How Does Domestic Violence Affect Child Custody?

Board Certified family attorney Sonya Coffman answers the questions of Southeast Texas KFDM News viewers. These questions include:

  • How does domestic violence affect custody?
  • When will the state take action against someone behind in child support payments?
  • What rights does an out of state parent have with a young child?
  • Is allowing a child to smoke electronic cigarettes abuse?


There's been a lot in the news lately concerning domestic violence committed by professional athletes and entertainers and the impact that violence has on their careers. However, in addition to the professional and criminal consequences, domestic violence can also have detrimental effects on a parent's ability to raise his or her child.  Live at five's family attorney, Sonya Coffman joins us now with more.  And, we're hearing a lot more about that.  Especially with Adrian Peterson and his child, now children.  Two different ones.  Yes.  So, tell us, how exactly this will play into custody battles.  I think everyone would know that if you abuse your child, that would affect your ability to parent.  But some people are surprised that domestic violence committed among parents can affect a parent's ability to raise their child.  For example, the family code says that if the Court finds there's been domestic violence between parents, that the Court cannot appoint those parents joint managing conservators.  And, the Court can order that the offending parent's visitation be supervised or even denied because of violence against the other parent.  So, it's a very serious thing not only professionally and criminally, but also in the family courts.  Now, is it something that has to be documented?  It's not just hearsay or?  Right, there has to be credible evidence.  OK.  And so, if someone is a victim of domestic violence, obviously, they need to document that with photographs, with witnesses, and file a police report.  OK.  Very good to know.  We've got lots of questions, so let's get to those.  OK.  This person wants to know how far behind as in months in child support does NCP have to be before something is done about it?  And we get this question a lot.  We do.  They're probably working with the Attorney General.  And just keep following up with them.  The Attorney General, I don't think has a specific formula of what that needs to be, but obviously, it needs to be enough for them to take the time to file a law suit, pursue enforcement, get the other party served and all that's involved in that, so.  Just stay in touch with the Attorney General and keep following up.  OK.  What rights, other than phone conversations does a non-custodial parent who resides in a different state have to a child under 3 years of age and not yet in school who resides in Texas?  That's tough because you can't put a little one on an airplane.  So, often times, the Courts will say the visitation needs to happen in the county that is the child's residence or that that parent can come and pick the child up and take them to their home in another state.  A lot's going to depend on how much parenting time the out of state parent has had.  If they've never had the child overnight, for example, it's not likely that the Court's going to say take the child on an airplane to another state.  One thing we're seeing parents do more and more is Skyping, so even with little kids, they can see your face, hear your voice and some parents are doing homework, even by Skype.  Out of state parents with kids, so.  It's nice to have social media.  Yeah.  Be creative with it.  Different options.  Here's another one.  What is the law on parents allowing their children ages six to thirteen to be allowed to smoke e-cigarettes?  Is this considered child abuse?  I haven't had that in a case yet, but, if I ever have that, I hope I'm on the side of saying, that is abusive.  That's crazy.  Yes.  To expose kids to nicotine.  I can't imagine that a parent would do that.  Alright.  Sonya thanks so much.  And, unfortunately, we're out of time.  But we appreciate your time.