Last Updated on September 28, 2023 by Benson Varghese
In Texas, more than 170 victims of family violence seek help every day. If you or your child is among them, you may be contemplating how to get out of the abusive relationship once and for all.
Divorcing an abusive spouse can be nerve-wracking and dangerous. Fortunately, there are laws in place to protect victims and speed up the process. It’s also not uncommon for family law judges to strip abusers of various rights pertaining to child custody, child visitation, and asset division.
In this article, our family law attorneys will explain the laws and answer some of your most pressing questions about domestic violence and divorce in Texas.
Is domestic violence grounds for divorce in Texas?
“Domestic violence” is not specifically stated as a grounds for divorce in Texas, but “cruelty” is listed. According to the Texas Family Code, a divorce may be granted in one spouse’s favor if the other spouse committed treatment so cruel that living together is insupportable. Physical, emotional or sexual abuse would certainly qualify as cruel. To prove your spouse has engaged in cruelty due to domestic abuse, it will be necessary to show the judge evidence, such as photos of injuries, medical records, or police reports.
It’s important to point out, however, that Texas is also a no-fault divorce state, which means spouses can divorce without providing a specific reason or proving who is at fault.
If I file for divorce from my abusive spouse, can I get an emergency protective order?
Serving your spouse with divorce papers can exacerbate an already volatile situation. If your spouse is threatening you or you are worried about the immediate safety of you and your children, it’s important to seek a temporary emergency protective order, also called a temporary ex parte order. According to Texas Family Code 83.001, a judge can issue such an order without speaking to the abuser and without a hearing if it is shown that the abuser presents a clear and present danger of family violence to you or a family member. The emergency protective order can last for up to 20 days and may be extended for another 20 days upon request. Before the temporary protective order expires, you should have hearing to ask the judge for a final protective order, which can last up to two years.
How will my spouse be notified that I have filed for divorce?
In most cases, a constable or process server will deliver divorce papers to your spouse. Because this is a very emotional time for both parties, it is recommended that you stay somewhere safe during this process. The most dangerous time for a survivor of domestic violence is when they try to leave their abuser. The benefit of having an attorney during this entire process is that you will not ever need to speak or interact with your ex once you file for divorce.
If my spouse is abusive, do I still have to wait 60 days for the divorce to be finalized?
Not necessarily. A judge can waive the waiting period and speed up the process if:
* You have filed a restraining order or protective order against your spouse; or
* Your spouse or other members of the household have been convicted of domestic violence
Can domestic violence impact child custody?
Absolutely. Texas law actually prohibits a judge from making parents joint managing conservators – that is, sharing child custody – if there has been a history or pattern of physical, sexual or emotional abuse by one parent against the other parent or child. Additionally, Texas law also prohibits a parent from having sole possession of a child if he or she has a history of domestic abuse or family violence, or if they have abused or sexually assault the child in the two previous years.
Can domestic violence and divorce affect the way our property is divided?
Yes. Even though Texas is a community property state – which means couples are supposed to split everything they acquired together 50/50 – there are exceptions if domestic violence is involved. Family violence can be a reason for a judge to decide on an unequal division of assets.
Can domestic violence affect visitation rights?
Yes, a parent with a history of domestic violence will certainly have limitations, but it doesn’t mean he or she won’t have any custody rights or access to the child. If the court determines that visitation would be in the child’s best interest and if the child’s emotional and physical health will not be endangered, the court could grant supervised visitation if the abusive parent agrees to attend a treatment program, such as anger management or drug rehabilitation.
Seeking to divorce your abusive spouse? Contact us now.
Fear often stops people from leaving an abusive marriage. We understand how difficult it can be to take that next step, but we encourage you to pick up the phone and call an experienced family lawyer right away. The compassionate team at Varghese Summersett Family Law Group has helped dozens of people in North Texas escape an unhealthy marriage. We can help you, too. There are brighter days ahead. Call 817-900-3220 to discuss domestic violence and divorce, and find out how we can protect you, your children, and your rights.