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TCFV is committed to fostering the development of programs that promote the safety of everyone affected by domestic violence, hold abusers accountable and encourage a victim-centered response from the judicial system. We offer efficient and effective information, resources and trainings and deliver technical assistance and provide a safe and supportive place for legal advocates to network regarding issues surrounding helping victims of domestic violence access the legal system.

Training

Customized Training

The Legal Advocacy Network (LAN) offers an array of customized, regional trainings throughout the year and is available to bring in experts to provide full-day, interagency trainings that fit your community needs, free of charge. If you are interested in hosting a LAN training in your area, check out our customized trainings for legal advocates!

Safety

Victim Rights

Lease

30 Day Notice to Vacate enables victims of family violence, sexual assault, and/or stalking, that has occurred at the residence, to break their lease without penalty.  A legal advocate can provide an accompanying letter to help provide supporting documentation when needed.

Lease Termination for Family Violence Victims: Talking Points for Advocates

Housing Brochure

  • 30 Day Notice to Vacate for Victim of Family Violence (English and Spanish)
  • 30 Day Notice to Vacate for Victim of Sexual Assault (English and Spanish)
  • 30 Day Notice to Vacate for Victim of Stalking (English and Spanish)

Those who are being evicted can get more information about the eviction process and tenants’ rights at Texas Tenant Advisor.

Pseudonyms

Pseudonym Forms – These forms help victims request that law enforcement use a pseudonym, or fictitious name, and remove the victim’s name from public files and records concerning the offense, including policy summary reports, press releases, and records of judicial proceedings. 

Victim Rights

Victim Rights Request Letter – This tool helps victims formally invoke their legal rights under the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, Article 56

Address Confidentiality Program helps victims of family violence, sexual assault, and stalking keep their actual address confidential by providing a substitute post office box address and free mail forwarding service for participants through the Office of the Attorney General (OAG).  Applications can be obtained through a local crisis center and must be signed off on by a domestic violence specialist.

Victim Notification provides crime victims with offender status and court information via a toll-free number (877) 894-8463 and website. Court and offender status may also be obtained through jail record and the local county and/or district court website.

Victim Impact Statement gives victims the opportunity to provide a detailed account of the emotional/psychological, physical, and financial impact of the crime on the victim and family members to the attorney representing the state and the judge before sentencing or before a plea bargain agreement is accepted and to the Board of Pardons and Paroles before an inmate is released on parole.

Protective Orders

Protective Orders

Texas Protective Orders come in multiple forms.  These are different from Restraining Orders, which are issued by Family Courts to protect property and parties involved in civil suits like divorce or custody.  Restraining Orders are NOT Protective Orders and vice versa.

  • Magistrates Order for Emergency Protection ( CCP Art. 17.292)
    • Issued by the Municipal Court after the abuser is arrested
    • Effective immediately and good up to 91 days
    • Enforceable by arrest if violated
  • Temporary Ex Parte Protective Order ( Fam. Code 82)
    • Issued by County Court upon request (without notice to offender)
    • Effective immediately and good up to 21 days (or till hearing in open court)
    • Enforceable by a civil contempt law suit (NOT enforceable by arrest)
  • Final Protective Order ( Fam. Code 85 & Tex. CCP Ch. 7A)
    • Issued by a County Court
    • Effective upon notice of respondent & good up to 2 years
      • In extreme cases can be effective for life (SA, trafficking, stalking)
    • Enforceable by arrest and/or civil contempt law suit

For more information on Texas protective orders please see Texas Protective Order Overview.

Pro Se Protective Order Packet enables victims to apply for a protective order on their own, without the help of an attorney.  However, it is always recommended that victims seek help from an attorney when at all possible.  Possible options include the District or County Attorney, Legal Aid, Crisis Center Staff Attorney, or private attorneys. 

For more information about filing a pro se protective order please visit Texas Law Help.

Protective Orders and Economic Options

Protective Orders and Safety Options

CVC

Crime Victims Compensation

Crime Victims’ Compensation (CVC) is available to innocent victims of crimes involving “criminally injurious conduct” who suffer physical or emotional harm as a result of the crime. In most cases, the applicant must report the crime in a reasonable amount of time and file a CVC application within three years of the date of the crime.

