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Summary Of 2013 Legislation

Texas State Legislative Changes 2013The Texas Legislature made important changes to Texas Family Law in 2013. Please review below and if you have any questions that may be vital to your individual situation, please give us a call here at Fathers 4 Kids Organization. We are happy to help you in any way we can in understanding these new legislative changes.

Adoption. Family Code §162.006 was amended to clarify that prospective adoptive parents have a right to examine records relating to an investigation in which the child was an alleged or confirmed victim of sexual abuse while living in a foster home or other residential child-care facility.

Agreement incident to divorce (AID) -enforcement. Family Code §9.001 was amended to specifically include AIDs among the kinds of decrees that a party can ask a court to enforce. Family Code §§9.002, 9.006, and 9.009 were amended to give a court that rendered a dissolution decree the authority to enforce a property division and any con­tractual provisions under the terms of an approved AID.

Associate judges -requesting de novo hearings. Family Code §§201.015,201.1042, and 201.317 were amended to reduce the number of days-from seven to three-that a party has to request a de novo hearing before a referring court.

Attorney ad litem -appointment for alleged father. Family Code §107.0132 was amended to require a court to discharge an attorney ad litem who has been appointed to represent an alleged father if the attorney ad litem has submitted the necessary documentation to the court reflecting the attorney ad litem's inability to identify or locate the alleged father.


Attorney ad litem -appointment for indigent parents. Family Code §107.oI3 was amended to extend protec­tion of parental rights in government suits by providing an attorney ad litem for indigent parents who oppose the government's request to appoint a conservator for a child.

Attorney ad litem -appointment for missing or unknown parents. Family Code §107.014 was enacted to spec­ify the powers and duties of an attorney ad litem who is appointed to represent the interests of a parent whose iden­tity or location is unknown or who has been served by citation by publication.

Attorney ad litem -duties for child. Family Code §107.003 was amended to add the following three new duties for an attorney ad litem appointed in a proceeding under Family Code chapter 262 or 263: (1) review the medical care provided to the child, (2) seek to elicit, in a developmentally appropriate manner, the child's opinion on the med­ical care provided, and (3) for a child who is 16 or older, advise the child of her right to request court authorization to consent to her own medical care under Family Code §266.01O. In the case of an appointment to represent a child for whom the DFPS is managing conservator, Family Code §107.004 was amended to require an attorney ad litem to determine whether the child's educational needs and goals have been identified and addressed before each sched­uled hearing under Family Code chapter 263.

Attorney ad litem -qualifications for representing parent or child. Family Code §§107.004 and 107.0131 were amended to clarify that the three-hour continuing-legal-education requirement must relate to representing a parent or child in a child-protection case, as applicable. The statutes were also amended to require that any attorney on the court's appointment list complete three hours of continuing legal education each year before the anniversary date of the attorney's listing.

Attorney fees -dissolution of marriage. Family Code §6.708 was amended to allow a court to award reasonable attorney fees and expenses in a dissolution suit. Under the amended section, the court can order that the fees, expenses, and any post judgment interest be paid directly to the attorney, who can then enforce the order in the attor­ney's own name and by any means available for enforcing a judgment for debt.

Attorney General's Office -duties. Family Code §231.002 was amended to specify that in a suit to modify or enforce child support, the Attorney General's Office is not subject to a mediation or arbitration clause in an order to which the AG was not a party and is not liable for any costs associated with mediation or arbitration arising from the order or other party agreement.

Child abuse -definitions. Family Code §261.001 was amended to add the definition of "severe emotional distur­bance."

Child abuse -DFPS investigations. Family Code §261.3015 was amended to create a second investigative track called the "alternative response" for low-risk cases.

Child abuse -emergency possession order. Family Code §262.l02 was amended to add the requirement that a temporary restraining order or attachment of a child rendered by a court prominently display a statement that explains a parent's right to an attorney and an indigent parent's right to request the appointment of an attorney.

Child abuse -penalty for failing to report. Family Code §261.109 was amended to provide that a professional who commits an offense under this section commits a Class A misdemeanor, unless the professional intended to con­ceal the abuse of neglect, in which case the offense is a state jail felony.

Child abuse -what to report. Family Code §261.101 was amended to add an additional duty to report. Under the amended statute, a person or professional must make a report if the person or professional has cause to believe that an adult was a victim of abuse or neglect as a child and that the disclosure of this information is necessary to protect the health and safety of another child or an elderly or disabled person.

Child support -net resources & veteran disability benefits. Family Code §154.062 was amended to clarify that veteran disability benefits, other than non-service-connected disability pension benefits, are considered a resource to be used when calculating net resources for the purpose of determining child support.

