5. The Parent–Child Relationship & the Suit Affecting the Parent–Child Relationship

Subtitle A. General Provisions

Ch. 101. Definitions

101.001. Applicability of Definitions

101.0010. Acknowledged Father

101.0011. Administrative Writ of Withholding

101.0015. Alleged Father

101.0017. Amicus Attorney

101.0018. Attorney Ad Litem<

101.003. Child or Minor; Adult

101.004. Child Support Agency

101.005. Child Support Review Officer

101.006. Child Support Services

101.007. Clear and Convincing Evidence

101.008. Court

101.009. Danger to Physical Health or Safety of Child

101.0096. Digitized Signature

101.010. Disposable Earnings

101.011. Earnings

101.012. Employer

101.0125. Family Violence

101.013. Filed

101.014. Governmental Entity

101.0145. Guardian Ad Litem

101.015. Health Insurance

101.016. Joint Managing Conservatorship

101.0161. Judicial Writ of Withholding

101.017. Licensed Child Placing Agency

101.018. Local Registry

101.019. Managing Conservatorship

101.020. Medical Support

101.0201. Notice of Application for Judicial Writ of Withholding

101.021. Obligee

101.022. Obligor

101.023. Order

101.024. Parent

101.025. Parent–Child Relationship

101.0255. Record

101.026. Render

101.027. Parent Locator Service

101.028. School

101.029. Standard Possession Order

101.030. State

101.0301. State Case Registry

101.0302. State Disbursement Unit

101.031. Suit

101.032. Suit Affecting the Parent–Child Relationship

101.033. Title IV–D Agency

101.034. Title IV–D Case

101.035. Tribunal

101.036. Vital Statistics Unit

Ch. 102. Filing Suit

102.001. Suit Authorized; Scope of Suit

102.002. Commencement of Suit

102.003. General Standing to File Suit

102.0035. Statement to Confer Standing

102.004. Standing for Grandparent or Other Person

102.0045. Standing for Sibling

102.005. Standing to Request Termination and Adoption

102.006. Limitations on Standing

102.007. Standing of Title IV–D Agency

102.008. Contents of Petition

102.0086. Confidentiality of Pleadings

102.009. Service of Citation

102.0091. Waiver of Citation

102.010. Service of Citation by Publication

102.011. Acquiring Jurisdiction over Nonresident

102.012. Exercising Partial Jurisdiction

102.013. Docketing Requirements

102.014. Use of Digitized Signature

Ch. 103. Venue and Transfer of Original Proceedings

103.001. