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Domestic violence in Texas family law cases

Domestic violence is an issue that impacts families, communities, and the State of Texas. Beyond the social and relational impacts, there are economic problems that result from domestic violence. It does not matter whether you are wealthy, poor, young, or old. Domestic violence harms people across the population spectrum. Children are victims of domestic violence, as well. Your child is susceptible to suffering violence directly or indirectly. Have your children ever witnessed an incident of domestic violence in the home? Due to this family violence, your child custody or divorce case can be impacted in significant ways. 

Moreover, family law attorneys like those with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan pay close attention to matters like these. Helping you obtain orders that protect you, your children, and your family as a whole matters a great deal to us. As a result, we develop specialized plans with each of our clients to combat these issues. Domestic violence is not something you can handle sitting down. Rather, you and your representative need to act intentionally and with a plan. 

The impact of domestic violence on children

Research into domestic violence suggests that child witnesses to domestic violence tend to develop emotional problems more readily than other children. Anger towards parents, anxiety, and issues in school are just a handful of symptoms related to domestic violence. How well your child adjusts to life after witnessing acts of family violence depends upon several factors. Their upbringing and whether your child has been abused are two important factors in this discussion. 

How does domestic violence impact Suits Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship?

Suits Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship (SAPCR) are otherwise known as child custody lawsuits. These are the family lawsuits that impact children and their parents. When you have children under the age of 18 a SAPCR is what you will file or become a part of. 

The Texas Family Code defines family violence as: “an act by a member of a family or household against another member of the family or household that is intended to result in physical harm, bodily injury, assault  or sexual assault or that is a threat that reasonably places the member in fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury, assault or sexual assault, but does not include defensive matters to protect oneself.” Texas Family Code Section 71.004.

A continuing, dating relationship is included within the definition of family violence. The length of your relationship to the abuser, the nature of the relationship and the type of interactions between you and your partner are factors used to consider whether yours is a dating relationship. Texas Family Code Section 71.0021. 

What protections are available under Texas law?

It is reasonable to have concerns about what protections are available to you and your family under Texas law. Bearing in mind the consequences of domestic violence it is wise to seek protection wherever possible. For instance, protective orders can be requested to protect you or any other member of your household. This includes your children. If applying for a protective order involving your child, the SAPCR orders (if any) must be included. 

Coordinating the filing of a protection order before a SAPCR is filed

When a SAPCR is filed before a protective order application, the protective order may be sought either in the SAPCR court or whatever court in your county handles protective order applications. Court clerks will coordinate the protective order and SAPCR orders if granted in separate courts.

When does family violence count as abuse in a family law case?

When your child is over and over exposed to family violence he or she is in a difficult position. It has been shown that continued exposure to violence in the home harms children profoundly. Abuse in the context of a family law case includes allowing your child to be in a situation where mental or emotional injury may occur. Mental or emotional injury is measured by impairments to the child’s growth, development, or psychological functioning. 

What about children whose parents are on the move?

In our world today we are more mobile than ever. Remote work has only hastened this trend towards nomadic behavior. Particularly, families are more mobile as parents search for the best possible situation for their children. As families move around more often domestic violence plays a part in these cases. Specifically, courts decide regularly whether to exercise jurisdiction in child custody cases

Furthermore, whether a court in Texas denies jurisdiction relates to the occurrence of family violence and the likelihood of future violence. What a court tries to determine here is what court stands the best chance at protecting families and children. If you are fleeing a situation in another state involving domestic violence the State of Texas does not punish you for that. Likewise, if your co-parent has engaged in domestic violence and then takes your child to another state that, too, will not be honored. This is known as “unjustifiable conduct.”

International abduction and domestic violence

A truly heart-wrenching situation involves the threat of domestic violence and international abduction. This is a situation where your co-parent has abused you or your children. Now he is threatening to take your children and leave the country. The motivations for doing so are vast. The possible harm to your child is just as vast, unfortunately. You are in a position, then, to play defense as best as you can. This means helping to prevent this type of event from occurring. 

In many child custody and divorce cases, international abduction takes center stage. We see parents with family, work, or other resources abroad as especially able to abduct children successfully. If your co-parent works abroad or has family in other countries this is an issue to keep an eye on. Notably, Houston is home to many foreign-born residents and citizens. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan serves many clients whose family history involves travel and immigration. We are uniquely suited to help families where the risk of international abduction presents itself. 

Social studies and family violence

A social study is a way for a family court to gain an insight into your home life. Judges are not able to come home with you after court. Therefore, a social study may be undertaken in your case. The person who performs the social study may be a social worker, therapist, or other person familiar with family dynamics. Social studies seek to be the eyes and ears of a court. Understanding the importance of a social study matters in a family law case. Preparing for social studies is one attribute the Law Office of Bryan Fagan brings to your case.

The State of Texas requires minimum training for persons engaged in social studies. When a professional in the field of social work is assigned to your case, he comes prepared. The Texas Family Code contains various statutes which relate to the training requirements for family law case professionals. It is not as if these individuals will be unaware of the circumstances of your case. Most social study evaluators work with families like yours on a day-to-day basis. Their resume is provided to you at the beginning of their involvement. 

