G. Intersection of Child Welfare Cases and Child Custody

Information emanating from a child welfare case where domestic violence is involved can impact concurrent and future custody issues. It is common for the perpetrator to use custody orders and other issues related to the children, including exchanges, to continue to threaten and harass the survivor parent. Fathers who are violent towards the mothers of their children are twice as likely to seek sole custody of their children as non-abusive fathers.[144] It is important for final orders in a child welfare case to address conservatorship and access with information about known safety risks spelled out so that long-term safety for survivor parents and children is clear in the event of a future SAPCR.

Similarly, documentation during the child welfare case can impact the ongoing safety of the survivor parent and child even after the child welfare case has ended. Case documentation should include an accurate identification of the perpetrator, clearly identified patterns of the dangerous behaviors that initiated the original and ongoing safety concerns, as well as documentation of the additional negative impacts that those behaviors had on family functioning. Documentation of the services ordered to support behavior change by the perpetrator is critical. That documentation should include detailed attendance records of their participation in court ordered services, including their participation in the Batterers Intervention and Prevention Programming (BIPP). In addition, it is critical to document if the perpetrator was court-ordered to attend BIPP and failed to follow through, and/or received a finding of contempt.

Case documentation can prove invaluable to determining safety issues in child custody matters as they determine the ongoing access that the perpetrator has to the child and therefore to the survivor parent. This documentation should include how and when exchanges will take place, along with information pertaining to the financial responsibility held by the perpetrator. This documentation is critical because it will limit two of the ways that the perpetrator might attempt to shift the power dynamics by inciting the fear and dependency of the survivor parent and the child.

Relevant Law:

•   Tex. Fam. Code § 261.501 (used by the Harris County Attorneys' Office for Protective Orders in CPS cases)

•   Tex. Fam. Code § 262.102(4)(c) (emergency order)

•   Tex. Fam. Code § 262.201(k) (adversary hearing)

•   Tex. Fam. Code § 262.1161(c) (removal: misdemeanor exception)

•   Tex. Fam. Code § 262.1095(4)(c) (family violence exception to providing information)