Child Abuse and Family Violence in Texas
The Texas Family Code defines Family Violence as an act by a member of the family or household against another member that is intended to result in physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or a threat on a family member in danger of imminent physical harm. This abuse is defined as physical injury that results in substantial harm or genuine threat of sexual, intercourse or conduct; or encouraging the child to engage in sexual conduct.
What does “family” include? Individuals related by blood or affinity, marriage or former marriage, biological parents of the same child, foster children, and members or former members of the same household (including roommates).
What about child abuse?
Some very interesting statistics:
A report of child abuse is made every ten seconds
More than four children die every day as a result of child abuse
70% of children that die from abuse are under age of 4
Child abuse occurs at every socioeconomic level within all ethnic and cultural lines and all religions and all levels of education!
Approximately 30% of abused and neglected children will later abuse their own children
Statistics re: childhelp.org
In Texas (2008 Crime in Texas.com), victims are primarily female (75%) and the offenders are primarily male (77%). The primarily weapon involved in family violence is physical force with the use of hands, feet or fists (78%).
How can you know if child abuse exists in a household?
Look for these most common child abuse indicators in children:
Injuries that are unexplained
Major and sudden changes in a child’s behavior
Return to earlier behavior: such as bed wetting, thumb sucking, and fear of dark or strangers or more serious language or memory problems
Serious fear of going home
Changes in eating or sleeping habits
Changes in school performance or attendance
Lack of personal care or hygiene
New risk taking behaviors
Inappropriate sexual behavior
If you are a family member, friend, teacher, or child-care giver of a child who has started displaying very different behaviors or showing injuries, it is imperative that you contact someone who can either help this child or prevent any more family violence from occurring in this child’s family. This child and family need help now!
Domestic Abusers – Know the Serious Warning Signs!
Domestic Violence is a very hot topic now. Major personalities from government, business, entertainment, sports, and religious sectors are protesting Domestic Violence and working to help create stronger laws to protect the victims of such violence.
If you are a Victim of Domestic Abuse, you must fight back! No one has the legal right to physically, mentally, or verbally abuse another individual! If you are a relative, friend or acquaintance of a potential victim or victims, please look for warning signs of abuse being committed on these people, asset legal defense on this conduct, and report your findings to the police.
Often victims are so mentally and verbally abused, they do not have the strength to defend themselves or their family. Truly be a friend and help to protect their lives by reporting any fact based suspicion of abuse to the proper authorities.
Some warning signs to look for in an abuser or a potential abuser’s conduct in a relationship:
Push for Quick involvement
A victim often has known or dated the abuser for a brief period of time before getting engaged or living together. The abuser pressures the victim for an exclusive commitment immediately.
Jealousy & Controlling Behavior
An abuser will equate jealously with love and controlling behavior to concern for the victim. The abuser becomes jealous of time spent with others. The abuser may call the victim frequently during the day, drop by unexpectedly, refuse to let the victim work, check the car mileage, or ask friends to watch the victim. As the behavior progresses and the situation worsen, the abuser may assume all control of finances or prevent the victim from coming or going freely.
An abuser expects the victim to be the perfect partner, and to frankly, without error, meet his or her every need.
An abuser will attempt to isolate the victim by severing the victim’s ties to outside support, relationships, and resources. The batterer will accuse the victim’s friends and family of being “trouble makers.” The abuser may block the victim’s access to use of a phone, car, and also discourage the victim from working. No outside contact with the rest of the world.
Playing the Victim
An abuser will blame and project upon others for all problems shortcomings. Someone is always out to get the abuser or is an obstacle to the abuser’s achievements.
Blames others for feelings
An abuser will use feelings to manipulate the victim. Common phrases to look for: “You’re hurting me by not doing what I want.” “You control how I feel.”
An abusive person is easily insulted, claiming hurt felling when he or she is really mad.
Cruelty to animals or children
This is a person who punishes animals brutally or is insensitive to their pain. The abuser may also expect children to perform beyond their capability and use physical force if a child cannot comply. 65% of abusers who beat their victims will also abuse children.
