By now you’ve probably seen the incriminating video of Ray Rice, the former NFL running back for the Baltimore Ravens, popping his then-fiancee in the face and knocking her out cold in an elevator. It’s not a pretty sight, and I’m sure Mr. Rice would take like to redo the whole incident over. If only he could have gotten hold of the footage recorded by the elevator security camera before it was released to the media. . . .
In Texas, Family Violence is defined as (1) violence by a member of the family or household against another member of the family or household, (2) abuse by a member of the family or household against a child of the family or household, or (3) dating violence against a member of a dating relationship or a third-party victim. See Section 71 of the Texas Family Code. So if the NFL star’s incident would have been here in Texas, he could be subject to criminal prosecution for the crime of assault, and he could have also been subject to the harsh legal consequences of family violence in the Family Law arena. The Texas Family Code can give the perpetrator a 1-2-3 punch right back.
Punch 1 Because Family Violence poses a threat that reasonably places the victim in fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or sexual assault, the first action is to obtain a Protective Order. This Protective Order “protects” the victim from the one committing the harm. I use quotation marks around the word protects because the Order itself is just a piece of paper (so how can that protect?). The Protective Order puts the police on notice that the perpetrator is dangerous to the victim and the victim only has to reach out to the police if the perpetrator violates any of the conditions of the Protective Order. These restrictions usually order the perpetrator to stay a minimum distance from the victim, restrict any and all communications with the victim, and prohibit the perpetrator from even possessing a firearm at any time.
Punch 2 If Family Violence is found to have occurred, then the perpetrator of that violence will be responsible for all costs of going to Court, including attorney’s fees of the victim. If the perpetrator and victim are seeking a divorce, the Family Violence finding will likely give the victim a right to a disproportionate share of the marital estate. This simply means that the victim will be entitled to a significant amount more than the perpetrator. We see these disproportionate splits usually being in the neighborhood of 60% to 70% in favor of the victim in north Texas.
Punch 3 If children are involved, then the perpetrator may very well have just given up a crucial right to be considered a Joint Managing Conservator of the children. The perpetrator might be restricted to being a possessory conservator only, with no shared rights and duties of the children for such decisions as education, medical, and psychological.
Now, since the debacle has been unfolding with Mr. Rice, his then-fiancee is now his wife, and she appears to be sticking by his side without claiming that he committed any Family Violence against her. Of course, that’s her right to exercise as well. And often it is the case that the victim refuses to come forward or seek outside help. North Texas has several resources available to victims of Family Violence, one being Friends of the Family (www.dcfof.org). Their website has some very useful information and contact numbers. They even have on-staff an attorney who can help obtain a protective order in emergencies. It is then also very important to seek good counsel as to how to proceed with a divorce, child custody, child support, etc.