Domestic Violence is violent or aggressive behavior within the home, typically involving the abuse of a spouse or partner. In Texas, domestic violence is defined broadly to include a variety of abusive behaviors and conduct committed by one family or household member against another.
Definition of Domestic Violence
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, sexual assault, or any threat that reasonably places the victim in fear of imminent physical harm or injury.
Family or household members encompass a wide range of relationships, including spouses, former spouses, parents, children, individuals related by blood or marriage, individuals in a dating relationship, and individuals who reside or have resided together in the same household.
Impact of Domestic Violence on Divorce
The presence of domestic violence may impact the divorce process in the following ways.
Grounds for Divorce
In Texas, one of the grounds for divorce is cruelty, which encompasses acts of domestic violence, abuse, or mistreatment by one spouse against the other. A spouse who has experienced domestic violence may cite cruelty as grounds for divorce, providing evidence of the abusive behavior to support their claim.
In cases involving domestic violence, a spouse may seek a protective order, also known as a restraining order, to obtain legal protection from further abuse or harassment by the abusive spouse. Protective orders may include provisions for temporary custody, temporary possession of the marital residence, and restrictions on contact or communication between the parties.
Texas is a community property state, which means that marital assets and debts are generally divided equally between the spouses upon divorce. However, in cases involving domestic violence, courts may consider the abusive spouse’s behavior as a factor in determining the division of property and may award a greater share of marital property to the victim spouse as a form of compensation or protection.
Domestic violence may also impact the award of spousal support, also known as spousal maintenance or alimony, in divorce proceedings. Courts may be less likely to award spousal support to an abusive spouse or may impose conditions on spousal support payments to ensure the safety and well-being of the victim spouse.
Impact of Domestic Violence on Child Custody
Domestic violence can have profound effects on child custody determinations in Texas, with courts prioritizing the safety and best interests of the child when making custody decisions.
Courts may be reluctant to award primary physical custody or visitation rights to a parent with a history of domestic violence, particularly if the abuse poses a risk to the child’s safety or well-being. Instead, courts may prioritize the safety of the child by awarding primary custody to the non-abusive parent or implementing supervised visitation arrangements.
Best Interests of the Child
Texas family courts consider the best interests of the child standard when making custody determinations, taking into account factors such as the child’s physical and emotional needs, the ability of each parent to provide a stable and nurturing environment, and any history of domestic violence or abuse in the household.
In cases involving domestic violence, courts may impose protective measures to safeguard the child from further harm, such as supervised visitation, restrictions on contact between the abusive parent and the child, and the implementation of safety plans or parenting orders designed to protect the child’s well-being.