Resource Letter:
For Judges and Attorneys Handling Child Protective Services Cases
October 13, 2021
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month
Domestic violence (referred to as “family violence” in Tex. Fam. Code § 71.004) is defined as a pattern of coercive control which takes the form of behavior choices and strategies used purposefully and systematically by a person to gain or maintain power and domination over their intimate partner. This includes any behaviors that intimidate, manipulate, humiliate, isolate, frighten, terrorize, coerce, threaten, blame, hurt, injure, or wound someone.

Exposure to domestic violence can have long-lasting negative effects on children's physical and emotional well-being. It is important to note that witnessing family violence, in and of itself, is not child abuse under Texas law. However, co-occurrence of domestic violence and child neglect or abuse is common.

Judges may consider taking the following steps to have a positive impact on the safety and stability of families experiencing domestic violence:

  • Keep the children’s safety in mind: It is common for the perpetrator to use the children to control the survivor parent. Services, planning, and hearings should be conducted with the safety and well-being of the children as a primary concern and in the context of domestic violence dynamics.
  • Keep the domestic violence survivor parent’s safety in mind: Judges might consider holding separate hearing times to discuss each parent’s individual portion of the case if there are concerns by the survivor parent about continued use of intimidation, threats, manipulation, or retaliation by the perpetrator.
  • Address placement issues: Considerations may include placing the children with relatives or fictive kin that the survivor parent identifies as safe and supportive for the shortest duration while the survivor plans for their next step and seeks safety.
  • Recognize the danger of separation: Separation from an abusive partner increases the risk of lethality when domestic violence is a dynamic in the relationship, as can pursuing legal options such as protective orders, divorce, custody, and mediation. This may impact the information that is shared with caseworkers or other individuals.
  • Order services to address family dynamics and build on strengths: Services may include mental health support and substance use services as well as peer support and counseling with a domestic violence shelter counselor. Service plans should be tailored to address safety concerns and should include input from the survivor parent.
  • Recognize the benefits of supervised visitation: Trained staff can identify when a perpetrator is using the children to control the survivor parent or to gain access to information, including new contact information.
  • Consider how to maintain safety in mediation: In cases involving domestic violence, judges and attorneys might consider selecting a mediator who has undergone specialized training.

Statewide events for Domestic Violence Awareness Month sponsored by the Texas Council on Family Violence (TCFV) include the Week of Action 2021 events, among them “Purple Thursday,” which can be supported by the DVAM 2021 Coalition Toolkit. Additionally, judges can contact their local Domestic Violence Program to access opportunities for education and training.

At the national level, the National Council on Juvenile and Family Court Judges is hosting a “Break from the Bench Series” which has upcoming live trainings as well as recorded sessions on domestic violence.

Additional resources:
Having trouble viewing this message? Try View as Webpage
For a complete list of Resource Letters, please visit the Children's Commission webpage. Information provided by the Children’s Commission should not be read as a commentary by the Supreme Court of Texas or any other court. The Children’s Commission website is not equipped to facilitate dialogue or conversation about matters related to the information in this communique. For more information about the Children’s Commission, please visit our website.