Marital problems and divorce discussions can conjure up a variety of emotions. Unfortunately, not all people handle complicated feelings in a healthy manner, and some people attempt to intimidate their estranged spouses by engaging in stalking behaviors. Regardless of the intent of a person engaging in stalking behavior, it can make the victim feel threatened and unsafe, and in many instances, it is illegal. If your spouse is engaging in threatening behavior, or you have been unjustly accused of stalking your spouse, it is critical to speak to an attorney as soon as possible. The knowledgeable Dallas divorce lawyers of McClure Law Group are mindful of the harmful effects of spousal stalking, and we can help you take the steps necessary to protect your rights.Stalking as Defined by Texas Law
Whether the victim is a spouse or another individual, stalking is a crime under Texas law. Stalking requires three elements. First, it involves conduct that a person either knows or reasonably believes the victim will perceive as a threat of bodily harm or death, either to the victim, someone the victim is dating, or a member of the victim’s household or family. Secondly, the conduct must actually cause the victim or the victim’s significant other, relative, or household member to fear that they will be harmed or killed. Finally, the conduct must be sufficient to cause a fear of death or harm in any reasonable person. In other words, it must be behavior that aims to scare the victim and not only causes apprehension in the victim but is also objectively threatening. Stalking can be in the form of verbal or written threats and property damage. It can also include following the victim or conducting surveillance on the victim’s activities.Options for Addressing Spousal Stalking
There are numerous steps victims of spousal stalking can take to protect their safety. First, it is prudent to call the police and provide them with any evidence of the threatening behavior. It is also wise to document any activity that is perceived as stalking. A spouse who is a victim of stalking can also seek a protective order. In cases in which there is an imminent threat of harm, a judge may issue an emergency protective order prohibiting a person from making further contact with his or her spouse without notifying the person. Emergency orders are effective immediately.
Once an emergency order has been granted, the court will schedule a hearing to determine whether a final protective order should be granted. Generally, the spouse seeking the order must demonstrate that his or her spouse engaged in behavior that constitutes stalking and poses a threat of harm. A person who violates a protective order may face significant penalties, including jail time.
Spousal stalking can affect custody rights as well. While Texas law presumes that it is in a child’s best interest for both parents to be appointed as joint managing conservators, that presumption is rebutted in cases involving a history of domestic violence, which includes spousal stalking. In such instances, the court will usually grant the victim sole managing conservator rights and may give the other spouse limited parental rights or may deny them altogether.Dealing with False Accusations of Stalking
While spousal stalking is a serious crime and should be treated as such, some people will, unfortunately, accuse their spouses of stalking to gain an advantage in custody or divorce proceedings. It is important for people falsely accused of stalking to adhere to the terms of any emergency protective order against them until the matter can be formally addressed by a judge. It is also essential that they document any communications or threats from the alleged victim, especially if they demonstrate an intent to impair their rights.Confer with a Trusted Attorney in Dallas
Stalking is often used as an intimidation tactic to threaten and control an estranged spouse, but it can also represent a threat to a person’s safety and well-being. If your spouse is engaging in stalking behavior or you have been falsely accused of stalking your spouse, it is important to speak with a lawyer regarding what legal measures you can take. The trusted attorneys of McClure Law Group are adept at handling critical family law issues, and we can advise you of your options for pursuing a just outcome. We regularly assist people with family law issues in Dallas, Rockwall, Fort Worth, Richardson, Garland, McKinney, Irving, and Frisco. We also help people with family law matters in cities throughout Dallas, Rockwall, Denton, Grayson, Collin, and Tarrant Counties. You can reach us through our form online or at 214.692.8200 to schedule a meeting.