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Archive for the ‘Domestic Violence’ Category

HB 93 Will Take Us Back to the Bad Old Days

Posted on May 10th, 2017 by The Red Headed Lawyer

Back in 1970, Texas became one of the first states to offer couples a less confrontational, less expensive way to end a failed marriage. It was known as “No Fault” Divorce, and many at the time believed it would be a disastrous social experiment with American families. However, there is evidence now suggesting that rather than encouraging divorce, the long term effect of this option has been to make divorces less frequent.

During the 1970s and into the early 1980s, divorce rates did rise as each state eventually passed legislation to offer some kind of no fault option. In economic terms, you could say there was pent-up demand that was suddenly being satisfied by the change in laws.

One common measure of divorce rates is the number of divorces per 1,000 people. From about 4.6 per 1,000 in 1970, divorces in the US rose throughout the decade, peaking in 1981 at about 6.9 per thousand. Since then, the numbers have steadily declined, dropping to 4.0 per 1,000 in 2000 and just 3.2 today. Here in Texas, we are fortunate to have a divorce rate below the national average at 2.7 per 1,000.

Clearly, this is one of those rare occurrences where it’s good to be below average!

Texas House Bill 93 (and a companion bill that lengthens the waiting period from 60 to 180 days) would undo years of progress on dealing with divorces in the state and bring us back to the bad old days. If this Bill becomes law, couples whose marriages have failed will no longer be able to claim the no-fault option of “insupportability” – basically another way of saying irreconcilable differences. Instead, they will need to file using one or more of the fault-based grounds – adultery, abandonment, cruelty, felony conviction, living apart for three years or confinement to a mental hospital.

In my opinion, this Bill would be a disaster for Texas couples. They are already going through one life’s most stressful events. Now, they will be forced to adopt a confrontational approach and air their dirty laundry in public. Kids will be forced to take sides with all the long-term hurt and emotional baggage such conflict would sow.

And what about the parents? Should they be penalized for admitting that they are no longer compatible? Currently, it is estimated that as many as 90% of divorces in Texas are filed on no-fault grounds. Eliminating this option will make divorces much more expensive as one party will have to prove malfeasance as described above. This could entail the hiring of private investigators, expert witnesses, and the like. These proceedings will also take much more time to complete, which will also run up the bills.

But it’s not just about money. For women (and men) who are in abusive relationships, a no-fault divorce can be the only way out. After years in such a destructive relationship, the abused party will likely be very reluctant and afraid to report the partner to authorities, which would be required in an at-fault divorce. There is more data supporting current law – since no fault divorces became common, studies show female suicide has dropped 8 – 15%, domestic murder is down 10%, and domestic violence (for male and females) has fallen as much as 30%. Also, given the inevitable rise in costs that would ensue, would divorce become an option only for the wealthy?

There are many groups that support this change in law, but I can tell that as an attorney, I do not support it. Kids will suffer, parents and their families will suffer, and what if people lose their jobs and careers? How would this development help the lives of those involved?

If you have any questions on this or any other family law matter, please feel free to contact us here at the Essex Law Firm.

What to do if you are a Victim of Spousal Abuse

Posted on October 26th, 2015 by The Red Headed Lawyer


If you are in a relationship with an abusive partner, you might feel trapped, helpless or have no idea where to turn. Knowing what steps to take to move forward in your life is extremely important for your wellbeing.

Report the Abuse

First and foremost, call 911 or your local police department to report the domestic abuse and file charges against your abuser. It’s important to keep a record of the abuse, so write down the report number from the police report, to save with your documentation.

According to the National Coalition against Domestic Violence, “On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States.” (Source:

Understanding that you are not alone in your situation and you’ve done nothing to cause the abuse will help you move forward in bettering your situation.

Seek Medical Help

Only 34% of people who are injured by intimate partners receive medical care for their injuries. (Source:

Domestic violence leaves scars that can take several years to heal. While it’s important to seek medical attention for any immediate needs, it’s also necessary to seek professional help and counseling to aide you in the process of moving on.

Create a Safe Plan

Planning ahead is essential to keeping yourself and your family safe. Have a list of places you can go, perhaps a family member’s home or close friend’s house, when you are forced to leave your home. When creating your plan, consider where you will go, where your children will go, what to bring with you and how you will get there.

For an idea of what type of things to plan for, download this domestic violence personalized safety plan from

Think of Your Family

Domestic violence impacts your entire family and it’s important to find the support and provide guidance to your children involved in domestic violence.

According to, “Children exposed to domestic violence at home are more likely to have health problems, including becoming sick more often, having frequent headaches or stomachaches, and being more tired and lethargic.”

Be sure to remember your children’s needs throughout the entire transition and make arrangements to keep them healthy, both mentally and physically.

File a Protective Order

By filing a protective order you can ensure your safety and your family’s safety. Under a protective order, the abuser is prohibited from assault, direct communication, visiting place of resident or place of work.

If you or someone you know is suffering from spousal abuse, do not hesitate to reach out for help. You can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline for free to speak with a trained advocate and get the support you need. If you are in the Houston area, there are shelters and resources available to you through the Family Violence Unit and the Houston Bar Association.

