A discussion of Texas Senate Bill 869 and how it affects you and your family

One of the bills from this past year’s legislative session that stands to impact the world of Texas family law is Senate Bill 869. While this bill could alter or impact the lives of many across our state, we want to focus on how it could change the trajectory of your family as far as your daily lives are concerned. We at the Law Office of Bryan Fagan understand that what the legislature passes can seem awfully distant and far away. However, if it begins to affect your family then it becomes a subject that is of great importance in an immediate sense. 

As a result, we are going to talk more about how this law becomes impactful for you and your family and what sort of preparation may be needed to and sure that families like yours are prepared to anticipate any changes in the law and work to be able to do what is best for your family moving forward in whatever environment you find yourselves in.

No matter what the circumstances are that you are facing it is always a good idea to have the advice and perspective of an experienced person to help guide you in whatever you are facing. The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan stand ready to provide you with assistance in whatever legal circumstance you find yourself in regarding Texas family law. 

We pride ourselves on having the heart of a teacher when it comes to family-related subjects and helping our community better understand the law as it pertains to you and your family. We offer free-of-charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone and via video. Whatever your preference is we have the team that you need to find success in your specific legal matter.

It can be challenging to begin a family law case without legal representation. Although the law does not require you to be represented by an attorney for your case it can certainly make your case and your life much easier to manage. Just like any other area of our lives having experienced help matters when it comes to a divorce, child custody, or child support case. What you don’t know can hurt you and a judge will not give you a pass or go easy on you because you are underrepresented.

Starting a case without an attorney under the mistaken assumption that you will be able to manage the case process on your own without a lawyer can set you back both in terms of time and money. Making a mistake with drafting a document, filing, or even trying to make legal arguments in court can be potentially harmful to you and your family. Therefore, you should be sure that you are proceeding in the right direction. Receiving information from an experienced family law attorney can be exactly what you need to be able to feel confident that you are making the right decisions for yourself and your family.

What does Senate Bill 869 mean to your family?

We are going to touch on some of the more important areas that this bill introduces to the Texas Family Code. Starting with: how the bill changes the law regarding overdue child support and inheritances. Most notably, the law in Texas has been changed to reflect that if you or your co-parent owe child support and then come into an inheritance you cannot transfer that inheritance to another person. Rather, the law in Texas as of September 1st of this year is that the inheritance must be used to settle any child support obligation that Is owed.

Let’s take a hypothetical situation to better illuminate this point. Say that your ex-husband inherits $50,000 from his deceased uncle’s estate. It used to be the case that your ex-husband could have chosen to transfer this money to a relative or friend rather than pay it in child support. However, this is now against the law, and that money may not be transferred to another person before it is applied to any arrearage in child support that is owed. 

What is a waiver of citation?

When beginning a family lawsuit, the customary way to provide notice to the opposing party is to have him or her served personally. This means that you would file your lawsuit, and then ask the clerk of the court to prepare multiple copies, a citation, and any other documentation that that court requires and to have that personally served upon the other person. The citation will be completed by the process server and returned to the court. This gives the court proof that the opposing party was served. The responding party has essentially 20 days to file an answer to the lawsuit or risk being found in default.

The most common response to a petition for a family lawsuit is to file an answer. An answer usually amounts to a general denial in a very short document. However, another option would be to file a waiver of service before even being served with the petition. Here is how that would work. In many cases, you would inform your opposing party that you are about to file a family lawsuit. This means reaching out to him or her directly and making it known that a lawsuit is about to be filed. From there, the opposing party can choose to forego personal service and instead can choose to file what is known as a waiver of service. 

This waiver of service is a document that does what the name indicates. It waives the person’s right to be personally served with notice of the lawsuit. That does not mean that you do not have to notify him or her of any future hearing dates or a trial. What it does mean is that it acknowledges receipt of the lawsuit and indicates that the two parties may be willing to work together to settle your case rather than head to court immediately. Most of the time a waiver of service is done in situations where the parties to a lawsuit are amicable and are willing to work together to sort out their differences rather than resort to the courtroom immediately.

How Senate Bill 869 changes the law is regarding the use of electronic signatures on documents like a waiver of service. Specifically, when a suit affecting the parent-child relationship is filed a waiver of service may be filed as well rather than an answer. In that event, an electronic signature on a waiver of service can be used instead of a physical signature. This can matter a great deal if, for example, you or your opposing party are housebound or otherwise unable to physically sign a document for filing with the court. It used to be the case that you would need to wait until that person could physically sign the document and return it to you. With the changes to the Texas Family Code, an electronic signature will now suffice for purposes of officially signing and returning a waiver of citation.

In many cases, the simplest way to do things is the best. For people who are otherwise trying to accomplish an agreed change to a child custody order or are simply trying to initiate a child custody case for the first time the most difficult part of the case can be starting and getting the case filed. Rather than pushing back the start time for a case, you can now begin to make progress on a case sooner rather than later.

