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The Dallas County Standing Order – Recent Updates

In light of the specific issues that are faced by litigants in family law cases, the District Courts of Dallas County have promulgated a series of orders (collectively the “Dallas County Standing Order Regarding Children, Pets, Property and Conduct of the Parties”) that applies in every divorce suit and every suit affecting the parent-child relationship that is filed in Dallas County.  The Courts have determined that the Standing Order is necessary “because the parties, their children, and the family pets should be protected and their property preserved while the lawsuit is pending before the Court.”

The Standing Order is broken up into four categories:  (1) No Disruption of Children; (2) Protection of Family Pets or Companion Animals; (3) Conduct of the Parties During the Case; and (4) Preservation of Property and Use of Funds During Divorce Case.  It is important to remember that although the Standing Order is applicable in all divorce suits or suits affecting the parent-child relationship, the provisions under the “Preservation of Property and Use of Funds During Divorce Case” category are only applicable to divorce suits—not stand-alone SAPCRs.  In other words, two unmarried parties who have been living together, have shared finances, have had one or more children, and have accumulated real and personal property together will not be held to the preservation of property terms a married couple would be held to if they find themselves litigating a suit affecting parent-child relationship.

The Standing Order was revised on September 1, 2015, (and again on November 4, 2015) and a number of significant changes were made.  The first change comes to the provision related to out-of-state travel with children.  Under the prior order, section 1.1 stated that parties were to refrain from “[r]emoving the children from the State of Texas, acting directly or in concert with others, without the written agreement of both parties or an order of this Court.”  Under the revised order, the language was amended to read that the parties are to refrain from “[r]emoving the children from the State of Texas for the purpose of changing residence.”  As such, prior to September 1, 2015, parties could not take the children across state lines without written agreement or Court order.  Now, parties are allowed to take the children outside the state of Texas to visit family, for vacation, or for a weekend trip, provided that such trip is not for the purpose of changing residence.

In addition, a number of revisions were made across the board to account for current-day technology and how people communicate with each other.  For instance, the inclusion of text messages, video messages, or social media messages was included in the prohibition against destroying information.  Another example is the addition of section 4.16, which prohibits “using any password or personal identification number to gain access to the other party’s email account, bank account, social media account, or any other electronic account.”  Not only are parties now prohibited from using their counterpart’s passwords to access their email or Facebook accounts, parties are also prohibited from “opening . . . email or any other electronic communication addressed to the other party.”

If you or someone you know is contemplating divorce, you need a team of experts that you can trust to guide you through the difficult process.  The expert team at McClure Law Group is ready and willing to meet any challenge, so call us today at (214) 692-8200.