Personality Disorders in Divorce

Posted on August 10th, 2015 by The Red Headed Lawyer


Recently I read an article entitled “Personality Disorders in Divorce” by Jim Dolan. That got your attention, didn’t it? I can hear a lot of you saying, “I know my ex has one of those! He (she) is crazy! Let me just tell you….” As a divorce attorney, I see people on both sides of divorces do lots of “crazy” things that they would not otherwise do. Here in Spring, a woman was just recently arrested for putting a hit contract out on her husband who she is in the process of divorcing. Their court files shows ongoing conflict, threats, assault and charges on both sides. So, as Mr. Dolan correctly points out, many lawyers and judges believe that both parties are equally at fault. But aren’t some people really “crazy” anyway and it just gets worse during a divorce? Well, it turns out that might be true.

Mr. Dolan identifies three personality disorders (he calls them the “Big Three”) which can make an otherwise typically “crazy” divorce become one in which one person is truly the victim.

Here they are: the Narcissist, the Borderline, and the Anti-social

  • The Narcissist, typically male, is your charming “bad boy” with big ideas and not much to back them up, may not work much, doesn’t care about anyone else’s feelings. He is the one who is going to punish you if you try to escape. Be careful with this one. He is out to exact revenge on you for even thinking of leaving.
  • Then there is the Borderline, usually female, drug or alcohol issues, parental abandonment, chaotic family background, often a crime victim. She thinks she can “buy” a good, solid relationship with intense sex. All hell breaks loose when she hooks up with a Narcissist. Think Fatal Attraction with Michael Douglas.
  • The Anti-social, our third PD, is more often a man who is witty and charming and may be in a position of power. He looks for a woman who wants to be taken care of. He needs to control the woman he is with. Violence and drug abuse are unfortunately behind the charm.

If you are currently going through a divorce and your spouse exhibits these symptoms, you should seek counseling early on to learn how to cope and to help your children cope. You are not going to change the person so, as they say, you can only change yourself. You may be in for a long, stressful, seemingly never-ending road of conflict. You need to understand that you are not at fault. You will need professional help. If you see yourself in one of the “Big Three” then you also need counseling. You need help so that you find peace with yourself, and so that you do not permanently damage your children. If you are not married, then you will want to carefully consider any relationships so that you do not fall into one of the “Big Three” traps.

I am not a psychologist, but I have seen these personality disorders and the pain they cause. Mr. Dolan has written a very interesting article and I will be happy to share the entire article with you if you email me. If in doubt, contact a professional therapist or counselor.

Domestic Violence

Posted on September 15th, 2014 by The Red Headed Lawyer

I believe one of the biggest failings of our family court system is the failure to understand the vicious cycle of family violence. Victims are often blamed because they did not “just leave.” In fact, many leave and return, on average 17 times, even after being severely beaten. There is a dedicated court in Harris County for obtaining protective orders. This means one judge hears all these cases. It follows then, that it is most important for that judge to understand domestic violence. The current judge, and candidate for reelection, is Judge Lynn Bradshaw-Hull. I have in the past felt that this judge does not understand domestic violence. I have seen her grill victims worse than she did the accuser. Apparently, investigations, as reported in the Houston Chronicle recently, have revealed that I am not alone in that belief. THIS IS WHERE YOU COME IN. The candidate opposing this judge, BARBARA STALDER, has been actively working in and with organizations for years to protect victims of domestic abuse. She has the background, training and experience, and I believe the understanding, in this area that Judge Bradshaw-Hull does not. I encourage you to step across party lines if necessary and vote for Barbara Stalder. Do not wait until it is your mother, sister or friend standing in front of the protective order court judge as a victim to take a stand.

The following is from a recent Huffington Post article explaining why victims do not just leave:

It’s the question every survivor of domestic violence is posed, often incredulously: Why didn’t you just leave? The reality is that leaving an abusive relationship is often a herculean task that endangers the woman and calls for resources that aren’t readily available.

In June, after The Huffington Post ran an investigative report on a woman allegedly murdered by her boyfriend, we received an outpouring of responses from domestic violence survivors who wanted to explain why they had stayed with their abusers. We spent the next three months interviewing these women. While they offered hundreds of reasons, ranging from the logistical to the deeply personal, some common themes emerged: Fear. Love. Family. Money. Shame. Isolation.

In this series, you will hear from six survivors of domestic violence about why they didn’t leave sooner. The stories — told in their own words — are as distinct as they are similar. One woman suffered a brutal week of abuse before fleeing. Others stayed for decades trying to make things work. Two women were shot, the bullets narrowly missing their hearts. Another endured years of incessant stalking.

This week, stories like theirs became part of a national conversation when a video surfaced of pro football player Ray Rice violently punching his then-fiancee Janay Palmer in an elevator. Palmer, who married Rice just a few weeks after the incident, was criticized for having stayed with him. Then, something remarkable happened: Writer Beverly Gooden shared her own reasons for staying in an abusive relationship on Twitter, using the hashtag #WhyIStayed. Within hours, hundreds of survivors were tweeting their own reasons for doing the same.

As the stories continue to flood in, we hope this project will make it clear that “just leaving” often isn’t an option. We hope these accounts will prompt people to stop asking why she stayed — and instead begin asking how they can help.