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Special Provisions for Active Military Members under the Texas Family Code

Are you currently serving in the military or know someone who is?  Texas is home to one of the largest populations of active military members in the nation.  As such, the Texas Family Code has specific statutes that address the unique issues facing our military members in the family law context.

For instance, what happens if you have primary custody of a child after a divorce and you are called overseas or ordered to military duty in another state?  Texas Family Code § 153.701 states the following:

  • (a)  If a conservator is ordered to military deployment, military mobilization, or temporary military duty that involves moving a substantial distance from the conservator’s residence so as to materially affect the conservator’s ability to exercise the conservator’s rights and duties in relation to a child, either conservator may file for an order under this subchapter without the necessity of showing a material and substantial change of circumstances other than the military deployment, military mobilization, or temporary military duty.

While you would normally have to prove a material and substantial change, this statute provides that being deployed is grounds enough to file an order.  The statute further explains what temporary orders the court is allowed to issue in such a situation, stating:

  • (b)  The court may render a temporary order in a proceeding under this subchapter regarding:
    • (1)  possession of or access to the child; or
    • (2)  child support.
  • (c)  A temporary order rendered by the court under this subchapter may grant rights to and impose duties on a designated person regarding the child, except that if the designated person is a nonparent, the court may not require the designated person to pay child support.
  • (d)  After a conservator’s military deployment, military mobilization, or temporary military duty is concluded, and the conservator returns to the conservator’s usual residence, the temporary orders under this section terminate and the rights of all affected parties are governed by the terms of any court order applicable when the conservator is not ordered to military deployment, military mobilization, or temporary military duty.

The concept of a “designated person” is a unique construct that is designed to address the practical implications of a parent-conservator being separated from a child for an extended period of time due to military deployment.  And as you can see, the law provides that the temporary orders address the time period during deployment, then automatically terminate once that deployment is concluded.

The legislature has also provided specific provisions for expediting the court process for military members who are being deployed and do not have time to wait two months to have a hearing.  Texas Family Code § 153.707 provides additional rules for expedited hearings in such circumstances, stating:

  • (a)  On a motion by the conservator who has been ordered to military deployment, military mobilization, or temporary military duty, the court shall, for good cause shown, hold an expedited hearing if the court finds that the conservator’s military duties have a material effect on the conservator’s ability to appear in person at a regularly scheduled hearing.
  • (b)  A hearing under this section shall, if possible, take precedence over other suits affecting the parent-child relationship not involving a conservator who has been ordered to military deployment, military mobilization, or temporary military duty.
  • (c)  On a motion by any party, the court shall, after reasonable advance notice and for good cause shown, allow a party to present testimony and evidence by electronic means, including by teleconference or through the Internet.

If you or someone you know is in the military and has questions about their rights relating to the parent-child relationship, please contact one of the experienced attorneys at McClure Law Group at (214) 692-8200.