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When Domestic Violence is a Factor in Your Texas Child Custody Case

Domestic violence is one of the most frightening, terrible, and sad issues facing people in a divorce. If you have been the victim of domestic violence, I hope you have been moving towards a divorce. I would never recommend divorce for someone whose circumstances I do not know. Still, if your safety or that of your children is in danger, you have to consider your options in terms of ending the marriage seriously.

With that said, you need to have a plan to end the marriage and move forward with your life. This is difficult enough on your own, but when you add issues with your children into the equation, you have an even trickier set of circumstances to work through. Having kids involved in a divorce alongside domestic violence means that you cannot necessarily end your engagement or contact with your spouse who has engaged in domestic violence. Instead, this person will likely be a part of your child's life for as long as you are a part of your child's life. Therefore, you need to plan how to handle aspects of child custody or divorce case when your Co-parent has engaged in domestic violence.

From the outset of your case, you need to determine the potential risk of harm both to you and your children. If your Co-parent has engaged in domestic violence previously but not for some time, you should consider whether the domestic violence will play a role in your case. Not to say that you should forgive and forget or anything close to that, but if you have a history with your spouse were no domestic violence has occurred for some time, you may not be justified in seeking any preventative measures in terms of their behavior in the case. Somewhat, your spouse or Co-parent may have moved past any issue regarding domestic violence through counseling, therapy, or other means.

On the other hand, if you're Co-parent or spouse has engaged in acts of domestic violence recently, then it is an entirely different story. In that case, you should pay close attention to your options and do your best to protect your family in the immediate sense. The first thing that comes to my mind regarding domestic violence is a protective order. A judge issued a protective order in response to ongoing threats against your well-being physically or mentally. An emergency protective order can be sought after filing a child custody or divorce case even before notice of the hearing is given to your Co-parent. In that case, an emergency protective order can be sought and obtained, which can last for up to two weeks before another hearing is held.

In a divorce or child custody case, it is common for a temporary order hearing to be held at the beginning of an issue that involves domestic violence. this would be the primary way to ensure that you and your family can stay safe for the duration of your case. Protective orders standing alone from temporary orders can remain in place for up to two years can be shortened if need be. It would be best if you had an experienced family law attorney guiding you during this process so that you do not run into any issues associated with applying for a protective order and building a case to present to a judge.

Child custody related matters and domestic violence

A subject that frequently comes up in cases that involve domestic violence is the possession of your children. Being able to prevent any potential harm to your kids by using parents is likely what you are most concerned about at this time. With that said, what can we consider When it comes to putting into place measures that can limit your Co-parent's access to the children and decrease the likelihood that they ever act out in violence to the children.

One of the first places where I would start this discussion would be preventing your Co-parent from consuming alcohol in front of the kids or even when they are with them. This is sometimes easier said than done. Yes, it is not uncommon to have this order placed into a divorce decree or child custody order. However, it is not as if he will be at your Co-parent's home every time your children are with them. As such, real-time enforcement of this order is not always easy. However, it is one that I would strongly encourage that you think about if you know that alcohol is a significant issue in the life of your Co-parent.

Another part of this discussion would be regular or random drug and alcohol testing. You can negotiate for this type of routine testing to have your Co-parent take advantage of periods of possession. The drug and alcohol testing could be done in whatever way you all can agree to, and you may even be willing to pay for these tests. I've also seen families position themselves where if the test comes back negative, then the non-abusive parent pays for the test period; however, whenever a test comes back positive, the person who submitted a sample for the test will pay for it the test itself.

It also doesn't have to be the case where these drug and alcohol tests go on forever. For instance, you could insert a provision into your divorce decree where you and your Co-parent both submit drug and alcohol tests periodically or randomly for a certain period after your family law case comes to an end. When that happens, if no positive tests have come back, then you're Co-parent would no longer have to be tested. Of course, all this depends on the specific circumstances of your case and your willingness to negotiate with your Co-parent. In some situations, you are Co-parent may have engaged in behavior that Doesn't make any of this sound appealing. In that case, work with your experienced family law attorney to put any additional protective measures into place that may make sense for your family.

Supervised visitation

Supervised visitation is not a standard method employed in child custody or divorce cases. However, in situations involving domestic violence, it is an option that should be considered. In a typical child custody scenario, you and your Co-parent will share possession time with your kids throughout the year. Rather than relying upon agreements that you come up with on the fly, in child custody circumstances like this, you and your Co-parent would mutually agree to periods of possession as designated in your family court order. These periods of control would correspond with your specific roles in parenting your kids as well as the time of the year. Different schedules exist for holiday seasons as well As for the school year. For the most part, the family is utilized quick possession orders. Most end up looking very similar to a standard possession order.

In situations where domestic violence is an issue, this probably would not be the best-case scenario for your family. Instead, supervised visitation may come in handy, at least for the first few months or years after the conclusion of a child custody or divorce case. During this time, your Co-parent will be attempting to show that they can lead a life free of violence and the threat of violence towards you or others. This is an ongoing process, much like addictions to alcohol or drugs. Given this reality, you are Co-parent will be doing their best to learn strategies to cope with anger and attend therapy if necessary.

