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What is family violence and is there a duty to report?

Posted by Helene Parker | Aug 20, 2018 | 0 Comments

Family Violence Defined

The Texas Family Code defines family violence as "(1) an act by a member of a family or household against another member that is intended to result in, or is a threat that reasonably places other members of the household in fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or sexual assault, or (2) an abuse by member of a family or household toward a child of the family or household, or (3) dating violence."

A medical professional who treats a person for injuries who has reason to believe that the injuries were caused by family violence is required to (1) immediately provide the person with information about nearest family violence shelter, (2) document in the person's medical file information that was provided and the reasons for the belief that the person's injuries were caused by family violence, and (3) give the person a written notice about the legal implications of family violence.

Duty to Report Abuse/Neglect of a Child

While there is no duty for a member of the public to report family violence committed against an adult, there is a mandatory duty to report neglect and abuse committed against a child.  Any person who has reason to believe that a child's physical or mental health has been adversely affected by abuse or neglect must report to the police or Child Protective Services. 

Any professional who has reason to believe that a child has been or may be abused or neglected must make a report within 48 hours after first suspecting the abuse. 

Abuse/Neglect of Child Defined

Child abuse is defined as an act or omission that results in:

(1) a mental or emotional injury to a child,

(2) physical injury or threat of physical injury to a child,

(3) sexual misconduct in the presence of or to a child, or

(4) use of controlled substances in the presence of a child.

Neglect of a child includes:

(1) leaving a child in a situation where the child would be exposed to substantial risk of physical or mental harm, without arranging for necessary child care,

(2) placing a child in a situation that is a beyond the child's level of maturity or physical or mental capabilities and that results in bodily injury to the child or a substantial risk of immediate harm to the child,

(3) not seeking or getting medical care for the child when there is a substantial risk of death, disfigurement, bodily injury, or material impairment to the child's development,

(4) not providing the child with necessary food, clothing, or shelter,

(5) placing the child in a situation, or not removing the child from a situation, in which the child is exposed to substantial risk of harmful sexual conduct, or

(6) not removing the child from a situation in which the child would be exposed to sexual abuse committed against another child.

Legal Consequence for Failing to Report

It is a Class A misdemeanor if a person has reason to believe that a child's physical or mental health or welfare has been or may be adversely affected by abuse or neglect and knowingly does not report the abuse or neglect. 

Legal Consequence for Making a False Report

It is a state jail felony if a person knowingly and with intent to deceive make a false report of abuse or neglect of a child.  If a person has already made a false report, then the act is a third degree felony. The court must also order the person who is convicted of making a false report to pay the attorney's fees of the falsely accused person.  The Office of the Attorney General may also bring an action to recover civil penalty of $1000.00 from any one who files a false report of child abuse or neglect.

In a situation where the parties are involved in a custody case, if a party makes a false report or the report lacks factual foundation before or during the custody suit, the court can modify an existing visitation order and limit that person's possession or access to the child.

About the Author

Helene Parker

Ms. Parker has been a licensed attorney in Texas since 1997.  She is Board Certified in Family Law. Ms. Parker received her B.A. from California State University, Fullerton in History and Art.  Cal State Fullerton was not Ms. Parkers first university; she spent her freshman year at American Uni...

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