The Houston Family Law Blog

Texas Allows Civil Suits for Interfering with Child Custody or Visitation

Texas is one of those states where interference with child custody or visitation can lead to a civil lawsuit, according to Texas Family Code Chapter 42.

According to the statute, if there is an order in place (either in Texas or in another state), which allows a person possession or access to a child in visitation or custody, and another person interfers with "the possessory right" then that person might be liable for damages.

The statute states that, “a possessory right is violated by the taking, retention, or concealment of a child at a time when another person is entitled to possession of or access to the child.”

This law would be useful for those divorced parents where one of the parents is not allowing the other parent to exercise their visitation, for example. Or, if a parent abducts a child without court authorization and the other parent has to track down the parent with the child. Or, any other type of interfering with child custody or visitation.

The statute goes further and also assigns liability to any people that aid or assist in the interference with the possessory right. The accessories, such as the parents or friends of the interfering person, might also be liable for damages.

The only defense available to the person that deprives a parent of a possessory right is if they had the express consent of the parent.

Damages can include everything from the actual costs and expenses incurred in locating or recovering the child, to damages for mental suffering and anguish suffered by the plaintiff. In addition, where it can be shown that a person acted with malice or with an intent to cause harm, the plaintiff may get exemplary damages, which can be much higher.

Possessory rights are an oft-neglected part of the Texas Family Code that if you are in a difficult custody situation, you should talk to your attorney about.

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