Thursday, October 4, 2007

Major Changes to Texas Family Code related to Child Custody and Paternity!!

Effective September 1, 2007, approximately 375 changes were made to the Texas Family Code. Although too numerous to mention at length here, the vast majority relate to the parent-child relationship, including extended visitation schedules, amended child support guidelines, and enforcement/collection procedures related to child support.

Some changes regarding Visitation – the Leg acknowledges the global electronic revolution!
  • Conservators can request reasonable periods of “electronic communication” with their child as a supplement to their Possession Schedule. In other words, parents who have difficulty communicating with or visiting their child may want to consider an order allowing them access via Web Camera, Internet Chat, email, or similar methods for a reasonable period of time to facilitate the parent-child relationship.
  • The Standard Possession Order now provides for weekend possession throughout the entire year, rather than only during the school year.
  • The date to exchange possession during the Christmas or Winter school holiday has changed from Dec. 26th to Dec. 28th.
  • Conservators in the military who are deployed for a period of more than six months to a location where access to their child is not reasonably possible (such as Iraq or Afghanistan) can now designate a “proxy” who may exercise that conservator’s possession of a child.

Some changes regarding Paternity/Parentage:

  • Sperm or egg donors are legally presumed to be a child’s “parent” unless the donation is made through a licensed physician for use in assisted reproduction.
  • Effective January 1, 2008, a man who fails to register with the State’s Paternity Registry may have his alleged parental rights terminated without notice where the child is over one year of age.

The foregoing items are only some of the important changes made under Texas law affecting parents and their children. If you have not reviewed your orders or decrees in the recent past, we recommend that you consult with a family practitioner or seek other legal guidance regarding the possible effect of these statutory changes on your respective rights and duties.