Crime Victims’ Compensation may cover expenses including:

  • Reasonable medical, prescription and rehabilitation expenses;
  • Mental health counseling;
  • Loss of earnings or support;
  • Childcare or care for a dependent adult to enable a victim, spouse, surviving spouse of a deceased victim or guardian to continue employment if necessitated by the crime;
  • Reasonable attorney fees for assistance in filing the application and in obtaining benefits, if the claim is approved;
  • Rent and relocation expenses for victims of family violence;
  • Rent and relocation expenses for victims of sexual assault if the assault occurred in their residence.
  • CVC Application

Utility Deposit Waiver Forms

For more information about these and other forms visit the Public Utility Commission of Texas.

Child Support

Child Support

Parents may apply to receive child support through the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) or a survivor may request child support through a protective order. The OAG will establish paternity, financial and medical support, and access and visitation of the child(ren). The Attorney General also offers parent locator services. If a survivor is concerned for their safety, they should ask for their case to be “flagged” with the Family Violence Indicator (FVI).

A Family Violence Indicator will:

  • Flag your child support case for “family violence.”
  • Restrict release of your contact information.
  • Require that any legal actions are addressed at court, rather than through a CSRP negotiation conference with the other parent in the child support office.
  • Not require that you negotiate in the same room or at the same table as the other parent at court.

The Family Violence Option allows states to provide temporary waivers, or modifications of requirements, such as child support cooperation, paternity establishment, work activities, and time limits to victims of family violence who would be put in danger by complying with these requirements. The Family Violence Option, can help to ensure that survivors have the ability to obtain the benefits their families need safely.

For more information about safely participating in the OAG Child Support Program, go to: www.getchildsupportsafely.org. To apply for child support services, individuals may go online to www.oag.state.tx.us, go to a local child support office, or request an application be mailed by calling 1-800-252-8014. Applications submitted online will be processed much faster. 

Safety Options

If you are a victim of domestic violence and/or sexual assault, and find yourself in the Office of the Attorney General’s (OAG) Child Support Court with your abuser, you can choose to:

  • Request a safe and separate waiting room
  • Request an escort to and from your vehicle
  • Have a support person of your choosing present, including an advocate
  • Inform the OAG attorney, as well as the bailiff, of:
    • Safety concerns you may have regarding your personal safety and the safety of your children, and
    • That you are a victim of domestic violence and/or sexual assault
  • Inform and provide documentation to the OAG attorney and the judge, at the hearing, of any:
    • Prior felonies your abuser may have
    • Previous and current protective orders
    • Statements of violence
    • CPS Family Safety Plans
    • Police reports
    • Pictures
  • Request time to prepare documentation for court or to secure representation

If you are interested in having an advocate accompany you to your next court hearing or have questions regarding your rights, please contact your local crisis center or the National Domestic Violence Hotline, 1-800-799-7233.

Immigration

Immigrant survivors often face additional barriers to services. To assist you in helping survivors know and assert their rights in encounters with immigration and government officials we offer a few pieces of information.  For additional Advocate best practices and resources consult the  Tips for Advocates: Immigration in the TCFV Creating Safer Spaces: Survivor Intake & Case File Resource Package Technical Guidance.

Immigration FAQ

“Undocumented person” – someone who is in the country who is not a United States citizen, lawful permanent resident (LPR, green card holder) and does not have any lawful immigration status. These persons enter the United States without legal permission from a BCIS official or they have entered legally, but overstayed their visas.

“Lawful permanent resident” – also referred to as a greencard holder or LPR. These persons have the right to live and work permanently in the United States. They may apply to the BCIS to bring certain relatives to the U.S. and can apply for citizenship after being in the U.S. for five years, or three years if married to a U.S. citizen.

United States Citizen – there are several possible ways to gain citizenship in the United States including:

  • Through birth in the U.S., its territories, or certain possessions, e.g. Puerto Rico, Guam and the Virgin Islands;
  • Through naturalization (ex: petitioned by U.S. citizen spouse);
  • Through parents/grandparents; or
  • Through adoption by a citizen parent.

What are an immigrant or undocumented person's basic rights?

