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How to Protect Yourself & Your Family from Abuse When Filing for Divorce in Texas

If you and/or your family member(s) are victims of domestic violence in Texas, we know that making the internal decision to leave your abuser can often be the ‘easiest’ part; the terrifying and often complicated part is actually leaving them, and pursuing legal action. There are domestic violence laws in Texas which are specifically created to provide you protection from your abuser.

If you are in an abusive situation and need help, please contact the National Domestic Abuse Hotline (online chat available on website) or by calling 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or texting “START” to 88788.

Types of Domestic Abuse

Abuse is not just physical. Family violence, also called intimate partner violence or domestic violence, can be defined as a pattern of behavior that is:

  1. coercive

  2. controlling and

  3. used to gain or maintain power over another.

It can include:

  1. physical abuse

  2. emotional or psychological abuse

  3. financial abuse and

  4. sexual abuse

Domestic violence and divorce in Texas

If you have decided to file for divorce from an abusive spouse, we strongly encourage you to file for a Texas protective order or restraining order. When victims of domestic violence make the often difficult decision to (for example) leave their abuser and file for divorce, they can be facing a very dangerous or even life-threatening situation. Abusers often take drastic measures to exert their control and power and as a result, their violent or controlling behavior tends to escalate. Texas protective orders are intended to restrict, by law, your abuser from contacting you and your children (if involved) and by preventing them from coming within a certain distance of you and your children. In the case of a Texas protective order, If the abuser violates this legal order, it is a criminal offense.

Protecting Yourself and Your Family

There are three types of Texas protection orders based on family violence:

  1. Temporary ex-parte protective order which provides the victim and their family members with immediate protection. To obtain a temporary ex-parte order, you will fill out an application for a protective order and include evidence of the abuse. If the judge believes that the abuser presents a clear and present danger to you and/or your family member(s), they will issue the order which usually lasts up to 20 days.

  2. Final (permanent) protective order A permanent protective order in Texas is effective for the time period stated in the order, which may be up to a maximum of two years.

  3. Magistrate’s order of emergency protection (what most people call an emergency protective order or EPO).A magistrate’s order for emergency protection is issued by the criminal court after the abuser is arrested for committing family violence, sexual assault, sexual abuse, indecent assault, stalking, or trafficking and lasts for approximately 31-91 days.

Often, with the first two orders (temporary protective order and final protective order), the court will also allow the victim to keep possession of the house and car as well as have temporary custody of the children.

Also mentioned previously was the option of a restraining order. The difference between a restraining order and a protective order is that a Texas restraining order outlines what someone can and cannot do and is not associated with criminal cases. They also are not enforceable by police if they are violated which is a critical difference between a Texas protective order and a Texas restraining order.

After Filing for Divorce - the Waiting Period

If domestic violence has occurred during the marriage, the mandatory waiting period of 60 days from filing for divorce can be waived. This applies if the defendant has been convicted of domestic violence against their spouse (or anyone in the household), as well as when the person filing for divorce has also filed a restraining order against their spouse. In these cases, the divorce will be finalized as soon as possible.

The Fort Worth divorce lawyers at Martin Oostdyk understand how to protect you and your children and can help you determine the steps needed to ensure your safety now and into the future. Contact us at (817) 813-7777 for a confidential, free consultation or click the button below to book online.


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