Brian L. Webb & Brant M. Webb 2015-08-26 00:49:50
A complete listing of family law-related legislation may be found on the State Bar of Texas Family Law Section’s website at sbotfam.org (access is restricted to members only). Unless otherwise noted, all legislation applies to proceedings commenced on or after the effective date. To access the full text of the bills discussed in this article, use the Texas Legislature Online Bill Lookup tool at legis.state.tx.us/BillLookup/BillNumber.aspx. For a comprehensive discussion of this legislation by the Texas Family Law Foundation and State Bar of Texas, go to texasbarcle.com/CLE/AABuy0.asp?sProductType=EV&lID=14449. The authors wish to express appreciation to the Hon. Judy Warne and Warren Cole for their tireless efforts in monitoring legislation. Title 1: The Marriage Relationship Persons authorized to conduct ceremony. HB 2278 amends Section 2.202(a) of the Texas Family Code and authorizes certain current and retired associate judges (but not those in the family courts) to conduct a marriage ceremony. Effective September 1, 2015. Rights of and discrimination against religious organizations. SB 2065 amends Chapter 2 of the Family Code and adds Subsection G. The bill allows certain religious organizations and individuals employed by the same the freedom to refuse to: (1) perform any marriage, or (2) provide services, accommodations, facilities, goods, or privileges for a purpose related to the solemnization, formation, or celebration of any marriage if the action would cause the organization or individual to violate a “sincerely held religious belief.” Further, SB 2065 provides that a refusal under those circumstances may not be the basis for any civil or criminal cause of action or any other action to penalize or withhold benefits or privileges from any protected organization or individual. (Note: Upon a two-thirds vote of all the members elected to each house—as provided by Section 39, Article III of the Texas Constitution—SB 2065 was implemented immediately.) Effective June 11, 2015. Temporary restraining orders. SB 815 amends Section 6.501(a) of the Family Code to expand the scope of prohibited actions that may be contained in a temporary restraining order granted during a divorce proceeding. Among other things, the bill brings the laundry list of prohibited actions further into the 21st century. Parties may now be prohibited from communicating and threatening each other via electronic voice transmission, video chat, or electronic messaging (email, social media, etc.). Additionally, the definition of property now includes intellectual property and electronically stored or recorded information. Effective September 1, 2015. Title 2: Child in Relation to the Family Uniform definitions. SB 822 amends Title 2 of the Family Code by adding Subtitle E. The bill provides that the definitions under Chapter 101 of the Family Code (i.e., “suit affecting the parent-child relationship” definitions) apply to Title 2. Additionally, SB 822 provides that Chapter 107 (special appointments and custody/adoption evaluations) applies to the appointment of an attorney ad litem, guardian ad litem, or amicus attorney under Title 2. Effective September 1, 2015. Title 4: Protective Orders and Family Violence Dating violence and family violence. SB 817 broadens the definition of dating violence under Section 71.0021(a) of the Family Code to include an act committed against an applicant for a protective order. Additionally, the bill broadens the definition of family violence and the definition of abuse under Section 71.004. Finally, SB 817 amends Section 153.005 of the Family Code by requiring the court to consider certain factors. Effective September 1, 2015. Title 5: The Parent-Child Relationship and Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship Disclosure of family violence. A parent who is appointed conservator of a child must disclose certain information regarding family violence. SB 818 amends Section 153.076 of the Family Code and broadens the mandatory disclosure requirements in situations where a conservator: (1) establishes a residence with a person who the conservator knows is the subject of a final protective order sought by an individual other than the conservator that is in effect on the date the residence with the person is established; (2) resides with, or allows unsupervised access to a child by, a person who is the subject of a final protective order sought by the conservator after the expiration of the 60-day period following the date the final protective order is issued; or (3) is the subject of a final protective order issued after the date of the order establishing conservatorship. Effective September 1, 2015. (Section 153.076 applies, as amended, to a suit to modify a court order rendered before the effective date.) Associate judges and name changes. SB 812 amends Chapter 201 of the Family Code and allows for appointment of associate judges in family law proceedings involving a name change. Effective September 1, 2015. Enforcement of temporary orders. HB 3121 amends Chapter 157 of the Family Code and adds Subsection E. A motion for enforcement may be filed to enforce “any provision” of either a temporary or final order rendered in a suit, and the court may enforce by contempt any provision of a temporary or final order. Subsection E defines a temporary order to include a temporary restraining order, standing order, injunction, and “any other temporary order” rendered by a court. Effective September 1, 2015. Temporary orders in modification suit. HB 1500 amends Section 156.006 of the Family Code and adds Subsection (b)(1). A person must execute and attach an affidavit when filing a motion for a temporary order requesting that the designation of the person who has the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of the child under the final order be changed because the present circumstances would significantly impair the child’s physical health or emotional development. This affidavit must contain facts based on the person’s personal knowledge (or the person’s belief based on representations made to the person by a person with personal knowledge) that support the allegation that the child’s present circumstances would significantly impair the child’s physical health or emotional development. The court shall deny the relief sought and decline to schedule a hearing on the motion unless the court determines, on the basis of the affidavit, that facts adequate to support the allegation are stated in the affidavit. If the court determines that the facts stated are adequate to support the allegation, it shall set a time and place for the hearing. Effective September 1, 2015. Child custody evaluations. HB 1449 amends Chapter 107 of the Family Code by, among other things, replacing the term “social study” with “child custody evaluation.” An order for a child custody evaluation must include: (1) the name of each person who will conduct the evaluation, (2) the purpose of the evaluation, and (3) the specific issues or questions to be addressed in the evaluation. HB 1449 raises the minimum qualifications for a child custody evaluator. Significant changes include an education level of “at least” a master’s degree (no longer a bachelor’s degree) or a license to practice medicine in Texas and a board certification in psychiatry. Pursuant to Section 104.008, only the child custody evaluator is permitted to make a custody recommendation. Effective September 1, 2015. (Changes in the law apply only to suits affecting the parent-child relationship that are filed on or after March 1, 2016.) Definition of “school.” SB 821 amends the definition of “school” under Section 101.028 of the Family Code by replacing references to “primary” school with “elementary” school. A reference to elementary school includes pre-K. These nonsubstantive changes are intended to conform references to “school” in the Family Code to usage in other law. Effective September 1, 2015. Dental insurance. SB 550 amends the Family Code to include provisions requiring dental support for a child who is the subject of a child support order. “Dental insurance” and “dental support” are defined under Chapter 101 of the Family Code. Effective September 1, 2018. (Yes, 2018. That is not a typo.) Additional Legislation Digitized signatures. SB 813 amends the Family Code to allow for digitized signatures (graphic images of handwritten signatures having the same legal force and effect for all purposes as handwritten signatures) on pleadings or orders in proceedings initiated under Title 1, Title 2, or Title 4 of the code. Effective September 1, 2015. Waiver of citation. SB 814 amends the Family Code to allow a party to waive the issuance or service of citation in certain proceedings. A waiver may be executed in divorce proceedings under Chapter 6 and proceedings under Chapters 31 and 45 and Title 5 of the Family Code. The party executing the waiver may not sign it using a digital signature. Further, a waiver executed by a party who is incarcerated is not required to be notarized. Effective September 1, 2015.
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