
  9. The Simplified Process for an Uncontested Divorce in Texas
  10. Explaining the Contested Divorce Process in Texas
  11. The Complete Beginner’s Guide to Texas Protective Orders

 

FAQs on Divorce Proceedings in Texas

Is an affirmative defense the same as a defense?

No, an affirmative defense and a defense are not the same. A defense is a general response to a legal claim, while an affirmative defense is a specific type of defense that requires the defendant to present evidence to prove their claim.

What can be used against you in a divorce in Texas?

In Texas, evidence of adultery, cruelty, felony, abandonment, living apart, and confinement in a mental hospital can be used against a person in divorce proceedings.

How do you prove cruelty in a divorce in Texas?

Proving cruelty in a Texas divorce usually requires testimonies, medical records, photographs, communication records, or evidence of emotional or physical abuse.

What am I entitled to if I divorce my husband in Texas?

In Texas, a spouse is entitled to an equitable distribution of community property, which may include properties acquired during the marriage, joint bank accounts, and other shared assets.

Do I need a lawyer for an uncontested divorce in Texas?

While not mandatory, it’s advisable to consult a lawyer for an uncontested divorce in Texas to ensure all legal formalities are correctly handled and to protect your interests.

Can text messages be used to prove adultery?

Yes, text messages can be used as evidence to prove adultery, especially if they contain explicit or implicit content that shows an extramarital relationship.

Are text messages admissible in court in Texas?

Yes, in Texas, text messages can be admissible in court if they’re relevant to the case, authenticated, and meet other evidentiary requirements.

Can you sue for emotional distress in divorce in Texas?

In Texas, while you cannot sue for emotional distress specifically due to divorce, you might have a claim if the distress was caused by intentional or negligent actions of the other party beyond usual marital disputes.

What is mental cruelty in divorce?

Mental cruelty in divorce refers to behavior by one spouse that causes severe anxiety, distress, or emotional trauma to the other, making continued cohabitation untenable.

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