Social study evaluators and family violence

At least eight hours of domestic violence training is required for social study evaluators. The dynamics of family violence and how it impacts your life is a key part of their training. These professionals understand the source of family violence and its impact on your case. Children are a point of emphasis in these social study evaluations. When violence was not directly perpetrated upon your children, evaluators still pay close attention to them. Whereas some people assume that unless a person is directly abused there can be no harm, evaluators are trained to dig deeper.

There are also professionals involved in helping parents work together on child-related issues. These parenting coordinators need to undergo the same amount of training as social study evaluators. Eight hours of training at minimum may not sound like much. However, this puts most of them in positions where they can evaluate families in real-life situations. Case studies and other opportunities to hone their craft and provided to them. This is invaluable when your family goes before one of these professionals.

How domestic violence impacts families across Texas

Domestic violence impacts families in profound ways. On a micro-level, families suffer in their relationships when violence occurs. Your relationship with the abusive person is likely irreparable. Divorcing him or her is an option worth pursuing. However, when you have children with this person then your relationship as a co-parent does not end. Even if you minimize their interactions with your children, it is not always possible to terminate the relationship. As a result, your co-parenting skills cannot be sharpened to the extent that they may otherwise be. 

Additionally, your relationships with your children are impacted. A child’s worldview is different than yours and mine. We have the advantage of years of experience in interpersonal relationships. Your child’s worldview is almost entirely a portrait of their home life. When that portrait involves significant violence then it is no wonder that children develop issues associated with intimacy. A child who cannot trust their home environment is a child ripe for problems. These problems extend out into the world where their school performance is likely to suffer. 

Focusing on your children during a case involving domestic violence

Unfortunately, the criminal justice and family law systems have historically failed to account for the harm to collateral victims like children in family violence scenarios. Consider a situation where your husband begins to abuse you regularly. The kids are likely home and witness their mother being harmed significantly. They have no outlets for their emotions. Again, they have no resources for asking questions or seeking solace other than you. This is during a time when you likely feel that you have more questions than answers. 

As a result, children are brought with them to a women’s shelter. While these shelters have resources for adult victims of domestic abuse the same is usually not true for children. Children often become involved during group therapy. However, individual therapy for children is less common. Trying to “copy and paste” your own therapy experiences onto your children may not work. 

Resources to seek as a domestic violence survivor

Focusing on yourself and your safety is an important consideration when domestic violence occurs. However, being able to effectively raise a child during this time is a challenge many parents do not consider. As a result, being able to locate trustworthy help in this regard is a major key to benefiting your children. Circumstances with the health and well-being of your children can slip out of control when there is no help available to you. Finding that help is part of what you focus your attention on in the aftermath of violent episodes. 

Working with an experienced family law attorney is a major benefit to your case. Especially when domestic violence is an issue you need all the resources available to be made known to you. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan is familiar with shelters for battered women and children in our area. We volunteer our time and energy in the community so we can benefit the lives of those around us. We also couple the knowledge of our community with a legal acumen geared toward solving problems. 

Assisting children while living in a shelter

Many women’s shelters have limited availability. Once you find a women’s shelter which can accommodate you and your family your time there is limited, as well. With that said, being able to identify help for your children at a shelter pays major dividends. The need at shelters for help with children is immense. For every mother at a shelter, there are sometimes multiple children. It is not uncommon to find more children living in a shelter than women. 

The role of Child Protective Services in a domestic violence case

Unfortunately, domestic violence and child abuse go together all too often. For instance, if you are a victim of domestic violence the perpetrator may treat your children similarly. However, what advice may be helpful to you as a victim may be opposite to that which would help your children. Child Protective Services (CPS) is geared to help children and their safety. 

One way that CPS helps to ensure the safety of not only children, but their parents is to ask questions and look at domestic violence during a child abuse investigation. The issues that impact domestic violence victims are not always the same as related to child abuse victims. A CPS caseworker is trained in identifying child abuse in their investigators. Likewise, CPS caseworkers look for tell-tale signs of abuse in areas that may not help with domestic violence investigations. 

Coordination of protective and custody orders in family court

Once you make it into a family court, you need to have a plan on how to act. This means thinking through the issues of how to balance your safety with the well-being of your children. There are ways to do this. Allowing your children to have a sense of stability and consistency is a challenge. Judges utilize their discretion in large part to build court orders that will keep you safe. However, you need to be able to ask for these measures before a judge can legally order them.

This is where having an experienced family law attorney matters. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan knows how to plead for specific attributes that protect you and your children. While some measures may contradict one another, our attorneys know how to balance the needs of parents and children. Coordinating your time with your children and your need to attend therapy is a delicate balance. An experienced attorney with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan knows how to help. 

What it means to serve clients in domestic violence scenarios

Without a doubt individuals, parents, and children facing a history of domestic violence have a major burden to uphold. These challenges do not go away quickly and unfortunately are difficult to work through. However, there are resources available to help you. Finding that assistance is not obvious in all cases. Being able to maneuver through the family courts takes patience and an eye for detail. 

Obtaining a protective order appears straightforward until it comes time to apply for one. While this is ongoing there are real-world concerns about your safety and that of your children. It is an overwhelming situation to find yourself in. However, acting intentionally and with purpose can propel you towards a better future. This is where the attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan truly excel. 

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. Interested in learning more about how your family is impacted by the material in this blog post? Contact us today.

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