If stopped by any law enforcement official (local police, FBI, immigration authorities…), a non-United States citizen (immigrant, undocumented person) has the right to remain silent, especially in regards to disclosing her immigration status. These persons also have the right to speak to a lawyer before answering any questions or signing any documents. If accused of a crime, a non-US citizen (regardless of immigration status) has the same rights as a US citizen in the criminal context. For example, any person has the right against unreasonable search and seizure. In the immigration context, you have:

  • The right to an attorney or agency specializing in immigration law
  • The right to communicate with the Consulate of your country of origin, and
  • The right to a hearing before an Immigration Judge. (An immigrant could be deported without a hearing if the survivor waives this right or agrees to leave, has criminal convictions, was arrested at the border or has been ordered deported in the past.)

NOTE: In the immigration context, these rights must be asserted. The immigration courts will not provide an attorney, though an immigrant/undocumented person has the right to consult an attorney.

What types of assistance are available to immigrant survivors of family violence?

Immigrant survivors have the right to be safe and seek help. Regardless of her immigration status, a survivor can obtain:

  • Police assistance,
  • Emergency medical care,
  • Shelter,
  • Protective orders, and
  • Divorce and/or Custody of children.

Further, survivors and witnesses of crimes have no obligation to state their place of birth or immigration status when accessing emergency assistance, filing a report or applying for a protective order. Also, immigrant survivors have the right to speak to police or medical personnel without their partners present. Immigrant survivors have the right to seek legal advice at any time without their partner’s cooperation.

How does the Violence Against Women Act help immigrant survivors?

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), originally passed by Congress in 1994, includes immigration provisions that allow immigrant survivors of domestic violence, who are married to a United States citizen of lawful permanent resident, and their children, obtain lawful permanent residence without the cooperation of their U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse or parent. VAWA created two primary forms of relief for battered immigrants: VAWA self-petition and VAWA cancellation of removal.

Who is eligible to self-petition under the Violence Against Women Act?

Self-petitions are available to:

  1. Abused spouses married to U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents (or if divorced within 2 years of filing). These persons may apply for themselves and for their abused or non-abused children, even if the children are not related to the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident.
  2. Abused children of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents.
  3. Immigrant parent of a child who has been abused by the child’s U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident parent.

What do you need to prove a VAWA self-petition?

A person who falls into one of the above categories will be allowed to file on her own under VAWA, without the sponsorship of the abusive spouse, if:

  1. The survivor files her application within two years of a final divorce
  2. His or her spouse or parent is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, or has lost status within the two years prior to the filing of the application;
  3. The survivor has resided in the United States with the citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse or parent;
  4. The survivor was battered or subjected to extreme cruelty during the marriage;
  5. The survivor is a person of good moral character; AND
  6. The survivor married her spouse in good faith. If the marriage is not legitimate solely because of bigamy on the part of the USC or LPR abusive spouse, but the victim can prove that she/he believed she/he was entering a bona fide marriage, she/he is still eligible to self-petition through VAWA. Bigamy is the criminal offense of knowingly contracting a second marriage while the first marriage is still subsisting and un-dissolved.

What is VAWA cancellation of removal?

VAWA cancellation of removal is a defense to deportation. This is a remedy available to an immigrant survivor who is in deportation proceedings. If cancellation of removal is granted, the judge will cancel the deportation and the applicant will be granted lawful permanent residency status. This remedy is only available to immigrants in deportation proceedings. To be eligible for cancellation of removal, an applicant must be in one of the following categories:

  • Currently or formerly abused spouse of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident,
  • Abused child of U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident parents, or
  • Immigrant parent of a child who has been abused by the child’s U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident parent.

What do you need to qualify for VAWA cancellation of removal?

Immigrant women in any of the above categories are eligible for cancellation of removal if they prove the following:

  1. The survivor has lived in the United States continuously for 3 years immediately preceding filing the application for cancellation of removal,
  2. The survivor was subjected to battering or extreme cruelty by her spouse while in the United States,
  3. The survivor is determined to have “good moral character,”
  4. The survivor is currently deportable. The survivor will not be eligible for cancellation if she/he is deportable for marriage fraud, certain criminal convictions or because she/he is a threat to U.S. national security, AND
  5. The survivor or her child, in the opinion of the Attorney General, would suffer extreme hardship if deported.

Can parents of abused children benefit from VAWA self petitioning or cancellation of removal?

Yes! A parent of a child abused by an LPR or USC parent may self petition or apply for cancellation of removal under VAWA, if she/he is the spouse of the abusive parent. The non-abused parent can also include other children as derivatives, even if the children are not related to the LRP or USC abuser. (INA §204(a)(1)(B)(ii)).

