How Family Violence Affects Custody and Visitation in Texas

The phrase “family violence” has a broad definition. It includes acts by one member of a family or household against another that is intended to cause physical harm, bodily injury, assault or sexual assault. It also includes the threat of doing any of these things. When family violence occurs, it is not good for the children, even if they are not the ones abused. The experienced attorneys at Houston’s Boudreaux | Hunter & Associates, L.L.C., can help you in family violence cases.

Shannon Boudreaux is one of the two partners in Boudreaux | Hunter & Associates, L.L.C. Ms. Boudreaux is uniquely qualified to handle family law violence cases. In addition to being an experienced family law attorney, Ms. Boudreaux holds a Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice and a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Sociology. Ms. Boudreaux’s partner, Kevin Hunter, has both a military and a law enforcement background. He is also a skilled oral advocate, having competed while in law school against other law schools in moot court competitions.

Family Violence Affects Custody

We’ve written before about whether a child’s parents will have joint custody, or one will have sole custody while the other has visitation. The distinction is important because in joint custody, parents share rights as to the children. When there is sole custody, ordinarily the parent with visitation doesn’t have as much of a say about the children.

Joint custody is so important that the law presumes that the parents should have joint custody. But if the court finds that family violence did occur, then the presumption disappears. At that time, the parent who committed family violence must convince the court that joint custody is in the children’s best interest. If that parent fails, then the parent can be given only visitation.

When making the determination of joint or sole custody, the court must

consider evidence of the intentional use of abusive physical force, or evidence of sexual abuse, by a party directed against the party’s spouse, a parent of the child, or any person younger than 18 years of age committed within a two-year period preceding the filing of the suit. 

The statute continues: The court may not appoint joint managing conservators if credible evidence is presented of a history or pattern of past or present child neglect, or physical or sexual abuse by one parent directed against the other parent, a spouse, or a child. 

Therefore, family violence is an important factor to consider when a court decides whether to grant joint custody or to grant one parent only visitation with the children.

The Court Can Prohibit Visitation

Even if the court decides that the parent of a child who has committed family violence should have visitation, the court has the right to stop visitation. By statute, the court must prohibit visitation if “it is shown by a preponderance of the evidence that there is a history or pattern of committing family violence during the two years preceding the date of the filing of the suit or during the pendency of the suit.”

The parent who committed family violence can have visitation only if the court makes certain additional findings. One of the required findings is that visitation “would not endanger the child’s physical health or emotional welfare and would be in the best interest of the child.” The court also can order that any visitation be supervised.

A Family Violence Finding Can Curtail Communications

If a parent has committed family violence, but the court decides that the parent can have visitation, the court can still limit visitation beyond the Standard Possession Order. In particular, the court can place restrictions on electronic communications, defined as “telephone, electronic mail, instant messaging, videoconferencing, or webcam.”

In extreme cases, the court may order communications cut off altogether. According to the statute, if family violence has occurred, the court may allow electronic communications only when: Both parents agree; The terms for electronic communications are printed in the court’s order in boldfaced, capitalized type; and The terms “include any specific restrictions relating to family violence or supervised visitation, as applicable, required by other law to be included in a possession or access order.”

We Can Help

A finding of family violence can cost a parent custody. It can reduce or cut off visitation. And, it can put a stop to electronic communications with the child. We at Boudreaux | Hunter & Associates, L.L.C., can help an abused parent enforce these restrictions, or recommend professional help when representing the abuser to avoid being kicked out of the child’s life forever. Please contact our experienced attorneys by webform or at (713) 333-4430.