Varghese Summersett

The Intersection of Family and Criminal Law

Family law and criminal law are two areas of the legal system that often intersect in complex and challenging ways. In Texas, The Intersection of Family and Criminal Law in Texas is particularly evident in cases involving allegations of abuse and assault, drug use and intoxication, and cases involving DFPS – the Department of Family Protective Services (commonly known as CPS or Child Protective Services). Understanding these intersections is crucial for those navigating the legal landscape to protect their rights and the best interests of their children.

Domestic Violence and Allegations in Divorces

Domestic violence is a serious issue that can significantly impact divorce proceedings. In Texas, allegations of domestic violence can influence decisions regarding child custody, visitation rights, and even the division of marital property. Allegations of threats, domestic violence, and sexual assault come up in the context of divorce and family cases in Texas.

Victim Visa and Allegations in Divorce

In cases where the victim of domestic violence is an immigrant, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) allows them to apply for a special visa, known as the U visa, which provides legal status and work authorization. This visa can be a crucial lifeline for victims seeking to escape abusive relationships. However, allegations of domestic violence during a divorce can complicate the process, and it’s essential for victims to have experienced legal representation to navigate both family and immigration courts effectively.

Sexual Assault Allegations During a Divorce

Sexual assault allegations, whether made by adults or children, can profoundly impact divorce proceedings. Such accusations are taken extremely seriously by the courts due to the severe nature of the offense and the potential harm to the victims. If one spouse is accused of sexual assault, it can lead to immediate protective orders, restricting the accused’s contact with the alleged victim and any children involved. These allegations can influence custody decisions, often resulting in supervised visitation or complete denial of custody to ensure the safety and well-being of the children.

CPS investigations during divorce

CPS Investigations and the Impact on Divorce

Child Protective Services (CPS) investigations can play a significant role in divorce proceedings, especially when allegations of child abuse or neglect are involved.

CPS Involvement

CPS may become involved if there are allegations of child abuse, neglect, or domestic violence. The outcome of a CPS investigation can influence custody and visitation arrangements. If CPS finds evidence of abuse or neglect, the court may restrict the offending parent’s access to the child or require supervised visitation.

False Reports

False reports to CPS can also be used as a tactic in contentious divorces. These false reports can lead to unnecessary investigations and legal battles. It’s crucial for the accused parent to work with both family law and criminal defense attorneys to address the allegations and protect their parental rights.

Impact on Custody and Visitation

When one spouse accuses the other of assault, domestic violence, or a matter affecting a child, the court prioritizes the safety and well-being of the children. Texas courts may issue protective orders to restrict the alleged abuser’s contact with the spouse and children. These orders can include provisions for supervised visitation or, in severe cases, the termination of parental rights.

False Allegations and Their Consequences

While some allegations of domestic violence are valid and necessary for the protection of victims, false accusations can also occur. These false allegations can arise from spite, a desire to gain an advantage in custody battles, or misunderstandings. It is essential for the accused party to seek legal counsel to address these allegations and present evidence to counter false claims.

testifying in family court

Testifying In Family Court While a Criminal Accusation is Pending

Testifying in family court while facing a pending criminal accusation can significantly impact both cases. Statements made under oath in family court can be used as evidence in criminal proceedings, risking self-incrimination and affecting credibility. Inconsistencies between testimonies in family and criminal courts can harm the accused’s character and influence custody decisions. We have helped many clients navigate these complexities and ensure consistent, strategic statements. Similarly, protective orders and custody hearings require careful handling, as violations can lead to further legal issues. A family judge is allowed to draw a negative inference from a person’s claim of the Fifth Amendment, which is very different than what happens in criminal court.

drug use during a divorce

Drug Use During a Divorce

Drug use during a divorce can have serious implications on the proceedings, particularly concerning child custody and visitation rights. If one spouse is accused of or admits to drug use, the court’s primary concern will be the safety and well-being of any children involved. Judges may order drug testing and, based on the results, may impose restrictions such as supervised visitation or even deny custody to the parent struggling with substance abuse. The court aims to ensure that the child’s environment remains stable and safe, free from the potential harm associated with drug use.

Furthermore, accusations of drug use can complicate the emotional and financial aspects of a divorce. The accused spouse may need to undergo rehabilitation or counseling. Your attorney can help navigate these challenges by presenting evidence of sobriety or a commitment to recovery, potentially mitigating some of the negative impacts on custody and financial arrangements.

intoxication and divorce

Intoxication and DWI During a Divorce

Intoxication and Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) charges during a divorce can significantly affect the outcome of custody and visitation decisions. If a parent is charged with or found guilty of DWI, the court may view this as a serious lapse in judgment and a risk to the child’s safety. As a result, the offending parent might face restrictions such as suspended driving privileges, mandatory alcohol counseling, or supervised visitation. The court’s priority is to protect the child’s welfare, and any evidence of irresponsible behavior, such as drunk driving, can heavily influence custody arrangements.

In addition to custody issues, a DWI charge can have broader implications on the divorce process. Legal fees, fines, and potential jail time associated with a DWI conviction can strain the family’s finances and increase the stress and conflict between spouses. It can also damage the accused spouse’s credibility and character in the eyes of the court, making it more challenging to negotiate favorable terms in the divorce settlement. Seeking legal advice and demonstrating a commitment to addressing the underlying issues of alcohol abuse can be crucial steps in mitigating the impact of a DWI on divorce proceedings.

Contempt of Court in Texas

Contempt of court is a legal finding that someone has disobeyed a court order. In Texas, contempt can result in fines, community service, or even jail time.

Consequences of Contempt

Failing to comply with court orders related to custody, visitation, or support can lead to contempt charges. For example, if a parent does not adhere to a visitation schedule, they could be found in contempt. The penalties for contempt can be severe, including incarceration, which further complicates the individual’s ability to comply with court orders.

Fines: The court may impose fines up to $500 for contempt involving a court of record and up to $100 for contempt involving a justice or municipal court.
Imprisonment: For each act of contempt, a person may be sentenced to jail for up to six months. However, the actual length of time may vary based on the circumstances and the judge’s discretion.


Navigating the intersection of family and criminal law in Texas requires a careful and strategic approach. Whether dealing with allegations of domestic violence, CPS investigations, or accusations of substance abuse, individuals must understand their rights and seek appropriate legal representation. Balancing the desire to protect oneself and one’s children with the need to comply with legal procedures is crucial in these complex cases. Working with experienced attorneys in both family and criminal law can help individuals navigate these challenges and protect their interests effectively.

Varghese Summersett is a premier criminal defense firm based in Fort Worth, Texas. Our attorneys focus exclusively on criminal law and represent clients charged with crimes at both the state and federal level. We handle everything from DWI to capital murder to white collar crime. Collectively, our attorneys bring together more than 100 years of criminal law experience and have tried more than 550 cases before Texas juries. All of our senior attorneys served as former state or federal prosecutors and four are Board Certified in Criminal law, the highest designation an attorney can reach. We are the firm people turn to when the stakes are high and they are facing the biggest problem in their lives. - Contact Varghese at