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family violence

The terms “family violence” and “domestic violence” include felony or misdemeanor crimes of violence committed by (1) a current or former spouse or intimate partner of the victim; (2) a person with whom the victim shares a child in common; (3) a person who is cohabitating with or has cohabitated with the victim as a spouse or intimate partner; (4) a person similarly situated to a spouse of the victim under the domestic or family violence laws of the state or jurisdiction; or (5) any other person—when the violence is committed against an adult or youth victim who is protected from that person’s acts under the family or domestic violence laws of the state or jurisdiction.

During a divorce, one spouse sometimes alleges the other spouse has committed family or domestic violence against the spouse or the spouses’ children.

Allegations of family or domestic violence are especially serious and the courts treat them as such—often involving child protective services when there are children involved, and the district attorney’s office, which may result in the filing of criminal charges.

A spouse who reports the other spouse’s family or domestic violence may unexpectedly face allegations and charges for participating in, facilitating, or failing to stop or previously report such behavior, allowing it to continue. And it is a criminal offense to intentionally make a false report of family or domestic violence to gain advantage in a child custody or divorce lawsuit, for example.

In an emergency, victims of domestic violence should call 911 or contact state or local law enforcement officials, who can respond to these crimes. Persons in need of non-emergency assistance can also all the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE, or visit www.TheHotline.org.

In Texas, 'family violence' and 'domestic violence' encompass a range of violent crimes committed by individuals in close relationships with the victim, including current or former spouses, intimate partners, cohabitants, and others as defined by state law. During divorce proceedings, allegations of such violence are taken very seriously and can involve the intervention of child protective services and the possibility of criminal charges by the district attorney's office. Texas law also recognizes the gravity of false allegations of family or domestic violence, which can be criminally penalized if made intentionally to influence a custody or divorce case. Victims of domestic violence in Texas are urged to contact emergency services through 911 for immediate assistance or reach out to the National Domestic Violence Hotline for support in non-emergency situations.


Texas Statutes & Rules

Texas Family Code, Title 4, Subtitle A, Chapter 71. Definitions
This statute defines what constitutes 'family violence' in the state of Texas, which is relevant to understanding the scope of behaviors that may be considered when addressing allegations of domestic violence in legal proceedings such as divorce.

Under Texas law, 'family violence' is defined as an act by a member of a family or household against another member that is intended to result in physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or a threat that reasonably places the member in fear of imminent physical harm. This definition also includes abuse by a member of a family or household toward a child of the family or household, and dating violence.

Texas Family Code, Title 4, Subtitle B, Chapter 83. Temporary Ex Parte Orders
This statute provides for immediate protection for victims of family violence through temporary ex parte orders, which are relevant in situations where immediate and temporary protective measures are necessary.

The court may issue a temporary ex parte order without notice to the alleged offender if it finds that there is a clear and present danger of family violence. The order is valid for up to 20 days and can be extended. It may include provisions necessary to protect the victim and family, such as excluding the alleged offender from the residence or other specified property.

Texas Family Code, Title 4, Subtitle B, Chapter 85. Protective Orders
This statute outlines the process and requirements for obtaining a protective order in cases of family violence, which is a critical legal tool for victims seeking long-term protection from an abuser.

A protective order may be issued after notice and a hearing, where the court finds that family violence has occurred and is likely to occur in the future. Protective orders may prohibit the abuser from committing further acts of violence, communicating with the victim or their family, going near the residence or workplace of the victim, and possessing a firearm. Violation of a protective order is a criminal offense.

Texas Penal Code, Title 6, Chapter 25. Offenses Against the Family, Section 25.07. Violation of Certain Court Orders or Conditions of Bond in a Family Violence Case
This statute criminalizes the violation of court orders or bond conditions in family violence cases, which is relevant for enforcing the legal consequences of non-compliance with protective measures.

A person commits an offense if, in violation of a bond condition or a protective order issued in response to an allegation or finding of family violence, they commit family violence or communicate directly with a protected individual or member of the family in a threatening or harassing manner, among other prohibited actions. This offense is punishable by fines and imprisonment.

Texas Penal Code, Title 6, Chapter 25, Section 25.11. Continuous Violence Against the Family
This statute addresses the severity of repeated acts of family violence, which is relevant for cases where there are ongoing allegations of domestic abuse.

