When you are facing a divorce or child custody case, the last thing that you want to deal with in addition to that important family law matter is a situation where you or your children are being abused. If that is the position that you find yourself in you need to be able to have a plan on how to proceed as well as information available to assist law enforcement, attorneys, and judges to help provide you and your family with protection against future incidents of abuse. All of this must be done while you are probably fearful about the trauma that you have already suffered. 

This can be quite a lot to handle- and all at the same time, to boot. However, you have an opportunity to do something positive for your family by developing a plan on how to proceed. Understanding how to proceed is based on having good information. They say that “knowledge is power.” This is not merely a tagline or a slogan for people to use in television commercials. Rather, knowledge in this context means understanding how the State of Texas classifies domestic violence for the laws that will govern your family law case. 

Even if you are mainly concerned with your child custody or divorce case, it is important to remember and keep in mind that the kind of abuse that you have suffered is a crime in Texas. It is against the law for another person to put their hands on you- or even to threaten you in this manner with an apparent and immediate opportunity to do so. It is an aggravating factor when the person is in your own family. Physically abusing anyone is wrong. It is especially wrong to abuse a person in your family. At that point, your spouse or co-parent’s potential penalties increase because of their actions. 

Additionally, there are restrictions placed on a person’s ability to pay bail to get out of jail during the time between their arrest and a trial date. This person’s right to keep a firearm in their possession is limited to the extent that things like a concealed carry permit will not be allowed. The purpose of this restriction is to prevent their ability to commit acts like these in the future. Needless to say, a situation involving a firearm and family violence can escalate dramatically. 

The remainder of today’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan will focus on family violence. We will be discussing the various sorts of family violence crimes and the penalties for having committed such crimes. If you have questions about the material contained in today’s blog post, then I recommend contacting our experienced family law attorneys for a free-of-charge consultation. It is not easy to be going through a family law case that involves domestic violence. However, you do not need to go through it alone. Our office is ready and able to assist you and your family during these difficult times. 

What can you do to protect yourself in an immediate sense when family violence is ongoing?

All this information can be helpful in the right setting but may not be as helpful if you find yourself in a situation where you are currently the victim of abuse at the hands of a spouse or Co-parent. You may be asking yourself what this information can do to help you in an immediate sense if your safety and well-being are at issue or that of your children is at issue. In this case, my advice would be that you need to take specific steps to help You and your family right now.

The first thing I would look to is your spouse or Co parents’ ability to access the electronics that you are using to go about your daily life or even to access information like this blog post. You need to be aware of the computer, smartphone, or tablet that you were using and your Co-parent or spouse’s ability to access your browser or Internet history. It is easy enough for your spouse or Co-parent to get ahold of her phone, look at the history of the calls or Internet websites you visit, and then have a negative reaction against you. The last thing you want to do is to antagonize him or her during this time however, the risks associated with him or her accessing information need to be balanced against your need to obtain the information.

All of this becomes even more difficult if you are using the same device, wireless network, or even phone plan as your abuser. Many spouses are on the same wireless phone plan so their ability to either look in and see what websites you are accessing or outright restrict your access to certain websites is also profound. You’re attempting to modify his or her ability to view the websites you use can also be seen as an example of suspicious behavior that might elicit an angry response. You’re looking at websites regarding divorce, child custody, or information about domestic abuse that can lead him or her to think that you are attempting to file a family law case or even leave the home altogether.

You also need to be mindful of the tracking abilities that are a part of almost every cell phone. The GPS capabilities that allow you to use the maps function of your phone can also help your Co-parent or spouse to know where you are always period it is likely that your phone has a location feature or at least a “find me” feature. In that case, your spouse or Co-parent may be able to access your phone’s location from a remote area meaning that he or she can know where you are always even when you are not aware of it. When you are able, you should begin to learn techniques and methods, such as turning these tracking methods off your electronic devices, that can help secure your devices and prevent your spouse or Co-parent from accessing your information without your permission. 

What exactly is family violence in Texas? 

What we need to discuss now is what family violence is. You may have an idea about what family violence is or even what family violence feels like. However, the state of Texas has actual definitions that will constitute how a judge views family violence. The specific acts that are covered by domestic violence or family violence statutes as well as the persons who are covered by these statutes are also relevant. Let’s walk through these definitions so that you can know exactly what the state of Texas is looking to in terms of classifying whether domestic or family violence is ongoing in your family based on your specific circumstances.

Family violence is defined in Texas as including any of the following: an act by one family or household member against another that threatens or results in physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or sexual assault. Additionally, child abuse Involving a family or household member Is covered by family violence statutes in Texas. Finally, the same type of acts that are relevant when it comes to members of your household committing the abuse is also covered if you are dating someone who is physically abusive against you or a member of your family.

Even the definition of who is counted as a family or household member can be relevant to this discussion. Your current or ex-spouse is covered under the family violence statutes. This means that the penalties associated with committing an act of family violence can be felt even by an ex-spouse. Co-parents of the same child are also covered under the statute. This means that you do not have to be married to your child’s other parent or even live under the same roof as him or her to have the penalties associated with family violence statutes apply to your Co-parent. Relatives by blood, marriage, or even adoption are covered under the statute as well. Even if the person no longer lives with you but is covered as a family member of another sort then the penalties of this statute apply. As you can see, there are wide definitions that apply to family violence in Texas.

