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Relocation and Domestic Violence Moving Away for Safety?

Domestic violence is an issue that demands a significant amount of respect and attention due to its impact on the lives of not only the victim and perpetrator of the violence but on the children involved, as well. Experiencing domestic violence firsthand as a victim or secondhand as a child is certainly impactful for a family. It is a normal reaction, I think, that if you have been the victim of domestic violence you now want to move away from the location and area where that domestic violence occurred. It may also be the best way to protect yourself from future incidents of abuse, unfortunately. 

However, if you have a child custody order in place then you may be limited as far as your ability to immediately up and move to a new location to reduce the risk of future incidents of abuse at the hands of a boyfriend, ex-spouse, or family member. Many people in your shoes hesitate to move or relocate out of fear that their doing so would be a violation of your court orders. Do we know that the consequences of violating a court order can be significant, but are there exceptions to the rule when it comes to situations that involve domestic violence?

In today's blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, we are going to discuss how domestic violence can act as a substantial change in circumstances and how you may be able to modify your court orders to protect yourself and your children moving forward. Our attorneys and staff stand side by side with people just like you who have been victimized and abused in domestic settings. We are here to help you and your family as best we can by providing hard-nosed, diligent representation. If you are interested in learning more about the services that we can provide to you and your family, please contact us today. 

Domestic violence defined

When we talk about domestic violence, we are discussing a specific type of violent act that is committed against you or a member of your household by a person that has a personal relationship with you all. Again- that could be a spouse, ex-spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, relative, or another person with whom there is a relationship. Examine the relationship that the person has with your family and with you before determining whether the act committed was one of family violence. 

When we think about domestic violence as far as the specific acts are concerned, our minds could tend towards images of a husband beating up his wife. While that certainly would constitute an act of domestic violence, the laws in Texas are much broader than that and look to additional acts and circumstances as being relevant when it comes to domestic violence. So that we can better understand the sort of actions and situations that are accurately described as domestic violence let's look at this issue with more detail in mind. 

Domestic violence does not necessarily need to be a fully completed act to count as an act of domestic violence. Attempting to cause injury to a person is domestic violence in Texas. If your spouse, for example, lunges at you with a closed fist or a knife but does not contact you then that can count as family violence. You will need to be able to testify, either in person at a hearing or via an affidavit, regarding the act but what we just finished discussing can be counted as domestic violence. 

If your boyfriend intentionally caused an injury to your person, then this is an act of domestic violence. Pushing, shoving, hitting, and burning are acts of domestic violence when the two people involved share an intimate relationship. If you can prove that your boyfriend caused the injuries on purpose, then you can show that an act of domestic violence occurred. In the context of a family law case this is important to your being able to secure a protective order or emergency temporary orders to prevent your boyfriend's entry into your home, prevent their coming to your office, or from taking your children out of school.

Again, there does not need to be a completed or even an attempted act of violence for there to be a finding that domestic violence has occurred in your situation. If you were put in a situation where you were in reasonable fear of imminent bodily harm, then that can count as an act of domestic violence. So, if your girlfriend came running up to you with a knife, pushed you into a corner, and made you think that she was going to stab you then this can count as an act of domestic violence even if you were never stabbed.  The same can be true if a member of your household or family were made to feel like their well-being was threatened because of some action by a family member.

Living in continuous fear of future harm is no way to live. I have worked with men and women who have expressed heartfelt concern over future acts of harm that could befall them by an ex-spouse or significant other. It is no wonder that the law finds that your significant other can cause you to fear continued harassment and that this can constitute domestic violence. If you were abused previously but are now living in a constant state of fear that it could happen again then this is the sort of situation that would constitute domestic violence. 

Emotional distress is a part of domestic violence. Again- we are not limited to considering only acts of physical abuse or violence when it comes to domestic violence. Rather, we can and should think about the substantial amounts of emotional distress that often accompany family violence. It is not fair that there are considerations like this, but it is a reality for many people in your shoes. Evidence that there has been emotional distress caused by some action of your significant other can be used to establish domestic violence. 

What is the personal relationship and how it is significant to a finding of domestic violence?

The other part of domestic violence is the relationship between the person who committed the act and yourself. You needed to share a personal relationship with this person for a court to find that an act of domestic violence has occurred. Keep in mind that domestic violence also means that acts of violence and infliction of emotional distress apply to your children who are under the age of 18, as well. With all of that said, here are the parameters that must be in place for there to be a personal relationship sufficient to find that an act of domestic violence has occurred. 

If you and the other person were married to one another during the period when the acts of violence or threats of violence occurred, then there is a sufficient personal relationship to find that family violence or domestic violence has occurred. This is an obvious one- spouses share a household, were legally married, and likely have children together. In this way, a personal relationship is formed. This would include common-law marriages. Common law marriages are formed when you and your spouse agree to be married, hold yourselves out to be married to the community, and engage in actions that are common to married people. 

