The 86th Regular Session & Family Law: Texas Family Code Updates – CHANGES IN EFFECT AS OF SEPTEMBER 1
The 2019 session of the Texas Legislature ushered in at least a dozen significant changes sure to rear their head in the practice of family law. Some were direct changes to the family code, some to the property code affecting trusts, and some to areas of the law that don’t often ping on the family lawyer’s radar.
This post is the first in our three-part series, The 86th Regular Session & Family Law & Trusts, aimed at summarizing key changes from the legislative session that apply to the family law practice. The focus of this post is on direct changes to the Texas Family Code.
Changes Affecting Conservatorship
HB 553 – Clarifying the Law on the Pickup/Dropoff Location for Summer Weekends, Amendment to Texas Family Code 153.312, Effective September 1, 2019.
House Bill 553’s passing cleaned up the rules for setting and notifying of the pickup location for the managing conservator’s (MC) weekend amid the possessory conservator’s (PC) extended summer possession time.
The new rule is that once the MC notifies the PC of their chosen weekend, the PC must give the MC notice of the pickup/drop-off location no later than the 15th day before the Friday that the MC’s weekend begins. In other words, the PC must give the MC the pickup location no later than the Thursday two weeks before the MC’s weekend.
HB 555 – Sole Managing Conservator’s Default Right Concerning Child’s Passport, Amendments to Texas Family Code 153.123 and 153.371, Effective September 1, 2019.
The passage of House Bill 555 made it a default right for a parent sole-managing conservator (153.123) and for a non-parent managing conservator (153.371) to apply for, renew, and maintain possession of a child’s passport.
HB 3145 – Rights of Parents to Attend School Activities, Amendment to Texas Family Code 153.073, Effective Immediately on June 14, 2019.
With the passage of House Bill 3145, unless specifically limited by court order, parents by default have the legal right at all times to attend their child’s school activities, now specifically including school lunches, performances, and field trips.
Jurisdictional Preference in Adoption Suits
HB 369 – Clarifying Court Jurisdiction in Adoption Suits, Amendments to Texas Family Code 102.008, 103.001, and 155.201, Effective September 1, 2019.
With House Bill 369, the legislature made it so that filing an adoption suit in the county where the child resides, now gives that court jurisdictional preference over a court with continuing, exclusive jurisdiction in a SAPCR affecting that child.
Further indicating the preference for the court where the child resides, the bill’s amendment to Texas Family Code 102.008 makes it that such an original petition for adoption—one filed in the county where the child resides—can now also simply state that the court where it is filed has jurisdiction according to Tex. Family Code 103.001. The original petition no longer even needs to make reference to a court having or not having continuing, exclusive jurisdiction.
Updates for the Family Law Litigator
HB 559 – Agreements Incident to Divorce Do Not Have to Be Filed, Amendment to Texas Family Code 7.006, Effective Immediately on May 24, 2019.
Although already a routine practice in family law, House Bill 559 codified that where the court finds an agreement incident to a divorce or annulment just and right, and incorporates it by reference into the final decree, the agreement incident to divorce does not need to be filed with the court (and should not). While the law was previously silent on this, it is now official that the parties can keep their agreement incident to divorce out of the public record.
The law applies to any and all agreements incident to divorce past or present and took effect immediately on May 24, 2019.
HB 1689 – Requirements for Disclosure of Gestational Agreements in Litigation, Amendments to Texas Family Code 6.406 and 102.003, Effective September 1, 2019.
- The passage of House Bill 1689 amended Texas Family Code 6.406 to establish that certain disclosures are required in a petition for dissolution of a marriage where the parties are intended parents under a gestational agreement. The petitioner must disclose in the petition:
- That the parties have entered a gestational agreement establishing a parent-child relationship with a child born or yet to be born under the agreement,
- Whether the gestational mother is pregnant or has given birth to a child that is a subject of the agreement, and
- Whether the agreement has been validated under Texas Family Code 160.756
The bill also amended Texas Family Code 102.003, regarding standing in a suit affecting the parent-child relationship, to add that any person who is an intended parent of a child or unborn child under a 160.754-compliant gestational agreement may now file an original SAPCR. But the standing allowance exists only if the person is filing jointly with the other intended parent or against the other intended parent.
HB 558 – Courts Can Order Child Support for an Adult Child with a Disability into a Special Needs Trust, Amendment to Texas Family Code 154.302, Effective September 1, 2019.
The passage of House Bill 558 cleared up any confusion in the family code about the handling of support payments for an adult child with disability where there is a special needs trust for the child. It established that a court ordering child support for the benefit of an adult child with disability may designate and order payment to a special-needs trust for the benefit of the adult child.
If the court designates such a trust and the case is not a Title IV-D case, the court must order payment go directly to the trust and not to the state disbursement unit (Office of the Attorney General). This amendment constitutes a material and substantial change of circumstances, sufficient to warrant modification of any existing order concerning support for an adult child with disability.