How Domestic Violence Can Affect Your Divorce

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If you’re facing a divorce, you’re facing a challenging path forward. If domestic violence is involved, your divorce will be that much more serious. Domestic violence tends to escalate when the abused partner attempts to leave, which makes remaining hyper-vigilant and obtaining the help you need key.

To help ensure that your parental and financial rights are well protected throughout the divorce process, reach out for the professional legal counsel of a dedicated Round Rock divorce lawyer with extensive experience handling divorce cases that involve domestic violence.

Domestic Violence in Texas

The Texas Office of the Attorney General reports that domestic violence, or family violence, refers to violence or abuse that occurs between family members, members of households, or romantic partners. Family in this context refers to people who are related by blood or marriage, to people who parent the same child or children, and to foster parents and children.

The definition of household in relation to domestic violence is anyone who currently lives together in the same residence or who lived together in the same residence in the past – regardless of whether they are related.

The term dating violence is used for couples who are in ongoing, intimate relationships – or who used to be.

Domestic violence refers to one party to the relationship attempting to assault the other, to sexually assault the other, or to cause the other bodily harm. Threats of assault, sexual assault, or physical harm also qualify as domestic violence.

The definition of bodily harm here is quite broad, and it refers to anything that causes the other person to experience pain. Lasting physical signs, such as bruises or marks, are not required for the act to be classified as causing bodily harm. As such, because a pinch or a slap can cause pain, they are categorized as forms of bodily injury.

Proceeding to Court

All divorcing couples must resolve the applicable terms of their divorces, and the fact that you’re a victim of domestic violence can affect how the court resolves your divorce terms. While most divorcing couples settle their cases out of court, which often includes mediation, it’s generally advisable for divorces that involve domestic violence to proceed to trial.

Abusers are adept at manipulating, bullying, or outright forcing their partners into agreement, which leaves victims at a distinct disadvantage in terms of their parental and financial rights. However, the court can provide considerable protections. Contact a Round Rock divorce lawyer for more information about divorce court.

Fault-Based Divorce in Texas

The vast majority of Texas divorces are no fault, which means they are based on the spouses’ irreconcilable differences – or what the State of Texas calls “insupportability.” Texas also allows divorces that are fault based, and one of the grounds is cruelty.

Domestic violence – whether physical or emotional – qualifies as cruel treatment, which means that victims of domestic violence can seek fault-based divorces that can directly affect their divorce terms.

In order to obtain a fault-based divorce in Texas, you’ll need to prove your divorcing spouse’s cruelty. This requirement may seem overwhelming, but the significance of protecting yourself from the ripple effects of domestic violence that goes unchecked is difficult to overstate.

Divorces that go to trial tend to take longer to finalize than divorces that settle out of court, tend to be more costly in terms of legal fees, and tend to be more contentious. However, going to court allows victims of domestic violence to be heard and can afford them terms that are specifically designed to support a brighter future.

The Terms of Your Divorce

The terms of divorce that you’ll need to resolve are the same as for any other divorcing couple, including – as applicable – all the following matters:

  • The division of marital property

  • Child custody arrangements, including parenting time

  • Child support

  • Alimony

Each of these terms – other than child support – can be directly affected by domestic violence. Child support is calculated according to specific state guidelines. However, the court has the discretion to vary from these guidelines when there is a compelling reason based on the children’s best interests.

The Division of Marital Property

In Texas, the assets that a married couple comes to own while they are married are considered marital, and this is true regardless of who purchased what or whose name is attached to a specific property.

Texas requires a just and right division of marital property, which often means an equal division, but it can also give one spouse a much larger portion of assets if necessary. Texas is interested in dividing marital property fairly – in response to the relevant circumstances – and domestic violence is one such circumstance.

Texas courts often implement a lopsided division of assets in response to domestic violence. The suffering imposed by domestic violence is considered especially egregious, and it can be afforded considerable weight in the calculation of property division.

Having a seasoned Round Rock divorce attorney in your corner helps to ensure that you’ll receive a fair property division that takes the domestic violence you’ve suffered into careful consideration and better supports you and your children moving forward.

Child Custody Arrangements

The State of Texas addresses child custody in terms of both possession and access (or physical custody and parenting time) and conservatorship (or legal custody). Conservatorship determines decision-making authority regarding the following primary parenting concerns:

  • The children’s healthcare

  • The children’s education

  • The children’s extracurriculars

  • The children’s religious upbringing

  • The children’s primary residence

When one parent exhibits a pattern of domestic violence, it can directly affect the court’s decisions about both conservatorship and possession and access. In fact, joint conservatorship is denied in cases in which one parent has a history of domestic violence against the other or against the children.

Possession and access determine which parent will fill the role of the primary custodian and the other’s visitation schedule. While some parents share 50/50 parenting time schedules, this is unlikely to occur when domestic violence is a concern.