Next, if you and the other person have a child together then this also counts as a personal relationship sufficient to satisfy a personal relationship. Many people, more than at any recorded time in American history, have children without getting married in 2022. This is a trend that does not seem to be slowing down. More children are born to unmarried parents than to married parents in many areas of the country. That domestic violence occurs in married and unmarried households alike should not be surprising. A protective order can be ordered if a personal relationship exists between you and the aggressor, and the act of violence is one listed above. 

Domestic violence acts are extremely relevant to the issues of child custody within family law. Within the protective or temporary orders, specific orders can be included which have to do with domestic violence, child custody, a temporary possession schedule, or even the changing of certain conservatorship rights and duties. You would need to ask for these orders to be included for a judge to consider them in your hearing. 

When does an act of violence become domestic violence involving injury to you?

Let's say that you and your significant other are both coming off a divorce and are looking for romance online. You recently found out about a newly single website where people in your position can go to try and find love in a post-divorce world. When you met your significant other, he lived in Missouri, and you lived here in Texas. Slowly but surely your online relationship evolved. It only made sense to take the relationship to the next level by having one of you move to be closer to the other. Your significant other decided to be the one who moved. 

Now that you both live in Texas your relationship continued to progress. Although you all decided to not get married you did decide to start having children together. In total, you had three children as a couple. Unfortunately, the relationship would not last and you two broke up. With that breakup came the need to resolve issues related to child custody, child support, possession, and visitation. Eventually, you did go to family court and have child custody orders established which would lay the groundwork for the foreseeable future when it comes to your family. While you all no longer live in the same household you only live about 30 minutes from one another. In a big city like Houston which is practically around the block. 

Being in constant communication is key to maintaining a strong co-parenting relationship. If something goes on with the kids while they were with you it would be polite and sensible to contact your co-parent to let him know what has happened so you can coordinate based on the changing circumstances. The deal is that with constant communication comes frequent opportunities for either one of you to act aggressively or without restraint towards the other whenever bad news is shared between the two of you. Unfortunately, your children's father has been acting more aggressively lately than he has in the past. He has a short temper and acts rudely and brashly with you in your interactions. It has started to become a concern of yours that your co-parent is going to start becoming physically violent with you or the kids.

What is especially troubling is that your co-parent can seemingly be pushed to the edge of intense anger at the drop of a hat. A small change in the schedule with the kids and he can become extremely angry. If he has a problem at work, then he can take out that frustration on you with his verbal tirades. It has become difficult to just have a conversation with him over the past few months. You are growing concerned about your well-being and that of your children. 

Typically, he comes to your home to pick up and drop off the kids. Your relationship has been civil enough that instead of dropping the kids off at the door he would help them carry their bags and belongings. However, on this occasion, he came to the door with your kids and had an ulterior motive. When the kids walked into the house he stepped in as well and began to argue with you over some small slight- you forgot to include a jacket for your youngest child. The next thing you knew- he began to push you against the wall in front of your children. 

You did not suffer any major injuries and decided that you would just look past this incident. However, the next weekend during the drop-off of the kids your co-parent again walked into the home but was more aggressive this time around. He physically knocked you to the ground and began hitting you in the head. Your children witnessed the entire incident. What you had begun to fear had now come to fruition in terms of your co-parent becoming violent.

Your first reaction to this episode was to remove yourself and your children from the area where your co-parent lives. The concern that you had was that your co-parent knows where you live, where you work, and where the children go to school. Most importantly he has a spare key to the house that you had given him for emergencies in the past. Having all this access to your and your family means that your fears are well founded. While you may regret giving your co-parent that accesses it is now your reality that he can get to your work, your child's school, and your home. Leaving the home seemed like the most sensible and only option for you to undertake.

Here is the rub: you want to take your children to another part of the state to regroup, make sure your children are ok after these incidents, and generally sort out what to do next. However, your co-parent has a child custody order that allows him to have significant contact with the kids in terms of visitation. He has visitation periods that are every other weekend and other weekends by agreement with you and him. Your concern is what will happen if you take the kids away to an undisclosed location where he is denied his periods of possession. 

At this point, your options would include filing a motion to modify your child custody order to give your parent either extremely limited, supervised, or no visitation with your children and to request a protective order from the court that will allow for you to temporarily halt visitation between the children and your co-parent until your motion to modify can be heard. These are important considerations for you where time is of the essence. You never want to be put in a position where caring for the safety of your children may be at issue with court-mandated visitation and possession for your co-parent. However, you did not choose the circumstances that you currently find yourself in.

If you were to find yourself in this type of scenario the best advice that can be provided to you would be to work with an experienced family law attorney. An attorney can help you to complete the filing of these documents with the court and to provide advice on keeping you and your family safe in the meantime before a court hearing.

Questions about the material contained in today's blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

If you have any questions about the material contained in today's blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan Our licensed family law attorneys offer free-of-charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law as well as about how your family circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case.

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