Last month was an exciting one for Texas family law attorneys. During this year’s legislative session, our friendly representatives down in Austin had their hands full with a number of new bills that sought to alter significant portions of the family law landscape.
There were three bills that passed their way through a House committee but ultimately were voted down after strenuous lobbying by the Texas Family Law Foundation. The first bill that was voted down was HB 4093, which sought to repeal section 6.001 of the Texas Family Code. Section 6.001 provides that “the court may grant a divorce without regard to fault if the marriage has become insupportable because of discord or conflict of personalities that destroys the legitimate ends of the marital relationship and prevents any reasonable expectation of reconciliation.” Had HB 4093 passed and been signed by Governor Abbott, parties seeking divorce would have to prove another valid ground for divorce, including adultery, cruelty, living apart, or abandonment.
Another bill that passed through committee was HB 454, which stated in relevant part that “the court may not grant a divorce on the grounds of insupportability before the 180th day after the date the suit was filed[.]” This bill sought to extend the 60-day waiting period that is currently in place to 180 days when the divorce is based on insupportability. Interestingly enough, although over half of all civil cases in the district courts are family law cases, Ursula Parks, Director of the Legislative Budget Board, reported to the Chair of the House Committee on Juvenile Justice & Family Issues that the Office of Court Administration did not anticipate that this extended waiting period would have any significant fiscal impact to the state or local court systems.
Last but not least, another bill that passed the House committee but was ultimately struck down in the end: HB 2363, which sought to provide a presumption of 50/50 possession time. The current standard possession order, which provides the non-primary parent with possession time on the first, third, and fifth weekend as well as Thursday nights during the school year, among other times, is presumed to be in the best interest of the child.
Warren Cole, the vice president of the Texas Family Law Foundation, emphasized the importance of legislative action and the necessity for family law attorneys from across the state to get involved in groups like the TFLF. Mr. Cole stated that the three bills listed above are representative examples of the myriad of poorly thought out proposals that cross the desk of the legislature each session. He stated that “nothing important happens without a lot of help from a lot of people and the death of these three bills is no exception.”
Mr. Cole also identified two bills that were supported by the TFLF and that were currently on the Governor’s desk awaiting signature:
SB 815 – Relating to a temporary restraining order for preservation of property and protection of the parties in a suit for the dissolution of marriage.
SB 817 – Relating to the issuance of a protective order and the appointment of a managing conservator in certain family law proceedings.
With new law developing each session, and case law constantly shaping and reshaping those laws which have been in place for decades, be sure to talk with a family law attorney that you can trust and that you know is on top of the most recent legislative changes and decisions coming from the courts of appeals and Supreme Court. If you need to speak with a seasoned attorney who can provide you with the most up-to-date information regarding your rights in Texas when it comes to divorce and child custody, call an attorney at McClure Law Group at 214-692-8200.