“Playful” use of force in sex
This behavior includes restraining partners against their will during sex, acting out fantasies in which the partner is helpless, initiating sex when the partner is asleep, or demanding sex when the partner is ill or tired. The abuser may also find the idea of rape exciting.
Constantly criticizes or says cruel things, degrades, curses, or calls the victim bad names. Sleep deprivation could be involved with relentless verbal abuse.
Rigid sex roles
The abuser will expect the victim to serve, obey and remain home to serve on the abuser
Sudden Mood Swings
Explosive behavior and moodiness, which can shift quickly from sweet to violent in minutes.
An abuser will beat any partner if the individual is involved with the abuser long enough for the cycle of abuse to begin.
Threats of violence
This consists of any threat of physical force meant to control the partner. Most people do not threaten their mates but an abuser will excuse this behavior by claiming “everyone talks like that.”
Physical force during an argument
This may involve an abuser holding down the victim, blocking escape routes and physically restraining the victim from leaving, pushing or shoving. Holding someone back in order to make demands, such as “You will listen to me!” is also a show of force.
Grandparents Rights in Texas – Regarding Grandchildren
The statutory rights of grandparents in response to a child in the State of Texas, absent existing executions, are minimal. The Texas Courts observe the rights of the parents to prohibit visitation and communication of these children from their grandparents if the parents wish. There are however limited circumstances when grandparents of a child may petition the Court to receive an order that forces the child’s parents to let the grandparents see the children on a regular basis. Texas Courts honor the rights of the parents and must presume that a fit parent makes such decisions, as to who the child may or may not see, those decisions are in the best interest of the child.
In order for a grandparent to interfere with a parent’s right to prohibit the grandparents from seeing the child, the grandparent must prove three elements under 153.433 of the Texas Family Code:
a) The Court may order reasonable possession of or access to a grandchild by a grandparent if:
- At the time the relief is requested, at least one biological or adoptive parent of the child has not had the parent’s parental rights terminated;
- The grandparent requesting possession of or access to the child overcomes the presumption that a parent acts in the best interest of the parent’s child by proving by a preponderance of the evidence that denial of possession of or access to the child would significantly impair the child’s physical health or emotional well-being; and
- The grandparents requesting possession of or access to the child are a parents of a parent of the child and that parent of the child:
A) Has been incarcerated in jail or prison during the three-month period preceding the filing of the petition;
B) Has been found by a court to be incompetent
C) Is dead; or
D) Does not have actual or court-ordered possession of or access to the child.
This Statute is limited in application because the Texas legislature gives deference to the parents’ fundamental authority to determine who their child may and may not see.
An example will help clarify this Statute. If a grandparent’s son died in car accident and the grandparent had been helping their son and daughter in-law raise the children, then the grandparents could request visitation rights. The daughter in-law would have to be alive and not have her parental rights terminated. The grandparents would have to prove to the Court by a preponderance of the evidence (more probable than not) that the denial of visitation would significantly impair the children’s’ physical health or emotional well-being. If the grandparents were helping raise the children the grandparents would request some type of visitation for the well-being of the children. These fact situations must be significant because Texas Courts and statutes make it difficult for grandparents to receive any type of visitation or possession if it is not in line with the parents’ wishes.
If you are a grandparent or a mother/father of a child in which the grandparents are attempting to sue you for some type of visitation, it is important to contact a qualified attorney to be informed of your options.
Termination of Parental Rights Limitations in Texas
There are times in life when unintentional pregnancy occurs in the context of fatherhood. There are times when an individual believes he is a father but in the distant future discovers that he is not the genetic father of the child. If a divorce results from this union the man that is not the genetic father of a child may not wish to pay child support for this child for up to 18 years. In these circumstances, a man may wish to terminate his parental responsibilities to the child to avoid paying child support on the child that is not his generically.
Under the Texas Family Code 161.005, a father may terminate his parental rights to a child if (1) he is not the genetic father and (2) a signed acknowledgment of paternity or the father failing to contest parentage of a child was due to a mistaken belief that the man was the genetic father of the child based on misrepresentations that led him to that conclusion.
