Courts take special precautions with regard to custody and visitation in divorce cases involving a history of domestic violence. The Texas Family Code requires courts to consider evidence of the intentional use of physical force by one spouse against the other or against a parent of a child, or any person under the age of eighteen during the preceding two year period in making an appointment of a sole or joint managing conservator.

Texas law prohibits a court from appointing joint managing conservators if there is credible evidence of a history or pattern of past or present child neglect, physical abuse, or sexual abuse by one parent directed against the other parent, a spouse, or a child, including sexual assault that results in the other parent becoming pregnant with the child. Additionally, the court may consider the commission of an act of family violence in determining whether to deny, limit, or restrict visitation by the possessory conservator.

The Texas Family Code prohibits a court from granting visitation to a parent where it has been established that there is a history or pattern of committing family violence during the two years before the divorce action was filed or during the pendency of the case unless: 1) the court finds that granting visitation would not endanger the child’s physical or emotional well-being or 2) enters an order which requires all visitation be supervised by an entity or person chosen by the court or the exchange of the child take place in a protective setting, 3) orders the accused parent to refrain from the use of alcohol and controlled substances during the twelve hour period before visitation is scheduled to begin and during visitation, or 4) orders the accused parent to attend and complete a battering intervention and prevention program.

There is a rebuttable presumption (a presumption which can be disproved by the presentation of contrary evidence) that is not in the best interests of the child to have unsupervised visitation with a parent where there is credible evidence of a history or pattern of past or present child neglect or physical or sexual abuse against the other parent, a spouse, or the child. The court may consider whether a protective order has been issued in the two year period before the divorce case was filed or at any time since the case was filed in determining whether this is credible evidence of a history or pattern of past or present child neglect or physical or sexual abuse by one parent against the other, a spouse, or a child.

Once a divorce action has been initiated, one party may find it necessary to apply for a protective order because of a history of past violence or due to current violence or threats of violence. Also, if there is a history of family violence against a child, any adult may apply for a protective order to protect the child. Additionally, Texas law provides that if there is family violence committed against any member of the family, a prosecuting attorney or the Department of Protective and Regulatory Services may file for a protective order. All applications for temporary ex parte (without notice to the accused party) protective orders must be accompanied by a detailed description of all facts pertaining to the family violence and must be signed under oath that all facts are true to the best knowledge of the applicant.

Keep in mind that it is a crime to knowingly make a false report of child abuse. A party who does so can be fined up to $500.00. Additionally, evidence of a false report of child abuse is admissible in a suit between the involved parties regarding the terms of conservatorship of a child.