H. Intersection of Child Welfare and Child Custody Cases

Concurrent and future family and criminal cases involving the same parents and children in a child welfare case can impact the long-term safety, stability, and well-being of the child and family. Therefore, information emanating from a child welfare case where domestic violence is involved can impact concurrent and subsequent divorce, custody, and protective order applications in a way that is aligned with prioritizing child safety if appropriate case documentation is maintained, and the court issues related findings. It is common for the perpetrator to use custody orders and other issues related to the children, including exchanges and visitation, 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.[228] 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 support for long-term safety for survivor parents and children is clear in the event of a future Suit Affecting the Parent Child Relationship (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. Case documentation should include any issues with exchanges and visitation. Documentation of the services ordered to support behavior change by the perpetrator and whether or not they complied and completed services is critical. Such documentation should include detailed attendance records of their participation in court-ordered services, including their participation in the BIPP and whether the perpetrator parent received a finding of contempt.

Relevant Law:

•   Tex. Fam. Code § 261.501 (filing application for a protective order in a CPS case)

•   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)