Assault in Texas is defined as purposely or carelessly causing bodily injury to another person. Next, intentionally threatening another person with imminent bodily injury is also seen as assault. This means that you cannot merely make a threat over the telephone when you are living in another country and how this be constituted as assault. Rather, the receiver of the threat needs to be operating under this suspicion that bodily injury is imminent because of the threat. Finally, intentionally engaging in provocative or offensive contact is also seen as assault in Texas. This sort of contact, in my experience, has more to do with unwanted sexual advances and touching. Put it all together, and when the above acts are committed by a family or household member then the crime is known as domestic assault.

Some of the most common types of physical conduct that constitute domestic assault include hitting, choking, kicking, slapping, and hairpulling. Threatening to perform any of these acts with the apparent ability to do so readily is also counted as domestic assault. If your Co-parent were to push you a way to get closer to one of your children, then this would count as domestic assault. This would be true even if your Co-parent did not intend to injure you. If he were to fall after being pushed and broke your arm, then this would constitute domestic assault. Even less severe infractions like pushing someone during an argument or pointing a finger in someone’s face can constitute domestic assault. Finally, be aware that unwanted sexual touching such as brushing up against a person in a sexually suggestive way can also constitute domestic assault.

What are the penalties for domestic assault in Texas?

There are both misdemeanor and felony penalties associated with domestic assault in Texas. On the misdemeanor side of things domestic assault involving threats of harm or provocative or offensive contact constitutes a Class C misdemeanor. These Class C misdemeanors are punishable by a fine of up to $500. If you are the victim of these types of acts and have suffered a bodily injury, then the penalty associated with these acts increases to a Class A misdemeanor. In Texas, Class A misdemeanors carry penalties of up to one year in jail and a $4000 fine.

More severe Penalties are associated with assaults involving injuries where your spouse or Co-parent has prior domestic assault convictions. If your spouse or Co-parent attempted to strangle or suffocate, then this is funny. Value a third-degree felony conviction subjects the offensive person to two to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

What is aggravated domestic assault?

When your Co-parent or spouse commits assault that causes serious bodily injury to you then this is an aggravated form of domestic assault. Additionally, if the exhibition of a deadly weapon was utilized in the Commission of a domestic assault then this would count as aggravated domestic assault, as well. Serious bodily injury would include harms like a broken bone, the loss of a limb, or an injury so severe that you would be required to have had surgery or be hospitalized.

When we are discussing something like a deadly weapon, we would mean an object that is capable of causing your death or a serious bodily injury. It is not only knives and firearms that would count as deadly weapons. Things like a baseball bat, rope, a blunt object, or even household items utilized in a dangerous way that is intended to seriously harm you can count as a deadly weapon. This may give you a new appreciation for just how dangerous everyday household items can be when it comes to having them used against you in potentially dangerous ways. 

If your spouse or Co-parent commits these types of aggravated domestic assaults with a deadly weapon and then causes serious bodily injury to you then this is a first-degree felony in Texas. These types of acts would cause your spouse or co-parent to face 5 to 99 years in prison as well as a $10,000 fine. All other types of aggravated domestic assault count as a second-degree felony and subject your Co-parent or spouse to two years to 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

What if you already have a family protective order in place?

If your spouse or Co-parent violates a family protective order, such as this person coming home and dear get-to-know argument with you, then this is a Class A misdemeanor. The penalties associated with a Class A misdemeanor in Texas include up to one year in jail and a $4000 fine. The more times that your spouse or Co-parent has violated family violence statutes, the more heightened the penalties associated with violating a protective order would be. For example, if your spouse or Co-parent has two or more convictions for violating a family protective order or violated the order by committing stalking or assault then the charge can be a third-degree felony. Third-degree felonies in Texas mean two to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine if convicted.

If a police officer has probable cause to believe that your spouse or Co-parent committed a crime involving family violence, then you should know in advance that the police officer would not need to have a warrant to arrest him or her. To do so, however, law enforcement would need to remain at the scene of the incident for as long as possible to verify the allegation made against him or her and to maintain the peace between you, your family, and your Co-parent. For example, if you contact your local constable’s office with the report of family violence made against your Co-parent then law enforcement can arrest your Co-parent without a warrant. However, law enforcement will need to perform some degree of due diligence to confirm the accuracy of your allegations and then determine that an arrest is necessary.

Conditions of bond and family violence cases may include things like ordering the defendant to stay away from you or even to have him or her be always monitored by GPS. Importantly the prohibition against their possession of a firearm is typically a bail and bond condition. If you’re Co-parent or spouse is arrested, before being released on bail or bond a police officer must make a reasonable attempt to inform you of their release. This can allow you to take steps to better protect yourself and your family while your Co-parent or spouse is free on bond or bail.

Questions about the material contained in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

if you have any questions about the material contained in today’s blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultation six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn about the world of Texas family law as well as about how your family circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case.