Domestic violence can tear a family apart. No one should have to live in fear for their safety or that of their children. Escaping a harmful marriage is one of the bravest and wisest things a person can do. Victims leaving abusive relationships with their children often have many questions about their Texas child custody case.
Child custody tends to be an anxiety-producing topic for most people facing divorce. Everyone loves their children, and the thought of having to share them with an ex who may live far away is a stressful and painful prospect. For victims of abuse at the hands of their exes, the anxiety level is through the roof. It’s natural for parents to be fiercely protective of their children, and the idea of them spending time with someone who has violent tendencies is terrifying.
The state of Texas, like all states, makes the safety and well-being of children the top priority in custody decisions. “The best interests of the child” is the standard for deciding custody and visitation, and this standard is based on a variety of factors.
The most common factors in deciding the child’s best interest are:
- the parent/child relationship (with each parent);
- the physical and mental health of both parents and child;
- the parents’ wishes in regards to custody;
- the child’s wishes in regards to custody (to a limited extent and depending on the child’s age); and
- the overall stability of both parental households.
Domestic violence affects every one of those factors because in addition to the obvious physical dangers involved, it causes psychological harm and distorts the family dynamic in significant ways.
When a judge is deciding a child custody case, he or she will look at every relevant factor, and any history of abuse on the part of a parent is certainly a relevant factor. This is especially true if the victim has recently fled the marriage and claims abuse.
Some individuals who are victims of abuse are afraid to flee the situation because they think that their spouses will be able to charge them with kidnapping or abandonment. The abusive partner may use this threat to control the victim. In reality, leaving is the smartest thing you can do when you’re being abused at home, and the law is there to protect people fleeing from harmful domestic environments. Don’t allow your spouse to intimidate you in order to keep you at home.
Leaving a Domestic Violence Situation
If you’re planning to leave your spouse, it’s a good idea to seek the services of a domestic abuse shelter. A shelter can be a refuge for you and your children when you get out of your home. Even if you decide not to stay at the shelter, most shelter organizations also provide or refer you for counseling, legal advice and social services.
It’s helpful to have evidence of your abuse to present during your Texas child custody case. If a victim has medical records, police reports, restraining orders, photos of injuries or recordings of threats, it helps solidify the case and makes it easier for a judge to make the right decision. The court will take into consideration how close to the case the incident(s) of abuse occurred and whether the abusive spouse has completed drug or alcohol rehab or graduated from parenting classes since the incident(s).
A proven abuser would have a difficult time getting any type of sole or joint custody, but since the court’s goal is to help parents retain relationship with their children, a family court judge might, depending on the circumstances, allow some form of visitation. In some cases, an abuser may lose parental rights altogether, especially if he or she abandoned the child.
Contacting a Texas Child Custody Attorney
If you’re a victim of domestic violence and you’re facing a Texas child custody case, you need a caring, understanding attorney to advocate for you. Contact the law firm of Warren & Migliaccio today. We’ll help you understand the legal process of pursuing child custody and will represent you and your children’s best interests. Contact us at 1-888-584-9614.