The most important issue in any child custody dispute is the welfare of the child. This is why any hint or report of domestic abuse between parents is treated extremely seriously by the courts in custody matters. Any Austin child custody attorney will tell you that reports of domestic abuse will almost certainly affect the way the court decides primary custody and visitation.
The judge’s goal in a child custody dispute is to best serve the child’s needs. Under Texas law, there are two areas of child custody that must be decided: conservatorship, which is the right of a parent or guardian to make medical, religious, or educational decisions for their child; and possession, which is the parent with whom the child physically lives and how often the other parent is allowed to visit.
Although domestic violence is sometimes thought of as purely physical violence between married partners, in Texas it can refer to any physical harm or mental abuse (such as threats) between family members. If domestic violence is occurring, the affected family member may want to file for a protective order with the help of an attorney. The judge will issue a protective order against the abusive family member if the judge determines that abuse is likely to occur in the future. When it comes to child custody cases, the courts will closely scrutinize any partner who has even a short history of domestic violence or abuse. One way do this is to examine whether either parent had a protective order taken out against them in the previous two years. Even one incident of violence may be deemed a “history” and taken into account when deciding the parent’s visitation rights. The courts do not take this issue lightly.
If one parent has a history or pattern of physical or sexual abuse, Texas law forbids the courts from making that parent joint conservator of his or her children. Additionally, if a parent has in the previous two years committed any sexual assault or abuse of a child, the parent will not be allowed possession of the child. However, an Austin domestic violence lawyer may tell you that the court may grant some access if certain conditions are met, such as a visitation order designed to protect the child, or the abusive parent only visiting under supervision and after completing a treatment program.
For more information on how domestic violence may affect your child custody dispute in Texas, contact an Austin child custody attorney at Nunis & Associates. Call (512) 236-9696.