The Texas 87th session was very uneventful this year, with two additional sessions. Listed below are some new bills and bill revisions that passed this year for the Family Code:
- HB 3774: Effective September 1, 2021, The date of the marriage must now be included in all final decrees of divorce in an official court document. Proof of the length of marriage is required to apply for Social Security retirement benefits.
- HB 2926: September 1, 2021, Reinstatement of Parental Rights after Involuntary Termination. This is a new and significant procedure that allows certain people, including the Department of Family and Protective Services and a previously terminated parent, to move for reinstatement of their parental rights. Subchapter D added to Ch. 161 of the Texas Family Code, sets out the basic requirements for filing and hearing procedures.
- SB1936: September 1, 2021, expressly states the standard Possession Order that the alternative ending time for Monday school holiday and teacher in-service days is 8a.m. on the following Tuesday and if a conservator lives less than 50 miles from the other conservator, the court shall also award that conservator the alternative beginning and ending time for standard possession order. This award does not apply if the possessory conservator declines one or of the alternative times or possession is limited by the court in the best interest of the child.
*If the Possessory Conservator lives more than 50 but not more than 100 miles from the child’s primary residence, the law will not change: that parent may still opt into the Expanded Standard Possession Order (ESPO) – but it will not be automatic.
- HB 1012: September 1, 2021, Access to residence or former residence to retrieve personal property. If entry is denied by a current occupant, the denied person could seek a writ, authorizing them to go to the residence to get their possessions with a peace officer. If the property was listed in a Decree, relief can be sought in court granting such Decree.
- HB 3009: September 1, 2021, Child Custody evaluators must be able to communicate with a parent in their primacy language or have someone who can assist the parent in their primary language for Child custody evaluations.
This legislature Session caused a lot of “smoke” but “little fire” for Texas Family Law.
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One in three children lose touch with a parent, usually the father, following a divorce. In a recent survey, one in five parents stated that their primary objective during the divorce was to make the experience as unpleasant as possible for the former spouse; despite the effects such attitudes and behavior have on the children. One in three children stated that they felt isolated and lonely during and following the divorce process.
Parental Alienation Syndrome is the systematic denigration by one parent with the intent of alienating the child against the other parent. In most cases, the purpose of the alienation is to gain custody of a child and exclude involvement by the father. In other cases the mother wants the father out of the way to start a new life, the mother wants more of the money and assets than she is entitled to and uses the children as pawns. The mother hates the father and the children become false weapons. These are just a few reason Parental Alienation occurs in domestic disputes.
Parental Alienation Syndrome is common because it is an effective device for gaining custody of a child. Trough systematic alienation, one parent may slowly brainwash a child against the other parent. The parent involved in such alienation behaviors then gains misplaced loyalty of the child.
There are two types of Parental Alienation Syndrome, medical and legal. Medical Parental Alienation Syndrome is a form of emotional child abuse. Parents in hostile separations may suffer depression, anger and anxiety or aggression. The expression of these feelings often takes on a form of withdrawing love and communication. This extends to the children through the custodial parent. It is a mechanism employed to stop the father from having contact with his children; and can be described by the mother holding the children “hostages,” afraid of the mother, and obeying her as a means of survival. The child may also be instilled with false memories of the father, may be coached and/or brainwashed. Parental Alienation Syndrome is recognized by the courts but is very difficult to define and in most cases requires bringing in County Social Services, Child Protective Services, and/or other professionals. Anyone claiming Parental Alienation Syndrome should look for family therapy as a constructive way forward. Other forms of abuse are physical, sexual, and neglect and are much easier to identify.
It is important no matter how bad the alienation becomes that you strategize to create a line of contact with your children, the mother and anyone connected to them. Having a plan is critical. When a father loses contact with his children he goes from disbelief, to despair, anger, depression, confusion and a total sense of social injustice. Having a plan means looking at the situation logically, rather than emotionally.
1. The first stage is to look for direct contact with the mother and children. Can you meet, write, or phone?
2. If you are not allowed contact, can a relative contact the mother or children on your behalf?
3. Can you contact your children through church, school, clubs, sports activities, or daycare?
4. Can you participate in your children’s activities?
5. Do you have a non-suggestive witness that can go with you when you exercise your visitation rights?
6. Is there a local grocery store where you can purchase something to have a receipt stating the date and time you were in the area?
7. Will the police make a report stating that you attempted to exercise your visitation?
8. Whenever possible take video and pictures.
In cases of Parental Alienation Syndrome it is important that you document everything. Keep a diary or timeline. Write important events down on a calendar.
If you are a victim of Parental Alienation Syndrome, contact an attorney. Discuss your options. Formulate a plan to move forward. Do not give up your parental rights as a father.
There are times in life when unintentional pregnancy occurs in the context of fatherhood. There are times when an individual believes he is a father but in the distant future discovers that he is not the genetic father of the child. If a divorce results from this union the man that is not the genetic father of a child may not wish to pay child support for this child for up to 18 years. In these circumstances, a man may wish to terminate his parental responsibilities to the child to avoid paying child support on the child that is not his generically.
