In recent months, Texas legislators have tackled a number of issues pertaining to family law. Some issues – such as dental insurance coverage for minor dependents – have been cut and dried. While others – such as when or if the date of a same-sex marriage is retroactive – are still up for debate.
So what recent changes to the Texas Family Code will affect Texas families the most? We asked Dallas Family Law Attorney Alissa Castro to weigh in.
Some Texas Family Law Legislative Updates Are Straightforward
Dental support added under child support guidelines.
“In the past, child support provisions included the generic term ‘medical support.’ Effective September 1, 2018, dental support will specifically be included,” Alissa says.
Protective order changes regarding handguns, conservatorship and family violence.
The protective order section was amended regarding the license to carry a handgun. As Alissa explains, “Effective January 1, 2016, the law has been amended, so when a final protective order has been issued against a person, the court will suspend their license to carry a handgun. The law previously said ‘concealed’ handgun and was prompted by the open carry legislation in Texas.”
Effective September 1, 2015, as it pertains to conservatorship, the Texas Family Code now requires that the courts take into account family violence and neglect when appointing conservators. “In addition, each parent is required to provide the other parent with information regarding anyone else residing in the home with the child or who has unsupervised access to the child who is the subject of the final protective order,” adds Alissa.
How Texas Family Courts Will Interpret Some Same-Sex Marriage Issues Is Unclear
Following the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) June 26, 2015 decision, Texas’ ban on same-sex marriage was ruled unconstitutional. But according to Alissa, “What isn’t 100 percent clear in the realm of Texas Family Law is how the courts will interpret their marching orders regarding some aspects of same-sex marriage.”
While there are many grey areas regarding same-sex marriage, Texas is one of the states that does recognize the date of a legal same-sex marriage retroactively. So, if the marriage occurred in a state that legally recognized same-sex marriage at the time of the couple’s nuptials, Texas would recognize the actual date of marriage.
However, the jury is still out whether the state will retroactively recognize the date of a same-sex marriage that originated in a state that did not legally recognize same-sex marriage prior to the SCOTUS ruling.
“The marriage date is important, especially when it comes to Texas divorces and community property rights. Unless you signed a premarital agreement (or post-marital agreement) that defines your property otherwise, the courts will consider and divide community property, which includes only property acquired from the date of marriage until the date the divorce is finalized,” says Alissa.
Texas Still Needs to Formally Decide How to Handle Same-Sex Common Law Marriages
Unlike many states, Texas does recognize common law marriage – or informal marriage. To establish common law marriage in Texas, you have to live in the state of Texas, you have to hold yourself out to be married, and you have to agree to be married.
However, Texas law still defines marriage as being between a man and a woman. And Alissa believes this could be set the stage for conflicting opinions.
“There is nothing specifically on the books that covers informal or common law marriage for same-sex couples. So, the big question Texas Family Courts haven’t formally decided is whether the date of a same-sex informal marriage would be retroactive to when the couple checked those three boxes to establish common law marriage OR to the date of the SCOTUS ruling. The courts will also need to address retroactivity as it pertains to civil unions,” explains Alissa.
So stay tuned! According to Alissa, “We expect the Texas Family Courts to weigh in on these and other issues pertaining to same-sex unions soon.”