Custody Court Crisis: Texas to put children’s safety and health first

Austin, TX – March 4, 2019, Texas became the fifth state to introduce the Safe Child Act  into the legislation. Sponsored by TX Representative Rhetta Andrews Bowers (D-Garland), H.B. 3121, the Texas Safe Child Act, joins the state of Wyoming, Pennsylvania, Utah and Hawaii where the Safe Child Act has been introduced.  

Texas’ Safe Child Act contributes to an interesting conversation at the Capitol. Texas legislators were faced two years ago with revamping the states CPS program after District Court Judge Jake ruled the state’s CPS operated in violation of constitutional rights and demanded an overhaul.

The discussion of revamping CPS opened an avenue for trauma and Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) training and more safeguards regarding domestic violence. Separate from the Safe Child Act several bills this legislative cycle  tackle expansion of domestic violence safeguards, as well as trauma and ACE training for law enforcement, CPS, judges, teachers and others; and is introduced by a myriad of legislators, both Republican and Democratic,in both the House and the Senate.

The Safe Child Act is different from the ACE and Trauma training bills. The Safe Child Act. HB 3121, resolves a few major hurdles preventing family courts in Texas from protecting the health and safety of the children they are there to protect. Texas leads the nation in in the number of filicides, when parents murder their children, that are connected to family court. Research shows the courts had a chance to try to prevent the tragedy by not allowing the batterer access to the children. As a result, many provisions of Safe Child Act ensure children’s safety and health are paramount before any other decisions in the adjudication process:

An evidentiary hearing limited to issues related to 
 family violence or abuse must be held and a determination made under 
 Section 153.004 before the court may appoint a professional who 
 provides advice or recommendations to the court. Any professional 
 subsequently appointed by the court must have substantial training 
 and experience in family violence and abuse matters to fully 
 understand safety issues, including:
              (1)  behaviors that are associated with higher 
 lethality or injury risks;
              (2)  family violence dynamics;
              (3)  effects of family violence on children;
              (4)  recognizing family violence; and
              (5)  research about batterer narratives and batterer 

H.B. 3121 also requires that once a finding of family violence is valid that the Court must protect the child from further trauma:

The court may not appoint joint managing conservators if 
 credible evidence is presented of a history or pattern of past or 
 present [child] neglect, abuse, family violence, or physical or 
 sexual abuse by one parent directed against the other parent,
 It is not in the best interest of a child for a parent 
 to have unsupervised visitation with the child if credible evidence 
 is presented of the parent’s history of a pattern of emotional abuse 
 or other behavior that is likely to cause the child to live with 

However, these finding cannot be supported by untrained professionals or pseudoscience:

The court shall consider current, valid, scientific 
 research concerning family violence and abuse when making a 
 decision in a suit. A court may not permit a practice or approach 
 that does not have a scientific basis and is not an accepted 
 practice within the specialized field of practice of family 
 violence and abuse. A professional who engages in practices based 
 on unscientific beliefs is not qualified to participate in a suit in 
 which family violence or abuse is raised during the course of the 

With more than 58,000 children a year ordered into unsupervised contact with physically or sexually abusive parents following divorce in the United States, this provision is especially important to guard against higher ACE scores and a life full of trauma.

Finally, it seems Texas is ready to move forward and help place children’s health and safety first.

To support, volunteer to help pass or learn more about the H.B. 3121, the Texas Safe Child Act contact at or follow us on social media: Twitter: @AbuseStopperTX  Facebook:

We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By agreeing you accept the use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.

Privacy Settings saved!
Privacy Settings

When you visit any web site, it may store or retrieve information on your browser, mostly in the form of cookies. Control your personal Cookie Services here.

Necessary cookies help make a website usable by enabling basic functions like page navigation and access to secure areas of the website. The website cannot function properly without these cookies.

  • __cfduid
  • CookieConsent
  • local_storage_support_test
  • TawkWindowName

Decline all Services
Accept all Services