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When divorce turns criminal in Texas: Domestic violence charges

A potential -- and very unfortunate -- consequence of getting divorced is finding out that you have been accused of domestic violence against your spouse. The repercussions of a domestic violence arrest are numerous and long-lasting, affecting not only your parental and custodial rights with your children, but possibly even your freedom.

What is an Order of Protection?

Being served with an Order of Protection may be the way in which you learn that your spouse has accused you of domestic violence. Simultaneously, you may also be arrested, further adding to your confusion and sense that reality has spun out of your control.

Your order may have been issued temporarily by the judge on an emergency basis. These orders typical expire within a few days or a week, ostensibly giving both parties a "cooling-off period" and allowing the alleged victim time to collect essential belongings from a shared dwelling.

The plaintiff may request that the court extend the protective order if the plaintiff still feels threatened by the defendant. The duration could be for months or a year, and in some extreme cases may be extended for years or even a lifetime.

There is one caveat that can be particularly worrisome. Your accuser doesn't even have to allege that you actually caused him or her any harm. Under Texas state law, a person can be arrested for domestic violence for "intentionally or knowingly threatening another person with imminent bodily injury."

Provisions of protective orders

As these orders are able to be tailored to meet the specific circumstances of an alleged abusive incident, the protective orders may contain some or all of the following provisions:

  • Allowable, peaceful contact with alleged victim. Often these orders are issued when the petitioner and defendant share children and must have contact on their behalf.
  • No contact with alleged victim. If you were issued this type of Order of Protection, it means no contact whatsoever. No third-party appeals, no texts, no calls, e-mails, touching or otherwise disturbing the plaintiff in the matter.
  • Remaining a certain distance from the alleged victim. While this can also vary widely, often the listed distance is 300 feet or 100 yards.
  • Moving out of the shared home. Even if the dwelling is rented or owned solely in your name, you could be ordered to vacate the premises and be escorted away by police.

Those are just a few of the possible provisions listed on the Order of Protection against you. There can even be more, which is why it is important to launch an immediate and aggressive defense to these allegations.

A divorce attorney is not a criminal defense attorney

Attorneys who handle divorces practice civil law, but if you have been accused of domestic violence, you need an attorney who is well-versed in the intricacies of Texas criminal law. This is not a time to be penny-wise and pound-foolish. Your own liberty and rights are at stake here and must be vociferously defended by someone who is experienced at these type of cases.

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