Are there other legal remedies for immigrant survivors of abuse, especially if a victim is not married to LPR or USC abuser?

Yes! Two other visas have been created that are available to survivors of crime (U Visa) and survivors of trafficking (T Visa).

What is a U visa?

VAWA 2000 created a new non-immigrant visa that is available for certain crime survivors. This visa is available to survivors who have suffered substantial physical or emotional injury as a result of being subjected to specific crimes committed against them in the United States. In order to qualify for a U visa, a crime victim must:

  1. Show that the survivor has suffered “substantial physical or mental abuse” as the result of a form of criminal activity (or “similar” activity);*
  2. Show that the survivor possesses information concerning the criminal activity, AND
  3. Provide a certification from a federal, state or local law enforcement officer, prosecutor or judge or authority investigating the criminal activity designated in the statute that certifies that the victim has been helpful, is being helpful or is likely to be helpful in the investigation or prosecution of the crime.

*Criminal activity includes rape, torture, trafficking, incest, domestic violence, sexual assault, abusive sexual contact, prostitution, sexual exploitation, female genital mutilation, being held hostage, peonage, involuntary servitude, slave trade, kidnapping, abduction, unlawful criminal restraint, false imprisonment, blackmail, extortion, manslaughter, murder, felonious assault, witness tampering, obstruction of justice, perjury, or attempt, conspiracy or solicitation to commit any of the above mentioned crimes.

What is a T visa?

On January 31, 2002, the Department of Justice (DOJ) issued interim regulations governing the T visa (trafficking visa). To be eligible for a trafficking visa, a non-citizen must show the following:

  1. The survivor is or has been a victim of a severe form of trafficking;*
  2. Is physically present in the United States or at a port of entry on account of trafficking;
  3. The survivor has contacted a federal law enforcement agency (the BCIS, FBI, local US Attorneys Office or the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice) and has complied with any reasonable request for assistance in investigating or prosecuting trafficking; AND
  4. Would suffer extreme hardship involving unusual and severe harm upon removal.

*Severe forms of trafficking include: sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age; or the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or service, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage or slavery.

Are any of these remedies available to male survivors of abuse?

Yes! All of the above listed remedies, including VAWA remedies, are available to male survivors of abuse.

Should an immigrant who seems eligible for one of these remedies consult with a legal services provider?

Yes. Persons interested in applying for any of these legal remedies for immigrants are strongly encouraged to speak with an attorney or certified legal services advocate before sending any application into the BCIS. Note: Immigrants should beware of notarios and other fraudulent agencies purport to perform immigration legal services at high prices, even though they are not qualified nor certified to assist in these matters. They not only steal money from the survivors but also may jeopardize future possibilities of adjusting immigration status.

Are survivors with a prima facie or approval notice of a VAWA self petition eligible for federal public benefits?

Yes. Survivors are immediately eligible for federal public benefits, such as subsidized housing. Their children are eligible for CHIP (State Children’s Public Health Insurance Program) and Food Stamps. Survivors with a prima facie notice may also be eligible for federal means tested benefits (such as TANF and Medicaid) if they entered the country on or before August 22, 1996.

Are undocumented immigrants eligible for any public benefits?

Yes. All immigrants, regardless of their status or when they entered the county, are eligible for emergency benefits including:

  • Emergency medical care, emergency Medicaid, immunizations, diagnosis and treatment of communicable diseases, emergency mental health and substance abuse services,
  • WIC;
  • Summer food programs and school lunch programs;
  • Public education; and
  • Any program necessary to protect life and safety that is not income conditional (shelters, food banks).

Workers at these programs are not required to ask for verification of immigration status. For more detailed information on theses legal remedies and on public benefits available to immigrant survivors of abuse, please see the “Assisting Immigrant Survivors of Abuse” protocol on this website. The Texas Council on Family Violence’s Public Policy Department can answer questions and requests for technical assistance regarding options for immigrant survivors of abuse. TCFV also offers resource materials and trainings on issues affecting immigrant survivors. Please contact us at (800) 525-1978.