Even though they will be going through these intentional steps towards bettering themselves, you will likely not be comfortable with them having unfettered access to your kids. With that in mind, a supervised visitation schedule may work well for you and your family. Supervised visitation is exactly what it sounds like. A third party would supervise any contact or possession opportunities your Co-parent has with your children. Whether it is a weekday visit during the school year or a weekend visit, these periods of possession would correspond with a third party being present with your Co-parent and the kids.

One good thing about supervised visitation is that you will have options to administer these visits. One method that is likely not going to work out the best would be to have you be the third party to oversee visits. This puts everyone in an awkward position and likely results in some degree of animosity between you and your Co-parent. Supervised visitation is supposed to balance things between allowing your Co-parent to have some time with the kids and ensuring that violence is not part of the equation. Introducing you into that scenario can create a somewhat hostile environment, even if that is not your intent.

One method of supervised visitation that you may choose to employ would be to have a more neutral third party oversee these visits. For some families, that may mean having a parent of yours or your Co-parent do the supervising. If your Co-parent does not get along with one of your parents or you do not trust one of your Co-parent's parent's then this would not be an ideal plan for you all. At that stage, you may need to consider the possibility of an extended member of either of your families or even a close family friend who is willing and able to take on the responsibility to intervene.

Finding the right person from your life to act as a supervisor in this scenario can be difficult. Many people don't have the perfect person in their life who is agreeable both to you and to your Co-parent in terms of fulfilling this obligation. If your case comes to a trial, then a family court judge would likely go in a different direction and take advantage of the services provided by supervised visitation facilities. These are private entities that often work with the state of Texas to ensure that children can engage in time with their Co-parent but in a supervised and structured environment.

You can speak with your attorney about options for having a facility like this assist with supervised possession. There are facilities located across our area where you can select one based on geographic proximity. The upside to using a supervised visitation facility is that you do not have to perform the work of supervising visitation between your children and your Co-parent. To many people, this is not ideal. The downside is that it can be awkward to have a stranger be present and around for these periods of possession. Additionally, we see that the cost of these periods of control begins to add up, given that supervised visitation is not free.

The reality of supervised visitation is that it is not natural, and it is not ideal for an extended period. However, I have seen families do with some degree of success to engage in supervised visitation for a period if only to show a parent that they can engage inappropriate behavior with the children. As time goes on, it may become less and less necessary for your Co-parent to be in that type of environment. As such, you can build this into your court order by allowing more freedom for your co-parent over time as they show the ability to interact with the children appropriately and not engage in destructive behavior.

Stairstep visitation their step visitation refers to the situation here Co-parent could start with a relatively small amount of possession time with the children and then gradually build up two more times with the children when their behavior and the circumstances of your life allow for it. For example, if family violence has been an issue with your family, you and the family court may not be comfortable with your Co-parent having unsupervised possession of the children at least at the first period; as such, you may negotiate for supervised visitation within the court orders. However, suppose your Co-parent can show good behavior, attend therapy, and fulfill any other obligations that you have laid out in the court order. In that case, they may then gradually take on more time and autonomy over the children.

Whereas supervised visits for short periods may be the norm at first, eventually, you're Co-parent may be able to graduate into having solo time with the kids. If that goes well, then your Co-parent may be able to transition into a more standard possession order where he even can be with the kids on overnight visits. The reality is that this is entirely up to you and your circumstances. Additionally, if your case goes to a trial, then it is primarily up to the judge what happens based on the evidence you present period; however, the possibilities R diverse as far as what you and your Co-parent can come up with as a unit.

What is in the best interest of your children?

Not only do you need to place child custody orders that are in your best interests and can protect you, but you also need to consider what is in the best interest of your children. This can be a tricky balance to strike. Needing to balance your safety and that of your children with their long-term development is a responsibility that, honestly, you should never have had to think about in the first place. However, due to the circumstances of your case, it is a reality that is staring you down. On top of that, you likely have little experience working through these types of situations and only know the options presented to you by others.

With that said, it can be incredibly beneficial to have someone experienced at handling a family lot of cases by your side. It could do you a significant bit of good to work with an experienced family law attorney in terms of guiding you towards solutions that make sense for your specific case, your children, and your family. A family law attorney has the advantage of having served others in your circumstance and can provide you with creative solutions that you may not have thought of. Ultimately you are the decision-maker in your case and not the attorney. This attorney is there to provide you with perspective and advice you can use to better your situation and That of your kids.

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 consultation six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are an excellent way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law and how your family circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case.

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Other Articles you may be interested in:

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  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
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  7. When is Cheating Considered Adultery in a Texas Divorce?
  8. Six things You Need to Know Before You File for Divorce in Texas

Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC | Houston, Texas Divorce Lawyers

The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding divorce, it's essential to speak with one of our Houston, TX, Divorce Lawyers right away to protect your rights.

Our divorce lawyers in Houston, TX, are skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and developing a strategy to meet those goals. Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, handles Divorce cases in Houston, Texas, Cypress, Klein, Humble, Kingwood, Tomball, The Woodlands, the FM 1960 area, or surrounding areas, including Harris County, Montgomery County, Liberty County, Chambers County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County, and Waller County.

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