Child support -net resources & wage presumption. Family Code §154.068 was amended to clarify that a court must consider all of a party's resources-as opposed to only wage and salary income-when determining whether to apply the wage-and-salary presumption. The section was also amended to clarify that a court can apply the child support guidelines to presumed income.

Child support -intentional unemployment. Family Code §154.066 was amended to allow courts to consider evi­dence that an obligor is a veteran who is seeking or who has already been awarded veteran disability benefits or non­service-connected disability pension benefits when determining whether the obligor is intentionally unemployed or underemployed.

Child support -state disbursement unit. Family Code §234.007 was amended to require the Attorney General to issue a notice of place of payment to inform the obligor, obligee, and employer that income withheld for child sup­port must be paid to the state disbursement unit and cannot be remitted to a local registry, the obligee, or any other person or agency.
Child support -who can be ordered to pay. Family Code §154.001 was amended to allow a court to order a person to pay child support if that person is financially able to pay and that person's parental rights have been terminated with respect to a child who was conceived as a direct result of conduct that constitutes an offense under Penal Code §21.02, 22.011, 22.021, or 25.02.

Child-support review order -determining support amount. Family Code §233.013 was amended to allow the Attorney General to consider evidence under Family Code §154.123(b) (factors for a court to consider in an original SAPCR) when determining the appropriate amount of child support. This section was further amended to require the AG to include findings that comply with Family Code §154.0130(b) if the AG deviates from the child-support guidelines. Under the amended law, the AG now has the discretion to file a child-support review order when the stat­ute's three-year requirement has been met, as opposed to being statutorily required to file the review order under the former law.

Child-support review order -filing agreed order. Family Code §233.019 was amended to specify that if a court grants a motion for a new trial to reconsider an agreed review order, the agreed review order filed with the clerk constitutes a sufficient pleading by the Attorney General for relief on any issue addressed in the order.

Child-support review order -nonagreed order. Family Code §233.027 was amended to remove the term "con­firmation order" and to rely solely on the term "nonagreed order."
Conservatorship -alternative beginning & ending possession times. Family Code §153.317 was amended to clarify that the parties can use a combination of the original two beginning and ending options provided by the stat­ute for the following periods of possession: weekends, Thursdays, and Mother's Days.

Conservatorship -domestic violence & sexual abuse. Family Code §153.004 was amended to broaden the kinds of evidence a court can consider when determining whether to appoint a party as a sole or joint managing con­servator. Under the amended law, a court can now consider evidence of a party's sexual abuse directed against the party's spouse, a parent of the child, or any person younger than 18. Further, a court cannot allow a parent to have access to a child if the parent (1) engaged in conduct that constitutes an offense under Penal Code §21.02, 22.011,22.021 or 25.02 and (2) as a direct result of that conduct, the victim of the conduct became pregnant with the offender's child.

Conservatorship -general terms & conditions. Family Code §153.316 was amended to clarify that "written notice" required by a court order for possession or access to a child includes notice provided by electronic mail or fax.

Court appointments -record retention. Family Code §107.006 was amended to repeal the section's record­ destruction requirement. People appointed under Family Code chapter 107 are no longer required to destroy records obtained under §107.006 when the appointment is terminated.

DFPS suit -family visitation. Family Code §§262.115 and 263.107 through 263.109 were enacted to provide for a two-tiered visitation plan that provides for more frequent and quality contact between a parent and child if the child is in the temporary conservatorship of the DFPS and the permanency goal for the child is reunification with the par­ent.

DFPS suit -full adversary hearing. Family Code §262.201 was amended to require a court-before commencing the full adversary hearing-to inform parents who are not represented by an attorney of their right to be represented and to inform indigent parents who oppose the suit of their right to have an attorney appointed to represent them. Section 262.201 was also amended to allow a court to postpone the full adversary hearing up to seven days to give an appointed attorney time to respond to the petition and prepare for the hearing. Family Code §§262.1015 and 262.103 were amended to conform with the possibility of an extension granted under §262.201. Similar requirements were enacted in Family Code §263.0061 for purposes of status and permanency hearings.

DFPS suit -notice of permanency & placement review hearings. Family Code §263.301 was amended to require that a child receive notice of a permanency hearing if the child is ten or older or if the court determines that it is appropriate for the child to receive notice. An identical amendment was made to Family Code §263.501 for place­ment review hearings.
DFPS suit -permanency hearings. Family Code §263.306 was amended to add items to the court's hearing agenda, which include (1) reviewing the visitation plan, if applicable, (2) identifying an education decision maker, and (3) reviewing the medical care provided to the child.

DFPS suit -permanency planning meetings. Family Code §263.009 was enacted to provide scheduled and more frequent permanency planning meetings.

