New Texas Family Laws for 2013

New 2013 Texas Family Laws

 At Guest and Gray our Forney and Rockwall Family team works to keep our clients informed on changes in the Family Code. Recently, the legislature passed many new laws that affects Texas families. Our family attorney can help you understand how these laws will affect your case, and we offer confidential consultation for all family law cases. Call us today so we can help you.

Miscellaneous Changes

There were numerous small vocabulary changes and minor amendments to the Family Code.  And although it is not a legislative change, the Office of the Attorney General increased the “cap” on net resources used for the calculation of child support.  The “cap” is the amount of monthly income on which a parent must pay child support.  It increased from $7,500 to $8,550 on Sept. 1, 2013.

Title 1: The Marriage Relationship

Title 1 of the Texas Family Code applies to the marriage relationship.  There was only one new amendment, House Bill 389, which provides for the uniform enforcement of alimony and certain property division agreements, even when the agreement was made in a separate document from the divorce decree.  Also, the bill amends the Texas Family Code to establish a maximum amount of agreed spousal maintenance that the court may enforce by contempt.  The limit is the “amount of periodic support the court could have ordered,” which may not be as much as was agreed upon by the parties.

Title 4: Protective Orders and Family Violence

Prior to Senate Bill 129, the place required for filing an application for a protective order against family violence was the county of residence of the victim or the county of residence of the alleged offender.  Now, the order can be filed in “any county in which the family violence is alleged to have occurred.”  Senate Bill 555 expanded the reach of protective orders to apply to pets, companion animals, or assistance animals in the “actual or constructive care” of a person protected by an order.

Title 5: The Parent-Child Relationship and the Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship

 House Bill 154 increased the time limit for filing a termination of parent-child relationship suit in a mistaken paternity case.  A petitioner now has 2 years to file such a suit from the date of discovery of information suggesting that the petitioner is not the child’s father.  It also stops interest from accruing on existing unpaid child support or money judgments after the date a termination order is entered.

House Bill 843 entitles certain people, including children 10 years or older, to at least 10 days’ notice of a permanency hearing and gives these people the right to present evidence and be heard at the hearing.

Standard possession orders were modified slightly by House Bill 845.  The bill repeals Section 153.3162, which allowed additional periods of possession or access to a child after the end of military deployment based on the amount of possession or access missed during deployment.  House Bill 845 also expands the definition of written notice to include notice provided by e-mail or fax and allows for greater options for the beginning and ending times of certain periods of possession or access.

House Bill 847 removes the “get out of jail free” card of a last-minute payment , which enabled people who were sued for unpaid child support to avoid being subject to penalties as long as they paid.  This bill allows a court to award a petitioner court costs or reasonable attorneys’ fees even if there is no finding of contempt, a punishment which encourages parties to not delay payment of support.

Under House Bill 1185, Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship records no longer have to be destroyed on termination of appointment of a child’s court-appointed representatives.  This enables the records to be preserved in case the child returns to the court system later on and will speed to process for returning children.

House Bill 1205 clarifies the law about when a professional who is required to make a report about child abuse or neglect knowingly fails to do so.  For a knowing failure, the professional faces a Class A misdemeanor.  For intentional concealment, the professional faces a state jail felony.

House Bill 1228 orders the court, except in certain cases, to terminate a parent-child relationship if it is found by clear and convincing evidence that the father has engaged in conduct that constitutes certain sexual or assaultive offenses; as a direct result of the offenses, the victim of the conduct became pregnant with the parent’s child; and termination is in the best interest of the child.  This bill was introduced because a man who fathers a child through sexual assault has the same custody and visitation privileges to that child as any other father, unless a statute exists which allows a court to reduce or terminate those rights.

House Bill 1366 clarifies that trial courts have the power to award reasonable attorney’s fees in a divorce suit, a power that was recently questioned.  The bill also reduces the time to request a de novo hearing under Chapter 201 to not later than the third working day, rather than the seventh, after the date the party receives notice of the substance of the associate judge’s report.  The bill also adds language to stop interlocutory appeals in a suit brought under the Texas Family Code.

House Bill 846 affects the suspension or denial of issuance or renewal of driver’s license for failure to pay child support.  The attorney general or a court can pause or completely stop a suspension if the individual complies with a child support repayment schedule.  Additionally, the bill stops a licensing authority from accepting an application for a license or license renewal unless the person owing child support has made the required payment (not less than $200) and is following the remainder of the payment schedule.

House Bill 3017 amends Chapter 154 of the Texas Family Code.  Currently, the application of child support guidelines includes a disabled veteran’s compensation and pension as a net resource used to calculate child support.  But the code is silent as to how to appropriately calculate and allocate a disabled veteran’s compensation and pension benefits.  The bill adds VA disability benefits “other than non-service-connected disability pension benefits” to the definition of “resources” and clarifies the treatment of disability payments from the VA in determining child support.

Senate Bill 534 requires the Department of Family and Protective Services to hold a permanency planning meeting for each child for whom DFPS is appointed temporary managing conservator.  The bill requires meetings to be held between 45 days and 5 months after the date DFPS is named temporary managing conservator of the child.