An individual commits an offense if, during a period of 12 months or less, they engage in conduct that constitutes an offense under the family violence statutes on two or more occasions. This offense is considered a felony and is subject to increased penalties, reflecting the serious nature of continuous violence against family members.

Texas Family Code, Title 5, Subtitle B, Chapter 261. Investigation of Report of Child Abuse or Neglect
This statute mandates the involvement of child protective services in cases where there are allegations of family violence affecting children, which is relevant in divorce proceedings involving custody and welfare of children.

Any person who believes that a child has been or may be abused or neglected has a legal duty to report it. Professionals such as teachers and healthcare providers are required to report within 48 hours. Failure to report is punishable by law. Child Protective Services (CPS) is required to investigate reports of abuse or neglect to determine if there is a need for protective services.

Texas Penal Code, Title 7, Chapter 37, Section 37.10. Tampering with Governmental Record
This statute is relevant for addressing the criminal offense of making a false report or statement to law enforcement or court officials, which may include false allegations of family or domestic violence.

An individual commits an offense if they knowingly make a false entry in, or false alteration of, a governmental record or make, present, or use any record, document, or thing with knowledge of its falsity and with intent that it be taken as a genuine governmental record. This includes false reports of family violence, which can be used to gain advantage in legal proceedings such as divorce or child custody. Offenders may face fines and imprisonment.

Federal Statutes & Rules

Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) - 34 U.S.C. § 12291
VAWA provides the definition of domestic violence and offers protections and services to victims of such violence.

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) defines domestic violence and provides federal resources to help victims. It includes provisions for legal aid, support services, and housing protections for victims. VAWA also establishes the National Domestic Violence Hotline and funds training for law enforcement to improve the response to domestic violence. It is designed to work in conjunction with state laws to offer additional support and resources at the federal level.

Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (FVPSA) - 42 U.S.C. § 10401
FVPSA is the primary federal funding stream dedicated to providing support for victims of domestic violence and their families.

The Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (FVPSA) provides federal funding for domestic violence shelters, support services, and prevention programs. It establishes the National Domestic Violence Hotline and allocates funds to states and Native American tribes for the development and support of programs that prevent family violence and provide emergency shelter and related assistance for victims and their children.

Gun Control Act of 1968, amended by the Lautenberg Amendment - 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(9)
This statute makes it unlawful for individuals convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors to possess firearms.

The Lautenberg Amendment to the Gun Control Act prohibits individuals who have been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence from shipping, transporting, possessing, or receiving firearms or ammunition. This federal law applies to law enforcement officers and military personnel as well, and it has no exception for employment-related use of firearms.

Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) - 34 U.S.C. § 20101
VOCA establishes the Crime Victims Fund to provide financial support for victims of crime, including victims of domestic violence.

The Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) establishes the Crime Victims Fund, which is financed by fines and penalties paid by convicted federal offenders, not from tax dollars. The fund supports services for victims of all types of crimes, including domestic violence, such as crisis intervention, counseling, emergency shelter, and criminal justice advocacy.

Interstate Stalking Punishment and Prevention Act - 18 U.S.C. § 2261A
This statute criminalizes stalking, including cyberstalking, which can be a form of domestic violence.

The Interstate Stalking Punishment and Prevention Act makes it a federal crime to travel across state, tribal, or international lines to stalk or harass another person, and it includes conduct that places a person in reasonable fear of death or serious bodily injury to themselves or a family member. This law also covers stalking through electronic communication systems like the internet (cyberstalking).

International Marriage Broker Regulation Act (IMBRA) - 8 U.S.C. § 1375a
IMBRA is relevant to domestic violence as it includes provisions to inform and protect foreign individuals engaged to U.S. citizens, who may be vulnerable to domestic violence.

The International Marriage Broker Regulation Act (IMBRA) requires background checks for U.S. citizens using marriage brokerage services for relationships with foreign nationals. It mandates that marriage brokers disclose information about clients' criminal and marital history, particularly any history of domestic violence, to potential foreign partners. This act aims to prevent the exploitation of foreign individuals who may become victims of domestic violence after marriage.