No one has to put up with domestic violence and other forms of abuse. Unfortunately, abusive partners often try to convince their victims that they have nowhere to turn. They may claim no one will believe the victim or that the law offers no protection from violence. This is false.

Texas law protects victims of domestic violence. It is grounds for a fault divorce and courts consider it a factor in awarding child custody. When the abuser remains a threat, such as through stalking, a restraining order can stop that behavior. Domestic violence victims have the same rights as victims of other crimes. Everyone has the right to peace and safety.

How Texas Law Defines Domestic Violence

While anyone knows domestic violence when they see it or experience it, the law must define the term precisely. This does not mean that abuse falls outside of the legal definition of domestic violence permitted. It just means that the actions may be defined as a different type of violation.

Texas law regards domestic violence as incidents where a perpetrator intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causes a family member bodily injury. State law terms this offense “assault on a family member”, though it means the same thing as domestic violence. Assault on a family member statutes define family members more broadly than a nuclear family and divide them into three categories.

Category one includes immediate family members, defined as biological and non-biological family members, such as a spouse, significant other, children, adopted children, parents, stepparents, siblings, and grandparents.

Category two involves people in a dating relationship, including boyfriends and girlfriends. This category also includes exes. The law remains somewhat vague on at what point a dating relationship becomes valid for the purposes of defining domestic violence. A single date is probably not substantial enough but a long-term relationship qualifies. Specifically, the law states this category encompasses “continuing relationship(s) of a romantic or intimate nature.” 

The third category includes unrelated persons with which you cohabitate, such as a roommate or extended family. The law requires no specific time period of living in the same home. Anyone you’re used to living with also qualifies under this definition.

Intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causing bodily injury to anyone in the above three categories is domestic violence within the meaning of the law. Violence against other persons is covered under the state’s statutes against assault and battery.

Texas law defines bodily injury broadly. It includes any action that causes another person physical pain, regardless of whether it results in serious injury. For example, a pinch, slap, or hair-pulling constitutes bodily injury. Naturally, assaults resulting in serious injury also meet the definition of domestic violence.

Domestic Violence Criminal Charges

Domestic violence is more than grounds for divorce or sole custody of children. It is also a crime. While domestic violence convictions can help win a divorce or custody case, a criminal charge or guilty verdict is not necessary for the victim to prevail in civil court. Instead, courts decide civil verdicts separately by a preponderance of the evidence rather than a beyond-a-reasonable doubt standard.

Law enforcement can charge family violence as a Class C or Class A misdemeanor or felony. Class C family violence carries a maximum fine of $500. Class A family violence can land the offender in jail for up to a year. Felonious family violence can result in many years in a penitentiary.

To qualify as a felony, the perpetrator must have impeded breath or circulation, caused serious bodily harm, or used a deadly weapon.

Domestic Violence and Family Court in Texas

Family violence can result in a fault divorce. Abusers cannot rationalize their actions in family court. The divorce is because of misconduct.

It can also sway the court’s ruling on central issues and result in special family court orders to protect victims.

Texas law mandates a 60-day waiting period before a partner may proceed with a divorce citing family violence. However, the victim can obtain immediate protection through a restraining order or temporary order removing children from the abuser. 

Through litigation, the court decides whether to make temporary orders permanent and may impose restrictions on those who committed family violence. For example, the court may grant a permanent restraining order and require supervised child visitation.

Domestic violence may also impact the divorce decree. For example, a victim of domestic violence may be entitled to additional financial compensation. Also, when courts find family violence has occurred, they are likely to grant sole child custody to the victim.

Domestic violence ranges from flaring tempers and minor battery to long-term, evil abuse meant to destroy the target. In all cases, domestic violence is criminal and a salient factor in many family law cases. Abusers face adverse civil court decisions that can cost them financially and forever alter their relationships with their children.

 Call Us Today to Schedule a Consultation with a Domestic Violence Lawyer in Dallas, TX

Domestic violence is a terrible family circumstance that can cause lasting damage to you and your children. You don’t have to fight it alone. An experienced domestic violence lawyer at Aberdeen Family Law knows how to help you access the legal tools that will help protect your family. Call (972) 914-3986 to schedule your consultation. The sooner you have legal advice, the sooner you can begin rebuilding a safer life for yourself and your children.

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