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Do domestic violence abusers still have child custody rights?

Many Texas victims of domestic abuse are also parents, and share a child or children with their abuser. In such cases, working up the courage to leave the relationship can be difficult. Parents want to be there to protect their kids from harm, and many victims of domestic violence fear that they will be unable to do so once if their partner is able to gain unsupervised visitation with the kids. Unfortunately, many abusers are given child custody rights, which leaves victimized parents left to play a defensive role.

Family courts are supposed to place the best interests of the child at the center of all custody decisions. However, there are parental rights that also must be taken into consideration. As a result, most abusers are able to secure some measure of custody rights to their children.

In such cases, the victimized parent must take a long-term view of the matter. It is possible to ask the court to order that custody exchanges take place in a supervised setting, and that all communications between parents take place via email. This can go a long way toward reducing tensions between both parties, and can also serve to document any violent outbursts that may take place. Having that evidence in hand can make it easier to ask the court for a custody modification, if that need should arise.

Child custody fears are understandable, but Texas spouses who are living within an environment that is defined by domestic violence should not let those child custody uncertainties shape their decision-making process. Removing oneself and one's children from an abusive household is the first step toward regaining a sense of normalcy, and in healing from past abuses. Fear is one of the most powerful tools in an abuser's arsenal, and spouses must be willing to set their fear aside and make the choices that are best for themselves and their children.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Can Family Courts Protect Children Exposed to Domestic Violence?", David Adams, Feb. 11, 2016

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