Domestic violence affects millions of families every year, making life difficult for the abused spouse and the children involved. Those with a controlling spouse require a carefully planned strategy for leaving the household in order to file for divorce and a restraining order.
While Texas is a no-fault divorce state, it does allow for a spouse to file for divorce with a fault. One of those faults is domestic violence, called “family violence” in Texas.
Section 71.004(1) of the Texas Family Code spells out the definition of family violence:
“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.”
In these cases, the courts intend to protect the spouse against further abuse by the other party, and the process changes.
How Family Violence Accusations Affect Your Divorce Process
The first available option is petitioning the court for a protective order, also called a “restraining order.” This order affects issues like where the other party is allowed to live and how often he or she can visit their children. The court considers a number of factors in child custody decisions, including denying shared custody to the party inflicting abuse.
While mediation is usually recommended for divorcing couples, judges won’t use mediation amid allegations of family violence. The reasoning is that the results will be unfair because one party may have extra leverage during the negotiations.
While most divorcing couples must wait at least 60 days to finalize a divorce, that time period may be waived.
Property divisions are no longer 50/50—the court will decide what a victim needs in order to move out of the marriage and into a safer situation where he or she can become re-established. In Texas, the judge considers what is “just and right,” rather than just community property.
Additionally, the court will consider family violence when deciding on whether spousal support would be awarded.
False Allegations Of Domestic Violence
Many people believe that falsely accusing the other spouse of family violence will give them a tactical advantage in a divorce. In some cases, spouses are arrested on these false charges. This should never be used in a divorce proceeding because it can backfire.
On the surface, it may look like it will work. But family law attorney can also enlist the help of a criminal defense attorney to defend the accused in court to fight false charges and challenge the evidence, separate from the divorce proceeding.
A thorough investigation can prove that the allegations are false, and clear the name of the accused. Once the spouse is cleared of domestic violence allegations, it’s likely that the accuser will end up losing in court, both in the divorce and in child conservatorship proceedings. There is also a chance that the accuser could find him or herself with charges as well.
If domestic violence is truly a factor, of course, you should bring it up. But false allegations should never be levied against a spouse just to influence the outcome of a case.
Compassionate Divorce Attorney Wendy L. Hart
If you are in a family violence situation, getting out maybe your first priority. Once you establish a plan for leaving a difficult situation, it’s time for a strategy for you to get life back in order for you and your children. In the process of making these plans, it’s best to speak with a family law attorney to help you understand what’s involved and what you need to proceed.
Wendy L. Hart is an experienced family law attorney helping people throughout Tarrant County with divorce, property, and child custody issues. We represent both men and women for family law matters including family violence in Tarrant County. Visit our Mansfield office, use our online contact form, or call us at (817) 842-2336 for an appointment.