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Family Violence and COVID-19

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This material was compiled by TexasLawHelp and was last updated on May 1, 2020. 

Who can help if I am experiencing family violence during COVID-19?

For help finding a shelter or other services, see TexasLawHelp's Domestic Violence. Free Legal Help for Victims and Survivors page.

There are several Texas-wide free, confidential resources that remain open and available to assist victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, such as:

The National Domestic Violence Hotline is one starting point for people experiencing family violence during COVID-19.

 

How do I stay safe from my abuser during COVID-19?

This COVID-19 Family Violence Safety Planning Checklist can help you plan to leave a dangerous situation. 

If you are able to find a safe way to contact an organization that helps domestic violence victims, they can help you make a plan to stay safe under your unique circumstances.

Also, Aid to Victims of Domestic Abuse and Texas Legal Services Center Crime Victims offer the following tips on safety planning during COVID-19 stay-at-home orders.

  1. Know the safest place in the home. Avoid places like the kitchen, bathroom, and garage where hard surfaces and objects that can be used as weapons are.
  2. Have a safety plan. Know where your keys and important papers are and keep them where you can grab them quickly.
  3. If it is not safe to use your phone or computer to look for resources, ask a friend or family member to do it for you so they can share it with you in a phone conversation at a safe time.
  4. Have a secret code word with a friend or family member that will let them know to send help.
  5. Prepare for a situation where an abuser might hide essential supplies and/or prohibit you from leaving the home to access essential supplies.
  6. Get outdoors, if you can. Staying home together provides more opportunity for conflict and for those disagreements to escalate. Take a walk, if you can, to allow some time for things to de-escalate.
  7. Keep your gas tank full with your car backed into your parking place in case you have to make a quick escape in your car.
  8. If you can make plans to leave your abuser safely for a shelter or to stay with a friend or family member, do so. Remember: Never tell the person hurting you that you plan to leave.
  9. In an emergency, call 911. 

See Surviving Domestic Abuse During “Stay Home” Orders: Tips on Staying Safe (from Aid to Victims of Domestic Abuse) and Resources for Safety Planning: Information to Help Build an Abusive Relationship Safety Plan (a video from Lone Star Legal Aid). 

 

 

 

How do I stay safe during a shelter in place order? What if I am stuck at home with an abuser?

How do I find a shelter?

Click here to access the Family Violence Program to locate temporary shelter and supportive services. 

You can also call 2-1-1, or visit  2-1-1 Texas, enter your zip code and select Housing/Shelter.

You can also contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at (800) 799-7233 or (800) 787-3224 (TTY), or text LOVEIS to 22522.  

 
 

Are shelters still open during COVID-19?

Yes, shelters are open and are providing residential and non-residential services. Some shelters are providing these services in a modified way during this time. 

It’s best to call the specific shelter to find out what services are available and how to access them. 

 

Can I still apply for a protective order to protect me from family violence during COVID-19?

Yes, protective order hearings are considered to be essential proceedings and courts are still accepting applications. You should contact the services above for legal assistance.

 

Does COVID-19 change my child custody order?

It doesn’t. The Texas Supreme Court issued several emergency orders saying that for determining a person’s right to possession of and access to a child under a court-ordered possession schedule, the existing trial court order controls in all instances. The Texas Supreme Court emphasized this with another order April 27, 2020, in effect until July 15, 2020: 

In determining a person’s right to possession of and access to a child under a courtordered possession schedule in a Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship, the existing trial court order shall control in all instances. Possession of and access to a child shall not be affected by any shelter-in-place order or other order restricting movement issued by a governmental entity that arises from the pandemic. The original published school schedule shall also control, and possession and access shall not be affected by the school’s closure that arises from the pandemic. Nothing herein prevents parties from altering a possession schedule by agreement if allowed by their court order(s), or courts from modifying their orders on an emergency basis or otherwise.

You may be able to file a motion to modify your custody order if you no longer believe it is safe for you or your child to follow it.

See Coronavirus and Child Visitation

 

What can I do if my child’s other parent has supervised visits, but my supervised visitation center is closed due to COVID-19?

Call the Access and Visitation Hotline Monday through Friday from 1 p.m.to 5 p.m. at (866) 292-4636 for up-to-date information. 

 

Legal Aid of Northwest Texas Family Violence FAQ video

This video created by Legal Aid of Northwest Texas addresses family violence issues that come up during the COVID-19 crisis, such as:

  • COVID-19 Family Violence FAQs - Legal Aid of Northwest Texas video
  • What should I do if I want to leave an abusive situation right now?
  • What is a protective order?
  • Are there different types of protective orders?
  • Are courts open now for getting protective orders?
  • May I still file a protective order on my own during the pandemic if my court is closed to the public?
  • What if I have children with my abuser?
  • What about other types of cases besides protective orders? Are courts still hearing divorce and custody cases?

 

Resources for Safety Planning: Information to Help Build an Abusive Relationship Safety Plan - Lone Star Legal Aid video