 

Listserv

Legal Advocacy Network Listserv

The Legal Advocacy Network is dedicated to offering efficient and effective information, resources and trainings, delivering high quality technical assistance and providing a safe and supportive place for legal advocates to network regarding issues surrounding helping victims of domestic violence access the legal system.

Join the Listserv

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Additional Resources

Statutes in Texas 

Texas Advocacy Project (TAP) is a nonprofit organization working directly with victims, shelters, law enforcement agencies and courts across Texas to deliver effective legal services to Texans in need. Their services are free of charge and provide the type of long-term solutions which break the cycle of violence for thousands of Texans each year. TAP accepts clients without regard to ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or county of residence. They have English and Spanish-speaking attorneys and utilize a language interpretation service available around the clock, allowing them to give legal advice in over 170 languages. The Project also employs a service for deaf callers. Phone: (512) 476-5377. Also view TAP’s recommend reading list.

Texas Crime Victims’ Compensation helps victims and their families when they have no other means of paying for the financial cost of crime. The Fund is administered by the Crime Victims’ Compensation Program of the Office of the Attorney General. The money in the Fund comes from people who break the law.  State-wide: (800) 983-9933 Austin (512) 936-1200 

Texas Law Help is a website dedicated to providing free, reliable legal information to low-income Texans.  It is part of a broader effort within the national legal aid community to use technology, specifically the Internet, to enhance and expand the delivery of legal aid. 

Womens Law provides state-specific legal information and resources for survivors of domestic violence. They also offer a confidential email legal hotline to offer direct support to survivors, their advocates, friends and family members. 

Texas Legal Aid Map

  • Texas RioGrande Legal Aid(TRLA) is a non-profit organization that provides free legal services to low-income residents in sixty-eight counties of Southwest Texas, and represents migrant and seasonal farm workers throughout the state of Texas and six southern states: Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas. In addition, TRLA operates public defender programs in several Southwest Texas counties, representing the poor who are accused of felonies, misdemeanors and juvenile crimes. Phone: (888) 988-9996 
  • Lone Star Legal Aidis the fourth largest legal aid organization of its type in the United States. LSLA has a proud tradition of successful client-centered work, and, historically, the firm has won victories that affect not only the client who initially presented with a particular issue, but groups of low-income people on community, state, and national levels when the firm’s actions have resulted in systemic policy and procedural changes, such as public housing desegregation and health care access for children. Phone: (800)733-8394 
  • Legal Aid of Northwest Texasprovides free civil legal services to low income residents in 114 Texas counties throughout North and West Texas, with offices in Abilene, Amarillo, Brownwood, Dallas, Denton, Fort Worth, Lubbock, McKinney, Midland, Odessa, Plainview, San Angelo, Waxahachie, Weatherford and Wichita Falls.

Catholic Charities provides a comprehensive network of social services aimed at promoting and facilitating self-sufficiency. They offer support and opportunities that empower people and communities to grow and thrive.

The Crime Victims Committee is a standing committee of the State Bar of Texas. Its purpose is to educate the legal profession and the public about legal and social resources available to crime victims. (800) 204-2222, ext. 1855

The Hotline, also known as the National Domestic Violence Hotlineis a nonprofit organization that provides crisis intervention, information and referral to victims of domestic violence, perpetrators, friends and families. The Hotline answers a variety of calls and is a resource for domestic violence advocates government officials, law enforcement agencies and the general public. (800) 799-SAFE (7233) or (TTY) (800) 787-3224

Love is Not Abuse is a teen dating violence website that has great information for both those living with violence and their friends and family.

Love is Respect has highly-trained peer advocates offer support, information and advocacy to young people who have questions or concerns about their dating relationships.

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence contains current information for survivors and those dealing with violence.

The National Center for Victims of Crime information site includes materials on domestic violence, stalking and sexual assault.

National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) offers a range of programs and initiatives to address the complex causes and far-reaching consequences of domestic violence.

The National Resource Center on Domestic Violence features various publications and resources for organizations and individuals working to end domestic violence.

Stalking Resource Center offers resources and training regarding stalking. Their Stalking Incident Log is a useful tool.

Battered Women’s Justice Project (BWJP) offers training, technical assistance, policy analysis, and consultation on the most promising practices of the criminal and civil justice systems in addressing intimate partner violence.

Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) provides victim services and has victims resources for victims and their families.  TDCJ also has an offender search engine to help victims locate offenders within the criminal justice system.