Custody disputes and other family law matters can be some of the most difficult and emotional conflicts for courts and judges to hear. Fact finders must balance the importance of protecting the safety of children with the unfortunate fact that many parents manufacture or exaggerate claims of abuse in order to bolster their custody or divorce case. Ultimately it is up to the finder of fact (judge or jury) to determine the credibility of abuse allegations lodged against a party. A Texas appellate court recently affirmed a Dallas family judge’s ruling that the allegations of abuse against a father involved in a custody case were not credible.
The parties in the recently decided case were a married couple who share four children. Around 2017, the parties sought a divorce based upon irreconcilable differences. As the divorce and custody determination played out, the mother made allegations that the father had been abusive several times to her in front of the children. Under Texas law, an abusive parent or spouse faces difficulty in obtaining primary custody of the children. While not directly controverting the mother’s allegations, the father did elicit the testimony of a family therapist who treated the couple, as well as another professional who completed a custody evaluation of the family to determine the best placement for the children.
Based on the testimony of the parties and professional witnesses, the family judge determined that the mother’s allegations of abuse did not demonstrate the “pattern of abuse” that would be required to further restrict the father’s custody rights. Specifically, the judge noted that both the marriage therapist and the custody evaluator found the mother to be unstable and agitated. The judge further determined that the allegations of abuse appeared to be made primarily in support of the mother’s legal case, and not based on any actual abuse.
The mother appealed this family court ruling to the Texas Court of Appeals, where the family court determination was upheld. Specifically, the appellate court ruled that family judges are not required to take all allegations of abuse at face value, and a judge’s determination of the credibility of abuse allegations should be given deference. As a result of the appellate ruling, the father will remain the primary custodian of the children.
Navigating a Divorce or Custody Case with Allegations of Abuse
If you or someone you care about is facing or anticipating a divorce or custody dispute that could include instances or allegations of abuse, having a credible and consistent case is extremely important. Judges are required to follow their judgment in determining the credibility of each party’s claims, and small irregularities could affect the believability of a case in its entirety. To ensure your case is presented persuasively, you may want to retain a qualified Texas family law attorney to be by your side. The experienced Texas divorce and custody lawyers at Guest and Gray know how to make a strong case for our clients. We represent clients throughout Texas on a variety of family law issues, including divorce and custody cases. Contact our offices at 972-564-4644 and schedule a free consultation today.