Even under the best circumstances, divorce can be scary. After all, there are just so many uncertainties. In a marriage where there is abuse or violence, divorce can be even scarier. In the worst scenario, it can even be dangerous. So here’s what you need to know about getting a Texas divorce due to family violence.
What is Family Violence?
Family violence is also known as domestic violence or intimate partner violence. Regardless of what you call it, the general description does not change. It involves:
- Physical abuse: Including hitting, grabbing forcefully, and damaging property.
- Emotional or psychological abuse: Including threats, name-calling, and critical, demeaning comments.
- Sexual abuse: Rape or any other sexual acts that are unwelcome or unwanted.
The partner also can commit financial abuse. This is when one controls access to funds or intentionally mismanaging money.
In short, domestic violence is about power. It is used to intimidate a partner, control behavior, or coerce the person into doing (or not doing) things. And it is intended to make the person feel valuable and less worthy of love and respect.
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE IS A PROBLEM IN THE U.S. AND IN TARRANT COUNTY
Many victims of family violence feel like they are all alone. Unfortunately, domestic violence is very common. The Centers for Disease Control produces a document called the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Report. The 2015 report shows about 1 in 4 women experienced contact sexual violence, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner during their lifetime. About 1 in 10 men experienced one of these situations during their lifetime.
In addition, one-third of women and men experienced psychological aggression by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
SafeHaven is a nonprofit organization in Tarrant County. They report that every day, domestic violence hotlines nationwide receive more than 20,000 calls. And in Tarrant County in 2018, five women were killed by a current or former intimate partner.
In short, abusers want their victims to believe they are all alone. But the truth is, many, many other American women and men are experiencing similar forms of domestic violence.
IN A TEXAS DOMESTIC VIOLENCE DIVORCE, THE FIRST PRIORITY IS SAFETY
If you are wanting to divorce someone who is abusive or violent, the most important thing you can do often is also the hardest: Take action. Now.
You can worry about finding an attorney later. For now, you need to leave the house and get to a safe place. If you have children, take them with you. You may also consider taking any pets with you, as well.
Next, you need to call the police. You also should consider filing criminal charges against your spouse. This could include assault, stalking, making threats, trespassing, and sexual assault.
You also may ask the police about getting a protective order or a temporary restraining order. These documents can stop the abuser from committing additional acts of family violence. Generally, a protective order is valid for up to two years. We’ll provide resources for victims of domestic violence at the end of this post.
Remember: In a Texas domestic violence divorce, often the most dangerous time is when you are leaving the person.
ONCE YOU ARE IN A SAFE PLACE, TALK TO AN ATTORNEY ABOUT A TEXAS DOMESTIC VIOLENCE DIVORCE
While the legal system can be intimidating, an experienced Texas divorce attorney can help you make sense of it. Remember that it’s not enough to say, “I just want it to be over.” You also need to be prepared to take legal action.
Texas is a “no-fault” divorce state. This means you don’t have to provide a specific reason for wanting a divorce. However, in a Texas divorce due to domestic violence, you should be sure to share this information.
You will need to prove that your spouse has committed domestic violence. This can include photographs of injuries, hospital records, or police reports. An experienced family law attorney can advise you in this area.
AN ATTORNEY CAN PROVIDE AN ADDITIONAL LEVEL OF SAFETY IN A TEXAS DIVORCE DUE TO DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
As we mentioned, the most dangerous time to be around an abusive partner is when you are leaving the person. But if you hire an attorney to handle your Texas divorce due to domestic violence divorce, he or she will handle the communications. You may not have to speak or interact with your abusive spouse through the entire process.
In addition, if your spouse hires an attorney, the lawyers will communicate directly. Thus, hiring an attorney to handle your domestic violence divorce can help reduce your risk. And if the two of you are communicating through attorneys, the divorce may be less contentious and stressful.
Also, if you are seeking a temporary restraining order or protective order, be sure to share this information with your attorney.
HOW LONG DO I NEED TO WAIT TO GET A TEXAS DIVORCE DUE TO DOMESTIC VIOLENCE?
The first step in getting a divorce is filing a petition with the court. Once the document has been filed, the court typically requires the couple to wait 60 days before ending the marriage. This time is intended as a “cooling-off period.” It allows the partners time to think about whether they really want to go through with the divorce.
However, in a Texas family violence divorce, there is a second option. Your attorney can file a motion asking the court to waive the waiting period due to family violence. Note that in order to obtain an expedited divorce, your spouse must have been convicted of a family violence charge.
CAN I GET CUSTODY OF MY CHILDREN IN A TEXAS DIVORCE DUE TO DOMESTIC VIOLENCE?
Texas courts try to do what they think is best for children. In a divorce case, the general assumption is that children are better off having both parents actively and equally engaged in their lives. Texas courts call this joint managing conservatorship.
But once again, the law makes accommodations for a Texas divorce involving domestic violence. Thus, if your spouse has been abusive or violent, the court is more likely to award you full custody of your children. Texas courts call this is called sole managing conservatorship.
The court also is likely to restrict your ex-spouse’s right to spend time with the children. If the spouse has committed the violence very recently, he or she may have to wait an extended period of time even to have a supervised visit.
This is another reason why if you are wanting a Texas divorce due to domestic violence, you should be sure to share this information with your attorney.
IN A TEXAS DOMESTIC VIOLENCE DIVORCE, DON’T PUT YOURSELF AND YOUR FAMILY AT RISK
The attorneys of The Maynard Law Firm, PLLC, can offer you a unique combination of experience and compassion. We have handled a wide range of Texas divorces, including those involving domestic violence. Our attorneys can guide you through this stressful time and advise you on how to keep you and your family safe during the process. Even if you are a stay-at-home parent who is worried about having the money to hire an attorney, help is still available. Don’t risk a Texas divorce due to family violence on your own: Call us today at 817-335-9600.
TEXAS DOMESTIC VIOLENCE RESOURCES
- Tarrant County Domestic Violence Hotline: 877-701-7233 (SAFE)
- National Domestic Violence Hotline: 800-799-7233
- Information about obtaining a protective order in Tarrant County: 817-884-1623. Link: Protective Orders (tarrantcounty.com)
- SafeHaven website: SafeHaventc.org.
Remember: In a Texas divorce due to domestic violence, the most dangerous time can be when you are leaving the person.