When you are facing a divorce or child custody case, the last thing that you want to deal with in addition to that critical family law matter is a situation where you or your children are being abused. Suppose that is the position that you find yourself in. In that case, you need to have a plan on how to proceed and information available to assist law enforcement, attorneys, and judges to help provide you and your family with protection against future incidents of abuse. All of this must be done while you are probably fearful about the trauma you have already suffered.
This can be quite a lot to handle- and all at the same time, to boot. However, you have an opportunity to do something positive for your family by developing a plan on how to proceed. Understanding how to proceed is based on having good information. They say that "knowledge is power." This is not merely a tagline or a slogan for people to use in television commercials. Instead, knowledge in this context means understanding how the State of Texas classifies domestic violence for the laws that will govern your family law case.
Even if you are mainly concerned with your child custody or divorce case, it is essential to remember and keep in mind that the kind of abuse that you have suffered is a crime in Texas. It is against the law for another person to put their hands on you- or even to threaten you in this manner with an apparent and immediate opportunity to do so. It is an aggravating factor when the person is in your own family. Physically abusing anyone is wrong. It is incredibly unfair to use a person in your family. At that point, your spouse or co-parent's potential penalties increase because of their actions.
Additionally, there are restrictions placed on a person's ability to pay bail to get out of jail during the time between their arrest and a trial date. This person's right to keep a firearm in their possession is limited to the extent that things like a concealed carry permit will not be allowed. The purpose of this restriction is to prevent their ability to commit acts like these in the future. A situation involving a firearm and family violence can escalate dramatically.
The remainder of today's blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan will focus on family violence. We will be discussing the various sorts of family violence crimes and the penalties for having committed such crimes. If you have questions about the material contained in today's blog post, then I recommend contacting our experienced family law attorneys for a free-of-charge consultation. It is not easy to be going through a family law case that involves domestic violence. However, you do not need to go through it alone. Our office is ready and able to assist you and your family during these difficult times.
What can you do to protect yourself in an immediate sense when family violence is ongoing?
All this information can be helpful in the right setting but may not be as beneficial if you find yourself in a situation where you are currently the victim of abuse at the hands of a spouse or Co-parent. You may be asking yourself what this information can do to help you in an immediate sense if your safety and well-being are at issue or that of your children is a point. In this case, my advice would be that you need to take specific steps to help You and your family right now.
The first thing I would look to is your spouse or Co parents' ability to access the electronics you are using to go about your daily life or even access information like this blog post. You need to be aware of the computer, smartphone, or tablet you were using and your Co-parent or spouse's ability to access your browser or Internet history. It is easy enough for your spouse or Co-parent to get ahold of her phone, look at the history of the calls or Internet websites you visit, and then have an adverse reaction against you. The last thing you want to do is torment them during this time; however, the risks associated with accessing information need to be balanced against your need to obtain the information.
All of this becomes even more difficult if you are using the same device, wireless network, or even phone plan as your abuser. Many spouses are on the same wireless phone plan, so their ability to either look in and see what websites you are accessing or outright restrict your access to certain websites is also profound. You're attempting to modify their ability to view the websites you use can also be seen as an example of suspicious behavior that might elicit an angry response. You're looking at websites regarding divorce, child custody, or information about domestic abuse that can lead them to think that you are attempting to file a family law case or even leave home altogether.
It would help if you also were mindful of the tracking abilities that are a part of almost every cell phone. The GPS capabilities that allow you to use the maps function of your phone can also help your Co-parent or spouse to know where you are always, period; it is likely that your phone has a location feature or at least a "find me" part. In that case, your spouse or Co-parent may be able to access your phone's location from a remote area, meaning that they can know where you are always even when you are not aware of it. When you are able, you should begin to learn techniques and methods, such as turning these tracking methods off your electronic devices, that can help secure your devices and prevent your spouse or Co-parent from accessing your information without your permission.
What exactly is family violence in Texas?
What we need to discuss now is what family violence is. You may have an idea about what family violence is or even what family violence feels like. However, Texas has actual definitions that will constitute how a judge views family violence. The specific acts that are covered by domestic violence or family violence statutes and the persons who are covered by these statutes are also relevant. Let's walk through these definitions so that you can know exactly what the state of Texas is looking to in terms of classifying whether domestic or family violence is ongoing in your family based on your specific circumstances.
In Texas, family violence is defined as including any of the following: an act by one family or household member against another that threatens or results in physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or sexual assault. Additionally, child abuse Involving a family or household member Is covered by family violence statutes in Texas. Finally, the same type of acts that are relevant to members of your household committing the abuse is also covered if you are dating someone who is physically abusive against you or a member of your family.
Even the definition of who is counted as a family or household member can be relevant to this discussion. Your current or ex-spouse is covered under the family violence statutes. This means that the penalties associated with committing an act of family violence can be felt even by an ex-spouse. Co-parents of the same child are also covered under the statute. This means that you do not have to be married to your child's other parent or even live under the same roof as them to have the penalties associated with family violence statutes apply to your Co-parent. Relatives by blood, marriage, or even adoption are also covered under the law. Even if the person no longer lives with you but is covered as a family member of another sort, then the penalties of this statute apply. As you can see, there are broad definitions that apply to family violence in Texas.
