FER Sponsors

Family Law

October 22, 2012

Texas Family Lawyers:

The State Bar of Texas has approved the Family Law Section's legislative program for 2013. Twelve issues have been submitted to the Texas Legislative Council, the arm of the Legislature that acts as the official drafters of legislation for consideration during the session, which begins January 8th.

Here is a brief explanation of each issue:

Waivers of citation: Amends Section 6.4035, Family Code. This bill simply clarifies that a sworn waiver is one that is sworn to before a notary and eliminates an ambiguity created by a provision of the Civil Practice and Remedies Code.

Military deployment: Amends Section 153.709, Family Code, and repeals Section 153.3162, Family Code. These sections are redundant. The bill consolidates provisions regarding the designation of the persons who can petition for periods of possession lost during military deployment, in which case the court has discretion to enter orders allowing make up time to the petitioner.

Enforcement of agreements incident to divorce: Amends Sections 9.001 and 9.002, Family Code. This bill makes it clear that agreements incident to divorce and annulment may be enforced in the same manner as decrees of divorce.

Finding of contempt for failure to pay child support: Repeals Sections 157.162(d) and (e), Family Code. Under current law, a child support obligor who is behind on their payments can avoid being jailed by paying the amount due just before a hearing to hold the person in contempt. The bill prevents this situation by allowing a court to impose contempt, if appropriate under the circumstances.

Grandparent access: Amends Sections 153.432 and 153.433, Family Code. The bill makes it clear that expert testimony is not required in connection with an affidavit of a grandparent or for proof of harm when seeking access to and/or possession of a grandchild. The bill also broadens the applicability of the statute to grandparents in general by eliminating the requirements that that grandparent's child be dead, gone, in prison or incompetent.

Grandparent standing: Amends Section 102.004, Family Code. The bill makes it clear that notice and a hearing are required in suits in which a grandparent seeks custody of a grandchild.

De novo hearings: Amends Section 201.015(a), Family Code. The bill simply reduces (to three business days from seven business days) the time for seeking a de novo hearing in front of a district judge following a decision by an associate judge.

Possession and alternative possession times: Amends Sections 153.316 and 153.317, Family Code. The bill makes it clear that certain notices may be delivered electronically and that a person eligible to make an election regarding possession times that are alternatives to the standard possession time can select more than one of the alternatives.

Spousal maintenance: Amends Sections 8.051, 8.059 and 8.101, Family Code. The bill authorizes courts to enforce by contempt and withholding a spousal maintenance agreement, as opposed to court-ordered maintenance, to the same extent that the court could have originally imposed the maintenance by order. Any agreed maintenance that exceeds what the court could have originally imposed by order will be enforceable as a matter of contract.

Child custody and adoption evaluations: Amends Chapter 107, Family Code. The bill separates the adoption study provisions from the child custody study provisions of the Family Code. The custody study provisions increase the standards applicable to a professional's eligibility to perform such studies and makes clear what issues and to what extent an expert may testify regarding custody. The intent of the adoption provisions is to maintain current law. (Discussions regarding this proposal with representatives of the county Domestic Relations Office are ongoing.

Interlocutory appeals: Amends Section 51.014(b), Civil Practice and Remedies Code. The bill provides that a suit under the Family Code is not automatically stayed by an interlocutory appeal, but is discretionary.

Gestational agreements: Amends provisions of Chapter 160, Family Code. Current law allows only married couples to enter into gestational agreements. The bill is intended to also authorize a single individual to enter into a gestational agreement, in addition to a married couple.

Steve Bresnen, the lead lobbyist for the Texas Family Law Foundation, and his colleagues on the lobby team, will determine the best strategy for passing this legislation and whether two or more issues should be combined into the same legislation.

The 2013 session will once again keep the Foundation's volunteers busy working to improve the Family Code for Texas families, courts and lawyers.

Diana S. Friedman, Chair
Family Law Section, State Bar of Texas

Copyright 2012
State Bar Family Law Section

I won custody of my son because my son needed me to!
  -- David A. - Dallas, TX

FER Sponsors