Now that the Texas Legislature has ended, we will review some of the bills passed that will affect our Family Law Cases.
S.B. 814 Waivers of Citations in Certain Family Law Suits
Currently, the state of Texas allows for a parties involved in a divorce to waive service. Loosely translated, that means that the person named in the divorce suit can sign a paper which proactively tells the relevant court that they are officially aware their spouse is filing for divorce. This waiver means they don’t have to physically be served with the divorce papers by their spouse or a process server, potentially saving everyone involved a bit of time, money, and maybe some emotional pain
S.B. 814 was introduced to further the use of such waivers to apply to other common family law matters.
The waiver should also be used for:
- Suits to remove disability of a minor (commonly referred to as emancipation)
- Suits to change the name of an adult or child
- Any suits relating to a parent-child relationship
The bill passed and will take effect on September 1, 2015.
S.B. 817: Issuance of a protective order and appointment of a managing conservator in certain family law proceedings.
S.B. 817 proposes that the state change the language on applications for protective orders (restraining orders, etc.) by switching the word “victim” with the phrase “applicant for a protective order.” Specifically, this change is meant to help those people who are applying for the protective order on behalf of the actual victim of the abuse or violence.
Some judges are currently reluctant to sign orders which list the applicant as a “victim” because doing so indirectly endorses the allegations of abuse as being true without a trial. With the label change, it removes that concern and will enable judges to issue more orders to protect those in need.
The bill passed virtually unopposed, and will take effect on September 1, 2015.
S.B. 314: Appointment of a non-parent as managing conservator of a child.
This law addresses a growing number of complaints by relatives who assume custody of children removed from their parents’ homes by CPS (Child Protective Services). This type of custody is called “permanent managing conservatorship,” or PMC. It is not adoption and does not carry the same legal meaning, but many relatives claim that these differences are not clarified by CPS.
As a result, the bill requires a court awarding custody to specifically explain 3 common misunderstandings to the relatives or non-parents assuming PMC.
- PMC rights are specified by the court, and are not the same as rights associated with adoption
- The parent(s) can still request visitation, and can request to become the managing conservator
- PMC does not qualify nor disqualify the relative or non-parent for/from post-adoption benefits
The bill states that if the non-parent assuming PMC does not appear in court, the court must then have evidence that they were advised of this information.
The bill passed without opposition, and will take effect on September 1, 2015.
Many victims of domestic violence often refuse to leave an unsafe environment since many times they must leave their pet behind. These victims many times leave in such a hurry that their pets are unable to join them. The perpetrator of the domestic violence will threaten or harm the pet as a means to intimidate and gain leverage over their victims.
Texas SB 555 amends Family Law Section 85.021, to authorize a court in a protective order, to take certain actions, including prohibiting a party from removing a pet, companion animal, or assistance animal from the possession of the actual or constructive care of a person named in the order.
Texas SB 555 also amends Section 25.07 (Violation of Certain Court Orders or Conditions of Bond in a Family Violence Case) of the Penal Code to expand the definition of “possession” to mean actual or constructive care of an animal. Finally, SB 555 now amends the current law relating to provisions in protective orders regarding pets and other companion animals and provides a penalty for any offense committed by a person if that person harms a pet!
Texas House Bill 845: Standard Possession Order
Amends Family Code provisions relating to standard Texas court orders for possession of a child in suits affecting the parent-child relationship. The bill specifies that written notice for purposes of such possession may now be provided by e-mail or facsimile. The bill provides additional alternative beginning and ending possession times under the standard possession schedule for Mother’s Day weekend and for Thursdays and weekends during the regular school term. The bill also repeals provisions relating to a petition by a conservator for additional periods of possession of or access to a child after the conclusion of the conservator’s military deployment.
Texas House Bill 847: Spousal Maintenance
Amends the Family Code to specify that the agreement for payment of maintenance that is enforceable by contempt is an agreement for periodic payments of Texas spousal maintenance and to prohibit the enforcement by contempt of any provision of an agreed order for maintenance exceeding the amount of periodic support a court could have ordered. The bill authorizes a court to order income withholding in a proceeding in which there is a court-approved agreement for periodic payments of spousal maintenance voluntarily entered into between the parties but prohibits such an order to the extent that any provision of the order exceeds the amount of periodic support the court could have ordered or for any period of maintenance beyond the period the court could have ordered. The bill also specifies that a division of property and any contractual provisions under the terms of a court-approved agreement incident to divorce or annulment are enforceable in the same manner as a division of property provided for in a decree of divorce or annulment. The bill updates relevant enforcement provisions to reflect this inclusion.
Texas House Bill 3017: VA Disability Benefits and Net Resources
Amends Family Code provisions relating to the calculation of net resources for the purpose of determining child support liability. The bill includes U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs disability benefits, other than non-service-connected disability pension benefits, among the types of income considered resources. The bill authorizes a court, in determining whether an obligor is intentionally unemployed or underemployed, to consider evidence that the obligor is a veteran who is seeking or has been awarded either veteran disability benefits or non-service-connected disability pension benefits. The bill also updates language regarding the wage and salary presumption used in the absence of evidence of a party’s resources.
Texas House Bill 847: Enforcement of a Child Support Order by Contempt
Amends Family Code provisions relating to motions to enforce a final order in a suit affecting the parent-child relationship. The bill establishes that a court, in hearing such a motion, is not precluded from awarding court costs and reasonable attorney’s fees to the movant upon finding that the respondent is not in contempt with regard to the underlying order. The bill repeals a provision prohibiting the court from finding a respondent in contempt for failure to pay child support under certain conditions and a provision authorizing the court to award the petitioner court costs and reasonable attorney’s fees in a Texas child support enforcement hearing under certain conditions.
Texas Senate Bill 129: Venue for a Protective Order Application:
Amends the Texas Family Code to expand the venue for filing an application for a protective order against family violence to include any county in which the family violence is alleged to have occurred.