Articles Posted in Family Violence

iStock-545456068-scaledA court must base its decisions regarding custody and visitation primarily on the child’s best interest.  In a recent Texas case, a father challenged a court’s modification of his prior possession order, restricting him to supervised visitation with his daughter.

The mother petitioned to be named the child’s sole managing conservator and asked the court to either deny visitation with the father or, in the alternative, to require it to be supervised.  She alleged the child had reported being spanked, being physically punished by her stepmother and her step-grandmother, being forced to stand in a corner, being underfed sometimes, being subjected to verbal abuse and threats of physical violence, and being required to stay in her room watching television for hours while she was in her father’s custody.  The mother also alleged the child’s foot had been injured by her step-grandmother and not given medical attention.  She further alleged the child’s stepmother repeatedly tried to put makeup on the child when she was allergic to it.

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What is a Mediated Settlement Agreement?

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A mediated settlement agreement (“MSA”) in a Texas divorce is binding if it meets certain requirements.  It must state that it is not subject to revocation in bold letters, capital letters or underlined text.  It must also be signed by each party and the party’s attorney, if present. Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 6.602.  Some Texas courts have held that an MSA may be unenforceable if it is obtained by fraud, duress or coercion.

A husband recently challenged an MSA, partly on the grounds that he allegedly signed it under duress.

The parties had been married since 1981.  Some of the property acquired during the marriage was held by a limited partnership in which the parties owned a 95% interest.  In August 2017, the husband was arrested after the wife reported he had threatened her with a firearm.  The wife filed for divorce the very next day.

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Burt v. Francis arose from a contentious Texas divorce involving family violence. The trial court dissolved the marriage on May 29, 2014. There were three children. Although the couple had agreed to the terms of the divorce decree, they still fought over their three children. The mother later testified that the father was required to have the overnights with the kids at his mother’s house, and his behavior worsened after their divorce.

On the day after the divorce, the father was angry when he picked the children up for their weekend. He started yelling and smacking his fists. The mother was worried about his ability to drive safely and called the sheriff. That night, the father returned the children. The parents argued. The father pulled the three-year-old out of her arms and woke up the older child, and he left with all the children. He also threatened the children and told them the mother was a bad person. She called the sheriff again.

On June 30th, the father came by and berated the children, again claiming the mother was evil. The mother asked him to leave, but he wouldn’t. Their son was terrified. The father at another point shot a handgun at the mother’s house, claiming he was just showing the kids his new gun. The mother later would testify that the children were afraid of their father and that his actions were intimidating and oppressive.

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Johnny Depp and Amber Heard are flooding the media with news of their divorce and allegations of family violence. This blog post is not here to pick sides between Team Amber or Team Depp, but we do want to explain the difference between a Protective Order and a Temporary Restraining Order, and what to do if you need either of those.

There is a lot of confusion about how to protect yourself from family violence in Texas. Many clients approach our law firm asking for a restraining order, but what they really want is a protective order. Here is the difference:

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As a family law attorney, we are involved in a wide array of domestic issues ranging from a husband and wife who have simply fallen out of love and grown apart over the years, to situations involving infidelity and the very real emotional damage that echoes for years to come even after the divorce is finalized, to situations involving children—who will take the kids to baseball practice?  Who will be responsible for paying for their health insurance?  How will their expenses be handled?

But above all of the complications and struggles that pervade the separation and dissolution of a family unit, there is one issue that the parties, their attorneys, and the Courts place a priority on addressing, and that is family violence.  Continue Reading ›

The Texas legislature has taken a strong stance against family violence. Title IV of the Texas Family Code codifies the injunctive remedy of Family Violence Protective Orders. In Texas, an Applicant for a Title IV Protective Order must first satisfy the venue requirements and have a qualifying relationship with the Respondent. In limited situations, an Applicant may be afforded the opportunity to apply for a Title IV Protective Order on behalf of another. Continue Reading ›

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