Texas Divorce Law is changing in 2021. Starting on 1/1/21 there will be new discovery rules that will apply to all family law cases, including child custody and divorce. What does this mean for people starting the process? It means it’s time to get organized. If you are going to meet with a Texas Family Lawyer in 2021 you must have certain documents and information ready from the start.
Starting in January 1st, 2021 all parties to a divorce will be required to turn over certain documents within 30 days. So as soon as you are served with a divorce or child custody case you will have 30 days to respond, and as soon as you file a divorce case you will have 30 days to turn documents over to the other party.
How is that different?
Currently, a party in a divorce has to request documents from the other party. That is, the documents don’t become due until the other side asks for them. Now the documents are due EVEN IF NO ONE ASKS.
What documents and information must you turn over?
Most of it is financial information, and health insurance information.
Here is a checklist of what to get ready before you file for divorce.
For all family law cases-
1. All documents pertaining to real estate;
2. All documents pertaining to any pension, retirement, profit-sharing, or other employee benefit plan, including the most recent account statement for any plan;
3. All documents pertaining to any life, casualty, liability, and health insurance;
4. the most recent statement pertaining to any account at a financial institution, including banks, savings and loans institutions, credit unions, and brokerage firms.
For family law cases involving children add the following-
5. All policies, statements, and the summary description of benefits for any medical and health insurance coverage that is or would be available for the child or the spouse;
6. the party’s income tax returns for the previous two years or, if no return has been filed, the party’s Form W-2, Form 1099, and Schedule K-1 for such years; and
7. the party’s two most recent payroll check stubs
Are there any exceptions to this rule?
Yes. The parties can agree to change or modify these requirements, but both parties must agree. So if the opposing lawyer or party doesn’t want to, then there will be due within 30 days.
What will the effect of this rule be on Texas family law cases?
We are excepting that this will increase the initial cost of litigation in some cases. Your family lawyer will have to gather these documents and have them ready quickly. They will also have to be ready to litigate with these documents and hold the other party accountable if they don’t turn these over.
If these rules are followed then it should help create financial certainty in temporary orders hearings. Today it is not uncommon for parties at temporary orders hearings to not have the records. So when a judge is setting child support or temporary support they may not have a complete financial picture. If these parties do turn these records over then a judge will be able to set an accurate child support amount, which could reduce costs in litigation if the parties don’t have to return to court to determine child support amounts.