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How is child custody affected by domestic violence?

A Texas court will take into consideration any recent domestic violence on the part of anyone wishing to have partial or sole custody of a child. Domestic violence is known as any intentional act by a party to cause physical harm to a spouse, a child's parent or anyone under the age of 18. Generally, courts will look closest at any pattern of abuse within two years of filing for custody.

The court will also take into close consideration any evidence of sexual abuse within two years of filing for custody. If there is evidence of sexual or physical abuse or neglect of a child, a parent may not have access to his or her child. If sexual abuse led to a pregnancy, the rights of that parent may be restricted regardless of the previous relationship between the two parents.

The goal of the court is to serve the best interests of the child. If there is no evidence to suggest that the child is in danger around a parent, that parent may still be granted access to the child regardless of past family violence. Assuming that visitation is granted to an individual with a history of violence, such visitation may be done with outside supervision or other safety measures put into place.

If a parent wishes to have custody of or visitation rights to a child, it may be worthwhile to hire a family law attorney to help pursue those rights. An attorney may be able to show that allowing visitation or awarding custody on behalf of their client is in the best interests of the child. An attorney may also be able to help parents come to a custody settlement outside of court. No information in this article is intended to be specific legal advice.

Source: Texas State Legislature, "Family Code", December 12, 2014

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