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How might my spouse’s domestic violence affect our divorce?

Millions of Americans tragically find themselves affected by domestic violence each year.  Domestic violence can have a tremendous impact on your divorce in Texas.  The Texas Family Code defines domestic or family violence as any act by a member of a family against another member with the intent to result in bodily injury, physical harm, or a threat that places the family member in fear of imminent physical harm.  Domestic violence is a tremendous national problem, and any spouse that has been the victim of domestic violence should contact a domestic violence lawyer to assist with their divorce.

Domestic Violence Statistics

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), about 20 people are physically abused by a family member every minute, equating to 10 million abuse victims annually.  Women are the most frequent victims of abuse, with a woman being assaulted or beaten approximately every nine seconds across the country.  Domestic violence can cripple a family, impacting all family members, including children.

Divorce and Domestic Violence

Making the decision to leave an abusive spouse can be a difficult one due to fears of heightened violence.  In Texas, spouses who are the victims of domestic abuse can seek a protective order against their abusive spouse.  With a protective order in place, you will be able to take swift legal action if your spouse comes too close to your home or person.  

Domestic violence can further impact the distribution of community property and child custody.  A victim of domestic abuse can request that the court award them a larger share of the community estate.  This could include possession of the family home, vehicle, or a greater share of the family’s funds.

Courts will determine child custody on the basis of what is in the best interests of the child.  If there has been a history of physical or sexual abuse by one parent against the other parent, a spouse, or a child, then the court will typically decline to award joint custody of the child.  A parent who is concerned about their child being in the care of the other parent who has been abusive in the past can request supervised visitation.  In extreme cases, the abusive parent could even have their parental rights terminated.  Consult with a family law attorney right away for help seeking a divorce from your abusive spouse.