The 2015 Texas Legislature was active on family law bills and changes to the Texas Family Code! These many changes to various provisions of the family code could legally affect you and your family.
Some of the more important 2015 Family Laws, Amendments, and Revisions:
House Bill 826 amends the Family Code to require a child support order to contain a specified statement regarding the circumstances under which a court may modify a child support order. Effective: 9-1-15
House Bill 1447 amends the Code of Criminal Procedure to expand the persons authorized to file an application for a protective order for certain victims of sexual assault or abuse, stalking, or trafficking and to entitle victims of those offenses or the victim’s parent or guardian to additional crime victims’ rights relating to the protective order to provide the notice in the prescribed manner a Class C misdemeanor. Effective: 9-1-15
House Bill 1500 amends the Family Code to require a person who files a motion for a temporary order in a suit for modification of the parent-child relationship to execute and attach to the motion an affidavit that contains facts that support the allegation that the child’s present circumstances would significantly impair the child’s physical health or emotional development. The bill establishes a court’s duty to schedule a hearing if those facts are adequate to support the allegation. Effective: 9-1-15
House Bill 1782 amends the Family Code to establish, for purposes of a family violence protective order, the presumption that family violence has occurred and is likely to occur in the future if the respondent has been convicted of or placed on deferred adjudication community supervision for an offense involving family violence against the child for whom the petition is filed, the respondent’s parental rights with respect to the child have been terminated, and the respondent is seeking or attempting to seek contact with the child. Effective: 9-1-15
House Bill 1923 amends the Civil Practice and Remedies Code to include a retired or former statutory probate court judge among the judges eligible to serve as a special judge in certain civil or family law matters. Effective: 9-1-15
Senate Bill 206 amends the provisions of the Education Code, Family Code, Government Code, and Human Resources Code relating to the functions and administration of the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS). The bill revises and streamlines agency procedures involved in adoption cases and child protective services cases by changing various record keeping, notification, and casework documentation requirements and provisions governing the investigation of a report of abuse, neglect, or exploitation of a child and by condensing and updating provisions governing procedures in a child protection suit, including adversary and permanency hearings, and the performance of a child placement review for a child under DFPS care. The bill establishes annual reporting requirements for DFPS regarding key performance measures and data elements for child protection and sets out notification requirements relating to significant events for a child in DFPS conservatorship involving the child’s placement, medical condition, prescribed drugs, and school performance; revises provisions governing foster care, including requirements that foster children be provided access to certain personal information and documents; and sets out requirements for implementing foster care redesign. The bill consolidates and restructures provisions regarding prevention and early intervention services, including the child abuse and neglect primary prevention program, and requires the development and implementation of a strategic plan for those services within DFPS. The bill revises provisions relating to public school admission and attendance of, and eligibility for an exemption from tuition and fees for, students under DFPS conservatorship.
The bill broadens the authority of DFPS to obtain criminal history record information regarding certain persons; authorizes the executive commissioner to adopt rules regarding the purpose, structure, and use of advisory committees by DFPS; and requires the development and implementation of an annual business plan for the child protective services program to prioritize the department’s activities and resources to improve the program. The bill provides for an enforcement policy for the regulation of certain child-care facilities, homes, and agencies and revises provisions governing administrative remedies for those regulated entities.
The bill requires DFPS to study whether provisions governing authorization agreements between the parent of a child and a nonparent relative should be expanded to include authorization agreements between a parent of a child and a person who is unrelated to the child. Effective September 1, 2016, the bill updates provisions governing the licensing and certification of certain child-care facilities, homes, and agencies. Effective: 9-1-15
Senate Bill 314 amends the Family Code to detail what information the Department of Family and Protective Services and a court appointing a nonparent as managing conservator of a child must provide to the nonparent. Effective: 9-1-15
Senate Bill 550 amends the Family Code, Government Code, Insurance Code, and Labor Code to establish a court’s duty to render an order for the dental support of a child in a suit affecting the parent-child relationship or in a proceeding under the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act. Effective: 9-1-15
Senate Bill 813 amends the Family Code to establish that a digitized signature on a pleading or order in a proceeding involving the marriage relationship, the child in relation to the family, or a protective order satisfies the requirements for and imposes the duties of signatories to pleadings, motions, and other papers identified under the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure. Effective: 9-1-15
Senate Bill 814 amends the Family Code to establish the authority of a party to a suit to remove the disabilities of minority, a suit to change a person’s name, or a suit affecting the parent-child relationship to waive the issuance or service of citation. The bill revises requirements for a waiver of service in a suit for dissolution of a marriage. Effective: 9-1-15
Senate Bill 815 amends the Family Code to expand the types of activities a court may prohibit by temporary restraining order in a suit for the dissolution of marriage. Effective: 9-1-15
Senate Bill 818 amends the Family Code to require a court to order that each conservator of a child has the duty to inform the other conservator of the child of certain information regarding the conservator’s involvement with a person who is the subject of a final protective order or if the conservator is the subject of such an order. The bill establishes deadlines for providing the notice and makes a conservator’s failure to provide the notice in the prescribed manner a Class C misdemeanor. Effective: 9-1-15
Senate Bill 1726 amends the Estates Code, Family Code, and Government Code to revise and clarify provisions relating to suits affecting the parent-child relationship, including provisions relating to Class 4 claims against an estate, the conditions under which a court is authorized to order that certain information not be disclosed to a party to a suit, notice requirements regarding enrollment in or termination of benefits under an employer’s health insurance plan, and notice requirements and enforcement mechanisms for certain child support orders. Among other provisions, the bill provides for electronic notarization of required signatures in a proceeding filed under provisions relating to the parent-child relationship. Effective: 9-1-15
To view more information on the 2015 Texas family law bills, amendments, and revisions go to Texas Legislature Online @ http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/
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.