How does family violence affect Texas divorce cases?

Understanding how family violence affects Texas divorce cases may help people protect themselves as they navigate the legal process.

Over the course of their lives, one out of three residents across the state will unfortunately suffer family violence, according to the Texas Council on Family Violence. When such abuse or physical altercations occur between spouses, it may cause irreparable damage to their marriages, leading some to seek a divorce. In order to help protect themselves during these difficult, and potentially dangerous, times, it may help people to understand the impact family violence can have on Texas divorce cases.

Family violence defined

Family violence occurs when one family or household member assaults, sexually assaults, abuses or otherwise causes physical harm or bodily injury to another family or household member. Family or household members may include spouses or former spouses, current or past dating partners, people who share a child, foster parents and foster children, and other members of the same family by blood or marriage. Acts that threaten or cause reasonable fear of assault or injury may also be considered family violence.

Family violence as a cause for divorce

As a no-fault state, people do not have to list a reason for their uncontested or contested divorces in the state of Texas. However, the law does allow them the opportunity to list the grounds on which they are seeking a dissolution of marriage should they choose to do so. The reasons supported by state law include adultery, insupportability, felony convictions, abandonment, separation, confinement in a mental hospital and cruelty, which may cover family violence. Making the court aware of any existing abusive histories may afford people the ability to take advantage of protective measures, as well as affect the settlements of their cases.

Waiving the waiting period

With few exceptions, there is a 60-day waiting period before the court will grant a divorce request. If there is a history of family violence or if the person who filed the petition has an active Title 4 or magistrate's order for protection, however, the court may waive this waiting period. Consequently, people are able to finalize their divorces as soon as possible, potentially providing them some space and protection from their former partners.

Abuse and property division

A community property state, both spouses in Texas have a claim to the property they acquired over the course of their marriage. Under most circumstances, then, family law courts divide the couple's shared assets based on what is deemed "just and equitable." To make this determination, the court may consider factors such as the duration of the couple's marriage and the age and earning potential of each spouse, as well as the causes for the divorce, which may include a current or past family violence incident. The court may also take such incidents and histories into account when deciding spousal support awards.

Obtaining legal assistance

Getting divorced may be difficult enough, emotionally and legally, for people in Texas and elsewhere. The process may be complicated further, however, when there is a history of family violence. Therefore, those who have experienced these types of situations and are considering a divorce may benefit from working with an attorney. A lawyer may explain their options for pursuing protective orders, as well as help them navigate the legal process of dissolving their marriages.