Thursday, October 4, 2007

Travis County's Standing Order regarding Children, Property and Conduct of the Parties

The Travis County District Courts have issued a "Standing Order" that applies automatically in all cases involving Divorce, Child Custody or Child Support, without the need for hearing, as soon as the case is filed. (See our "Links" section.) Among other items, the Standing Order prevents the parties from doing any of the following without seeking leave of Court:


  • removing any children involved in the case from the State of Texas (directly or in concert with other persons);

  • hiding the child from the other parent;

  • changing the child's residence;

  • withdrawing the child from school or day-care;

  • threatening or harassing the other party;

  • harassing the other party;

  • incurring indebtedness;

  • destroying, removing, concealing, selling, transferring, mortgaging, encumbering, or otherwise taking any action which would harm or reduce the value of either party's separate property or the parties' community property;

  • making withdrawals from any checking or savings accounts for ANY purpose other than payment of reasonable living expenses for food, clothing, shelter, transportation, medical care and reasonable attorneys' fees;

  • concealing or destroying personal and business records; and

  • canceling or altering insurance policies.

Similar standing orders have been entered by several district courts throughout the State of Texas. As a result, it is always a good idea to check with your lawyer, or to consult the court's local rules, to see what orders may be in place before taking any action related to your children, assets, ar debts while your divorce, custody or support case is pending.

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.

Major Changes to Texas Family Code related to Child Support

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.

Essentially, all orders (including modifications) or decrees entered after September 1st will incorporate the following regarding Child Support:
  • Income withholding for payment of child support is mandatory – no exceptions.
  • Severance pay and “lump sum” payments (which arguably include commissions or regularly-scheduled bonuses) are now included in income withholding orders.
  • Severance pay and “lump sum” payments (which arguably include commissions or regularly-scheduled bonuses) are now included in income withholding orders.
  • The “cap” on the amount of child support awarded under the Statutory Guidelines has been raised, with an automatic adjustment to take place every six years. For example, the “maximum” monthly support (in the absence of extraordinary circumstances) for one child has increased from $1,200 to $1,500.
  • In addition to child support under the Statutory Guidelines, “cash medical support” must be paid by the obligor if the obligee provides health insurance coverage for the child.
  • Income withholding also governs any award of “cash medical support.”
  • Child support for a high school student who is more than 18 years old will terminate if a court finds that the child has failed to meet school attendance requirements. The obligation of support will also end on the date that the child begins active military service.
  • Any unpaid child support obligations become due on the date the obligor dies, and the obligation is payable by the obligor’s probate estate (although it can be secured by appropriate life insurance). Actions to enforce payment by the obligor’s estate can be brought in an appropriate family court.
  • The deadline to bring an enforcement proceeding for any arrearage is extended to two years after the child support obligation ended.
  • All state-issued licenses, as well as motor vehicle registrations, may be suspended and renewal may be denied if the applicant has failed to pay child support for several months. An unpaid arrearage may also prevent an obligor from receiving state grants, state loans or payments on state contracts.

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.