If you have any questions about how to begin a child custody lawsuit in Texas or concerns about some aspects of your existing child custody order then please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys are here to assist you. Whether it be providing necessary information in a free-of-charge consultation or in advising you along the way of your family law case our office has what it takes to assist you in whatever your legal needs may be.

A waiver of citation is not waving a white flag in a case. It may be in your best interest to have a waiver of citation filed rather than filing an answer. There are many reasons for this among those that you and your opposing party have already agreed to a settlement on the issues of your case. When you have reached a conclusion like this and are willing to set aside your differences to better the lives of your children then that is an ideal situation to find yourselves in if you would need to file a child custody case of some sort. To determine whether a waiver of service might be in your best interests then please contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan today.

Improving communication for families in child custody and divorce cases

One of the most frustrating events for a family after the conclusion of a child custody or divorce case is being unable to meet your child’s other parent. Although it would be ideal for parents to communicate with one another frequently, this may not be possible more practical in your situation. So, when you need to speak to someone then having that person’s contact information is very important period however, many people leave a family law case with only an address and perhaps a phone number for the opposing party.

With the passage into law of Senate Bill 869, e-mail addresses are now required to be provided in final orders for any case involving children. There are many reasons why communication is important within the confines of a family law case. For instance, let’s suppose that you get divorced from your spouse and have two minor children with your ex-wife. You were awarded primary custody of your children and your ex-wife was ordered to pay child support. However, in the intervening years since your divorce case, your ex-wife has stopped paying child support. You became aware that filing a modification case was necessary and have taken the steps necessary to hire an attorney to file the lawsuit.

However, the problem has arisen that you are unable to locate your ex-wife. She has moved since the last time you were in court, and she now has a new phone number. She sees your children occasionally, but not on a regular enough basis to ever obtain this information. Beginning to feel like you have no options, this law can make it much simpler for you to be able to track down your ex-wife and serve her with notice of the lawsuit that you are about to file. It is especially helpful in situations where you were unable to serve her personally but have obtained permission from the court 2 serve her via substituted service. When you have an e-mail address that can solve a lot of the issues that you are facing.

Social Security disability back pay

One of the most common types of governmental benefits that a family could receive is disability insurance or Supplemental Security Income from the Social Security Administration. Both children and adults can receive payments from Social Security for these benefits. Minor children are eligible to receive Social Security disability payments if their parent has been granted benefits. In that case, the child’s payment of Social Security benefits can then be used to pay down any outstanding child support or medical support payments that are owed by the parent.

How could this work on a practical level? Let’s say that you are disabled under the rules of Social Security and are receiving Social Security disability income. Your child would be eligible to receive benefits through Social Security because of your being found disabled. Any amount that your child receives because of your disability finding could be applied against an arrearage that you may owe in child support.

Can child support arrearages be reduced?

Under the former version of the Texas Family Code, child support arrearages could be reduced by order of a court or by settlement between parties. However, now the law states that child support arrearages cannot be reduced. It does not matter if it is the parent who owes the child support or if it is the parent who receives child support that has asked for the reduction. Now the law states that the owed amount of child support cannot be lowered. This has always been the case on the federal level but now is the case here in Texas. The state of Texas wanted to be consistent with other states in how child support is handled and arrearages are usually not something that can be reduced in other states.

Changes to the law on paternity

Paternity lawsuits have also seen changes in the laws impacting them. It used to be the case that paternity lawsuits would come to a screeching halt if the biological father could not be located. However, under the updated Texas Family Code paternity lawsuits can’t continue even if the presumed father cannot be found. The presumption of paternity is usually based on DNA testing. If a man has voluntarily acknowledged paternity or was married to a woman at the time, she gave birth to a child then that man is presumed to be the father of the child.

Even if this man were to disappear a child custody case could still proceed. This type of case would allow a court to be able to decide on paternity and establish legal paternity. This is important to allow a court to order child support, establish inheritance rights, and even be able to allow a child to begin receiving government benefits under their parent’s name. This can all happen even if the other parent and the court do not physically know where the father is.

Closing thoughts on updated family laws in Texas

As you can tell, the laws on child custody-related issues have changed to a great extent because of the most recent legislative session. In a situation where the legal landscape changes frequently, it is never a sure thing that the law as you knew it will remain the same throughout the entirety of your case. As a result, if you feel unsure about how to proceed in your case or have questions about your options, the attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan are here to help you and provide clarity on the questions that you may have. We thank you for joining us today here on our blog and we hope that you will join us again soon to discuss additional changes in the law and how our office can assist you moving forward.

Questions about the material contained in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

If you have any questions about the material contained in today’s blog post please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free-of-charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law as well as how your family may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case.

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