DFPS suit -placement of children. Family Code §264.l07 was amended to allow the OFPS to make a placement without consulting with the relevant people in the case of an emergency that does not allow time for the required consultations.

DFPS suit -placement review reports & hearings. Family Code §263.502 was amended to require that a place­ment review report identify any placement changes that occurred since the most recent court hearing concerning the child and to describe any barriers to sustaining the child's placement. Family Code §263.503 was amended to add items to the court's hearing agenda, which include determining whether the child is receiving appropriate med­ical care, whether the child's education needs and goals have been identified and addressed, and whether an educa­tion decision maker has been identified.

DFPS suit -relinquishing child for medical services. Family Code §§262.351 through 262.353 were enacted to study and address issues related to parents who relinquish custody of a child suffering from a severe emotional dis­turbance for the sole purpose of obtaining mental health services for the child.

Digitized signature. Family Code §§101.0096 and 102.014 were enacted to define and specify the use of a digitized signature. Under the new law, a digitized signature satisfies the requirements for and imposes the duties of signa­tories to pleadings, motions, and other papers identified under Texas Rules of Civil Procedure 13.

Dissolution of marriage -waiver of service requirements. Family Code §6.4035 was amended to clarify that a waiver of service in a dissolution suit must be sworn before a notary public who is not an attorney in the suit, despite Civil Practices & Remedies Code §132.001.

Enforcement -attorney fees. Family Code §157.162 was amended to allow a court to award the petitioner court costs and reasonable attorney fees in an enforcement suit, even if the court does not find the respondent in con­tempt.

Enforcement -contempt. Family Code §157.162 was amended by repealing the "purging provisions" of the sec­tion. A respondent who fails to pay court-ordered child support can no longer avoid a finding of contempt under the statute by becoming current in child-support payments just in time for the enforcement hearing.

Enforcement -license suspension. Family Code §§232.008 and 232.0135 were amended to require a court or the Attorney General to specify a partial payment amount that the obligor must immediately pay before the court or AG can stay a license-suspension order. The partial payment amount cannot be less than $200.

Family Drug Court Program. Family Code chapter 264, subchapter J, was transferred to newly enacted Govern­ment Code title 2, subtitle K, and re-designated as Government Code ch. 122.

Foster care -education decisions for children. Family Code §§263.0025 and 263.004 were enacted to

  1. Rrequire the DFPS to file a report with the court that identifies who can make certain decisions about a child's education and (2) allow the court to appoint a surrogate parent to protect the rights of a child who takes part in a school district's special education program.
  2. Foster care -extended jurisdiction after child's 18th birthday. Family Code §§263.601 through 263.603 were amended and Family Code §263.6015 was enacted to extend jurisdiction of the courts over young people who are in temporary managing conservatorship of the DFPS when they turn 18. These changes also clarify the status of trial independence.
    Foster care -psychotropic medication for children. Family Code §§266.0042 and 266.011 were enacted and Family Code §§266.005 and 266.007 were amended to strengthen oversight of psychotropic medication prescriptions for foster children.
  3. Foster care -transitional living services program. Family Code §264.121 was amended to improve the transitional living services program by requiring additional education and training for children in the areas of financial literacy, medication management, nutrition, and food preparation.

Guardian ad litem -duties. Family Code §107.002 was amended to add the following two new duties for guardian ad litem appointments in government suits to protect a child's health and safety or in DFPS placement reviews:

  1. (1) review the medial care provided to the child and (2) seek to elicit, in a developmentally appropriate manner, the child's opinion on the medical care provided. In the case of an appointment to represent a child for whom the DFPS is managing conservator, §107.002 now requires the guardian ad litem to determine whether the child's educational needs and goals have been identified and addressed before each scheduled hearing under Family Code chapter 263.
  2. Immunization - child's right to consent. Family Code §32.1011 was enacted to allow a pregnant minor or a minor who has actual custody of her child to consent to her own immunization.
  3. Juvenile justice -detention hearings. Family Code §54.01 was amended to require a court to appoint counsel to represent a child before the first detention hearing is held, unless exigent circumstances make the appointment infeasible.
  4. Juvenile justice -disposition hearings. Family Code §54.04 was amended to specify that a court must provide access to all written materials to be considered by the court at the disposition hearing to both the prosecuting attor­ney and the child's attorney at least two days before the date of the hearing.
  5. Juvenile justice -post-adjudication correctional facility. Family Code §54.04011 [B* I was enacted to create an alternative sentencing system for juvenile offenders, which is controlled by local county juvenile authorities.
  6. Juvenile justice -transfer of suit. Family Code §51.07 was amended to specify that for the purpose of transfer­ring a case, a child who is the subject of a Title 5 suit and also needs supervision under Family Code §54.03 is con­sidered to reside in the county where the court of continuing exclusive jurisdiction is located.
  7. Juvenile justice -underage prostitution. Family Code §§51.04 and 58.003 were amended and §§51.0413, 54.0326, and 54.04011 [A*] were enacted to create a treatment program for minors involved in prostitution instead of a strict punishment. As part of this process, courts with juvenile justice jurisdiction and courts that normally handle Title 5 family abuse cases can now share jurisdiction, and the records of the affected children can be sealed by the court.