Basically, the man must not be the genetic father and he must have been deceived by misrepresentations made by the mother or other family members in order to successfully prevail in a termination suit. The man wishing termination must file the suit within two years from first becoming aware that he is not in fact the genetic father of the Child. The importance of this two year limitation is that that it begins when “the man first becomes aware that he is not the genetic father of the child”. This means that a man may be adjudicated and considered the father for ten years but after he discovers or becomes aware that he is not the genetic father of the child he will have an additional two years to file suit and terminate his parental rights.
There are certain limitations under Family Code 161.005 that will not allow a man to terminate the legal relationship. These are:
- The man is an adoptive father;
- The child was conceived by assisted reproduction and the man consented to assisted reproduction by his wife under subchapter H, Chapter 160, or
- The man is the intended father of the child under a gestational agreement validated by a court under subchapter I, Chapter 160.
These three areas of adoption, assisted reproduction, and signing of a gestational agreement will prohibit a man from terminating his parental right or attempting to release himself from the responsibility of being a father, which includes child support.
In most instances a man will bring a termination of parental right because he has been misled into believing that the child is his when in actually the man is not genetically related to the child at all. The parental termination will end child support for minor children that are not genetically related.
A parental termination suit should not be filed before careful thought since it will terminate any rights the man has to the child and most importantly the man will relinquish his right for visitation access and decision making. If you are desiring to terminate the parental rights of a child you should contact an experienced lawyer to ensure that you qualify and that the suit proceeds as smoothly as possible allowing the court to make a ruling that favors your termination.
Standard Possession Orders in Texas
The possession order for both mother and father in any divorce must be in the Best Interest of the child and the Court has specific guidelines it must follow if both parents refuse to agree to custody arrangements. The Managing Conservator has primary custody of the child and the Possessory Conservator has visitation but is not the primary custodian of the child. The guidelines set forth by the Court regarding custody for parents living 100 miles or less of each other and parents that reside over 100 miles from each other are listed in the Family Code § 153.312 and § 153.313.
Family Code § 153.312 Standard Possession Order, regarding parents who reside 100 miles or less of each other, states the Possessory Conservator will have the following rights:
- Have custody of the child throughout the beginning of the year at 6 p.m. on the first, third, and fifth Friday of each month and ending at 6 p.m. on the following Sunday.
- On Thursdays of each week during the regular school term beginning at 6 p.m. and ending at 8 p.m. unless the Court finds this is not in the best interest of the child.
- Custody of the Child for 30 consecutive days during the summer but the Possessory Conservator will be required to give written notice to the Managing Conservator by April 1st of each year specifying the extended period of possession for the summer. If Possessory Conservator does not give written notice on April 1st, then the Possessory Conservator shall have access to the child from 6 p.m. July 1st to 6 p.m. July 31st of each year.
Family Code § 153.313 Standard Possession Order, regarding parents who reside over 100 miles from each other, states the Possessory Conservator will have the following rights:
- Have custody of child throughout the beginning of the year at 6 p.m. on Friday of the first, third, and fifth weekend of each month and ending at 6 p.m. that Sunday. The Possessory Conservator may also elect an alternate weekend if he/she gives a 14-day notice either written or telephonic to the Managing Conservator.
- The visitations on Thursdays nights are not mandated under this section due to the distance between the two parents.
- Custody of Child for 42 consecutive days during the summer but the Possessory Conservator will be required to give written notice to the Managing Conservator by April 1st of each year specifying the extended period of possession for the summer. If the written notice is not given then the Possessory Conservator shall have access to the child from 6 p.m. on June 15th to 6 p.m. July 27th.
The Court shall follow these guidelines unless it is NOT in the Best Interest of the child. These guidelines are needed because of the contention between both parents and the common inability to find a middle ground when it comes to custody of a child. The Court may deviate from these standard Guidelines but only if a parent can prove by clear and convincing evidence that it is in the Best Interest of the Child. If these guidelines are unworkable because of the child’s schedule then the Court will make exceptions but attempt to keep the custody arrangements as close to the guidelines as possible. Custody issues can be vexing and straining on both parents. To ensure you receive a fair outcome to see your child, it is wise to seek an experienced attorney to ensure that the sacred right to see your child is not infringed.