When domestic violence is especially serious, the court can limit the abuser’s visitation with the children considerably and may require supervised visits. In extreme situations, a parent’s visitation rights may even be denied entirely.

Texas courts focus on the best interests of the involved children when making every child custody decision. Domestic violence is an obvious obstacle to children’s well-being, and the State of Texas takes the concern very seriously. If your divorce involves domestic violence, your child custody arrangements should reflect this fact.


The matter of domestic violence can also affect alimony terms. In Texas, alimony is called spousal maintenance, and it is only awarded under specific circumstances. If your divorce leaves you without the means to continue providing for your own reasonable needs while your divorcing spouse has the financial ability to help, the court may order alimony.

The State of Texas recognizes that domestic abuse can include financial abuse that may mean limiting the victim’s access to money, controlling the victim’s earnings, or even forbidding the victim from working outside the home. In response, financial relief in the form of alimony is sometimes ordered.

If your divorcing spouse was convicted of domestic violence or received a deferred adjudication for a domestic violence charge in the two years prior to your divorce filing or while your divorce was pending, you may be entitled to alimony.

Alimony is typically reserved for marriages that lasted at least ten years, but an exception is made for shorter marriages involving domestic violence. Under such circumstances, any awarded alimony can continue for up to five years. Work closely with a compassionate Round Rock divorce attorney from the start to ensure that you receive the alimony you are entitled to.

Emergency Orders

When a couple files for divorce in Texas, it generally triggers a joint and mutual temporary restraining order designed to keep spouses from engaging in below-board practices that may negatively affect the other’s division of marital assets. The order can also address the children by including restrictions on taking them out of the area or across state lines.

If you are the victim of domestic violence, you can also request emergency relief, such as obtaining exclusive use of your marital home or excluding your divorcing spouse from visitation with your children.

To obtain emergency orders, you’ll need to present an affidavit that details the family violence you’ve experienced and illustrates your need for emergency relief. Your practiced Round Rock divorce attorney is standing by to help you file this affidavit and protect your family.

Protective Orders

If there is a history of domestic violence in your marriage, you can also request that the court issue a protective order – in defense of your safety, your children’s safety, or both – either prior to filing or during the period that your divorce is pending.

A protective order can provide you with an additional layer of protection during your divorce. A protective order can limit your soon-to-be ex’s ability to contact you, which can affect communication and physical proximity to you.

Waiving the Waiting Period

The State of Texas imposes a divorce waiting period that requires divorcing couples to wait at least 60 days after filing for divorce before the matter can be finalized. However, when the divorce involves family violence, this waiting period can be waived entirely.

Texas courts recognize that domestic violence has a tendency to escalate during times of flux, such as during the divorce process, and they are invested in protecting victims to the furthest degree possible. As such, your divorce may be expedited.

FAQ about Domestic Violence and Divorce

Domestic violence is an especially serious matter, and it becomes more pressing in the context of divorce. The answers to the questions that others in your difficult situation ask most frequently may help you better protect yourself and your children as you move through the divorce process.

What Can I Do If Domestic Violence Escalates during Divorce?

Domestic violence has a tendency to escalate during times of stress, which include divorce. If you are worried about your or your children's safety, take these important precautions:

  • Remove yourself and your children from the situation.

  • Take the necessary steps to protect yourselves while your divorce is pending.

  • Obtain the legal protections available to you.

  • Seek the resources available to victims of domestic violence in Texas.

  • Obtain the skilled legal services of a formidable Round Rock divorce attorney with a wealth of experience helping clients facing domestic violence protect themselves and obtain favorable divorce terms that support their futures.

Putting your and your children’s safety first is paramount. Erring on the side of caution under these difficult circumstances is always strongly advised.

Won’t My Spouse Bully the Court into Terms that Favor Him or Her?

Texas courts are familiar with the dynamics of domestic abuse and don’t succumb to bullying. In Texas, divorces are resolved in accordance with the law, and there are statutes in place that protect victims of domestic violence through the following divorce terms:

  • The division of marital property

  • Legal and physical child custody

  • Alimony

Emergency orders, protective orders, and waiving of the divorce waiting period are also available and can also help.

How Can I Protect My Children?

If the domestic violence in your marriage directly affects your children, you can seek a protective order that temporarily limits or suspends your spouse’s access to them. The emotional upset that accompanies divorce can exacerbate domestic violence, and Texas courts are invested in protecting all involved – especially children.

An Experienced Round Rock Divorce Attorney Can Help

Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard, proudly serving Round Rock, Texas, is a trusted divorce attorney with a well-earned reputation for skillfully protecting his clients facing domestic violence concerns. He will help you pursue advantageous terms that reflect the difficulties you’ve experienced.

Reach out for Mr. Pritchard’s compassionate legal guidance by contacting us online or calling us at (254) 781-4222 and scheduling your FREE consultation today.

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