Assault in Texas is defined as purposely or carelessly causing bodily injury to another person. Next, intentionally threatening another person with imminent bodily injury is also seen as assault. This means that you cannot merely make a threat over the telephone when you live in another country and how this is constituted as assault. Instead, the threat receiver needs to be operating under this suspicion that bodily injury is imminent because of the threat. Finally, intentionally engaging in provocative or offensive contact is also seen as assault in Texas. This sort of contact, in my experience, has more to do with unwanted sexual advances and touching. Put it all together, and when a family or household member commits the above acts, the crime is known as domestic assault.
Some of the most common physical conduct that constitutes domestic assault include hitting, choking, kicking, slapping, and hairpulling. Threatening to perform any of these acts with the apparent ability to do so readily is also considered domestic assault. If your Co-parent were to push you a way to get closer to one of your children, then this would count as domestic assault. This would be true even if your Co-parent did not intend to injure you. If he were to fall after being pushed and broke your arm, this would constitute domestic assault. Even less severe infractions like going to someone during an argument or pointing a finger in someone's face can constitute domestic assault. Finally, be aware that unwanted sexual touching such as brushing up against a person in a sexually suggestive way, can also include domestic assault.
What are the penalties for domestic assault in Texas?
There are both misdemeanor and felony penalties associated with domestic assault in Texas. On the misdemeanor side of things, domestic assault involving threats of harm or provocative or offensive contact constitutes a Class C misdemeanor. These Class C misdemeanors are punishable by a fine of up to $500. If you are the victim of these types of acts and have suffered a bodily injury, then the penalty associated with these acts increases to a Class A misdemeanor. In Texas, Class A misdemeanors carry penalties of up to one year in jail and a $4000 fine.
More severe Penalties are associated with assaults involving injuries where your spouse or Co-parent has prior domestic assault convictions. If your spouse or Co-parent attempted to strangle or suffocate, then this is funny. Value a third-degree felony conviction subjects the offensive person to two to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
What is aggravated domestic assault?
When your Co-parent or spouse commits assault that causes serious bodily injury to you, then this is an aggravated form of domestic assault. Additionally, if the exhibition of a deadly weapon were utilized in the Commission of a domestic assault, this would count as aggravated domestic assault. Serious bodily injury would include harms like a broken bone, the loss of a limb, or damage so severe that you would be required to have had surgery or be hospitalized.
When discussing something like a deadly weapon, we would mean an object capable of causing your death or a severe bodily injury. It is not only knives and firearms that would count as deadly weapons. Things like a baseball bat, rope, a blunt object, or even household items utilized in a dangerous way intended to harm you can seriously count as a deadly weapon. This may give you a new appreciation for just how difficult everyday household items can be when it comes to having them used against you in potentially dangerous ways.
If your spouse or Co-parent commits these types of aggravated domestic assaults with a deadly weapon and then causes serious bodily injury to you, then this is a first-degree felony in Texas. These types of acts would cause your spouse or co-parent to face 5 to 99 years in prison as well as a $10,000 fine. All other types of aggravated domestic assault count as a second-degree felony and subject your Co-parent or spouse to two years to 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
What if you already have a family protective order in place?
If your spouse or Co-parent violates a family protective order, such as this person coming home and dear get-to-know argument with you, then this is a Class A misdemeanor. The penalties associated with a Class A misdemeanor in Texas include up to one year in jail and a $4000 fine. The more times that your spouse or Co-parent has violated family violence statutes, the more heightened the penalties associated with violating a protective order would be. For example, suppose your spouse or Co-parent has two or more convictions for violating a family protective order or violated the order by committing stalking or assault. In that case, the charge can be a third-degree felony. Third-degree felonies in Texas mean two to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine if convicted.
Suppose a police officer has probable cause to believe that your spouse or Co-parent committed a crime involving family violence. In that case, you should know in advance that the police officer would not need to have a warrant to arrest them. To do so, however, law enforcement would need to remain at the scene of the incident for as long as possible to verify the allegation made against them and maintain the peace between you, your family, and your Co-parent. For example, suppose you contact your local constable's office with the family violence report made against your Co-parent. In that case, law enforcement can arrest your Co-parent without a warrant. However, law enforcement will need to perform some degree of due diligence to confirm the accuracy of your allegations and then determine that an arrest is necessary.
Conditions of bond and family violence cases may include ordering the defendant to stay away from you or even having GPS constantly monitor them. Importantly the prohibition against their firearm possession is typically a bail and bond condition. If your co-parent or spouse is arrested before being released on bail or bond, a police officer must make a reasonable attempt to inform you of their release. This can allow you to take steps to protect yourself and your family better while your Co-parent or spouse is free on bond or bail.
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 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 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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Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC | Spring Divorce Attorneys
The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding divorce, it's important to speak with one of our Spring, TX Divorce Attorneys right away to protect your rights.
Our divorce attorneys in Spring 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 Spring, Texas, Cypress, Spring, 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.