Licensing agencies -child-support enforcement. Family Code §231.302 was amended to create the sole excep­tion to the requirements under §231.302(c)(l). Under the amended law, the Department of Public Safety is no longer required to request, and an applicant is no longer required to provide, the applicant's Social Security number for the purpose of issuing a concealed handgun license.

Marriage ceremony -who can conduct. Family Code §2.202 was amended to include judges and magistrates who have retired from a federal court in Texas among those who are authorized to conduct a marriage ceremony.

Marriage license -application for absent applicant. Family Code §2.006 was amended to narrow the scope of who is eligible to receive a marriage license when both applicants are absent. Now, a member of the armed forces must actually be stationed in another country to be eligible (as opposed to merely being on active duty), and a person who is confined to a correctional facility is no longer eligible at all.

Marriage license-expiration date. Family Code §2.201 was amended to extend the expiration date of a marriage license from 31 days to 90 days.

Marriage license -maintenance of absent-applicant records. Family Code §2.0071 was enacted to require the county clerk to maintain an absent applicant's affidavit in the same manner as she would a marriage license sub­mitted by two in-person applicants.

Marriage license & ceremony -proxy for absent applicant. Family Code §2.007 was amended to narrow the scope of who can have a proxy participate on behalf of an absent applicant in the marriage ceremony. Now, a proxy can only be used if the absent applicant is a member of the U.S. armed forces, is unable to attend the ceremony, and is stationed in another country. Family Code §2.203, which governs marriage ceremonies, was similarly amended.

Modification -Attorney General child-support case. Family Code §156.401 was amended to specify that a court or administrative order for child support in a government suit can be modified at any time to provide for the child's medical support if the order does not provide health-care coverage as required under Family Code §154.182. Under the amended section, a showing of a material and substantial change in circumstance is not required for this mod­ification.

Social study evaluator -access to records. Family Code §107.05145 was enacted to give social study evaluators access to any DFPS investigative records on abuse or neglect that relate to any person living in the residence who is subject to the social study.

Spousal maintenance -enforcement. Family Code §8.059 was amended to specify and limit a court's ability to enforce an agreement for periodic payments of spousal maintenance by contempt to only the amount that could have been ordered under Family Code title 1, chapter 8.

Spousal maintenance -wage withholding. Family Code §8.101 was amended to give a court authority to order income withholding in a proceeding in which an agreement for periodic payments of spousal maintenance is at issue. Under the amended statute, income can only be withheld to the extent it could have been ordered under chap­ter 8, and the duration of the withholding must also conform to chapter 8.

Termination of parent-child relationship -mistaken paternity & deadline to file petition. Family Code §161.005 was amended to extend the deadline for filing a petition based on mistaken paternity from one year after the date when an acknowledged or adjudicated father becomes aware that he is not the child's genetic father to two years after that date.
Termination of parent-child relationship -mistaken paternity & interest on child support. Family Code §161.005 was amended to bring the statute's treatment of interest in line with its treatment of child support. Now, a man whose parent-child relationship was terminated under this section is no longer responsible for paying any interest that accrues on the basis of child-support arrearages after the date the termination order is rendered.

Termination of parent-child relationship -when pregnancy results from criminal act. Family Code §161.007 was amended to require a court to terminate the parent-child relationship if it is in the child's best interest and the parent (1) engaged in conduct that constitutes an offence under Penal Code §21.02, 22.011, 22.021, or 25.02 and (2) as a direct result of that conduct, the victim of that conduct became pregnant with the parent's child. Section 161.007 was further amended to give a court discretion to terminate the parent-child relationship if the offending parent was married to or lived with the other parent for the two years after the child's birth.

Transitional living program -consent by minor. Family Code §32.203 was enacted to authorize children who are 16 or older to consent to housing or care provided through a transitional living program.

Wage withholding -employer responsibilities, Family Code §158.203 was amended to give the state disburse­ment unit the authority to penalize employers up to $25 for each remittance not made using electronic funds transfer or electronic data interchange.

Wage withholding -required forms. Family Code §158.106 was amended to clarify which forms are required to be provided and used by the Attorney General for withholding income for the purpose of collecting child support.

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