Under the Texas Family Code 161.005, a father may terminate his parental rights to a child if (1) he is not the genetic father and (2) a signed acknowledgment of paternity or the father failing to contest parentage of a child was due to a mistaken belief that the man was the genetic father of the child based on misrepresentations that led him to that conclusion.
Basically, the man must not be the genetic father and he must have been deceived by misrepresentations made by the mother or other family members in order to successfully prevail in a termination suit. The man wishing termination must file the suit within two years from first becoming aware that he is not in fact the genetic father of the Child. The importance of this two year limitation is that that it begins when “the man first becomes aware that he is not the genetic father of the child”. This means that a man may be adjudicated and considered the father for ten years but after he discovers or becomes aware that he is not the genetic father of the child he will have an additional two years to file suit and terminate his parental rights.
There are certain limitations under Family Code 161.005 that will not allow a man to terminate the legal relationship. These are:
- The man is an adoptive father;
- The child was conceived by assisted reproduction and the man consented to assisted reproduction by his wife under subchapter H, Chapter 160, or
- The man is the intended father of the child under a gestational agreement validated by a court under subchapter I, Chapter 160.
These three areas of adoption, assisted reproduction, and signing of a gestational agreement will prohibit a man from terminating his parental right or attempting to release himself from the responsibility of being a father, which includes child support.
In most instances a man will bring a termination of parental right because he has been misled into believing that the child is his when in actually the man is not genetically related to the child at all. The parental termination will end child support for minor children that are not genetically related.
A parental termination suit should not be filed before careful thought since it will terminate any rights the man has to the child and most importantly the man will relinquish his right for visitation access and decision making. If you are desiring to terminate the parental rights of a child you should contact an experienced lawyer to ensure that you qualify and that the suit proceeds as smoothly as possible allowing the court to make a ruling that favors your termination.
The Brookings Institute states that 41% of all births in 2012 were to unwed mothers! What are a father’s rights over his children? With dropping marriage rates and increasing non-married couples living together, the percentage of children being born out of wedlock is growing yearly. How are the fathers of these children treated? In most states, the mother of a child has 100% of the custody rights until the paternity of the father is legally established. How does a Texas father legally establish paternity when the mother of their child refuses to allow him to sign the birth certificate and tells him that he will never have any type of communication or relationship with his child?
In today’s fast pace world there are many situations where a woman may selfishly just want a child with no strings attached, including a dad! Welcome to the internet dating world! Many professional men are contacting us concerning an internet dating contact, a short relationship, and pregnancy. The father then is told he will not be allowed in the child’s life and if he tries, serious legal problems will be encountered or he will face serious and costly legal road blocks pursued by the mother!
Practicing attorneys in Texas who defend Interstate Jurisdiction cases help many fathers who live in other states while the mother and child reside in Texas.
What are a father’s rights in the State of Texas? Any and every right a parent may have is available to a father who seeks them.
What should a father, living out of state, with a child living in Texas, do to establish his paternity and legally enforce his father’s rights? He should consult an attorney ASAP who can help him obtain and preserve his paternity rights with his child. Once the judge issues a finding of paternity, the father has all the rights of any other father such as custody, decision making, conservator rights, and visitation rights.
How does the father file for paternity of the child in Texas?
Paternity Registry (Family Code 160.401-2)
A man who desires to be notified of a proceeding for the adoption of or the termination of parental rights regarding a child that he may have fathered may register with the registry of paternity:
Before the birth of the child or no later than the 31st day after the date of the birth of the child
Alternate means to Establish Paternity (Family Code 160.301-2 and 160.402, 160.601)
The mother of a child and a man claiming to be the biological father of the child may sign an acknowledgment of paternity with the intent to establish the man’s paternity. An acknowledgment of the paternity must:
Be in a record
Be signed or otherwise authenticated by the mother And the Man seeking to establish paternity
State that the child whose paternity is being acknowledged:
1. Does not have a presumed father or has a presumed father whose full name is stated
2. Does not have another acknowledged or adjudicated father
State whether there has been genetic testing and that the acknowledging man’s claim of paternity is consistent with the results of the testing
State that the signatories understand that the acknowledgment is the equivalent of a judicial adjudication of the paternity of the child and that a challenge to the acknowledgment is permitted only under limited circumstances and is barred after 4 year.
A man is entitled to notice of a proceeding regardless of whether he registers with the registry of paternity if:
A father-child relationship between the man and the child has been established under this chapter or another law.
The man commences a proceeding to adjudicate his paternity before the court has terminated his parental rights.
The parentage of a child may be adjudicated in a civil proceeding by voluntary litigation.
A Father should be proactive and enforce his rights promptly to enhance his probability of fair and equal treatment that is binding under the law!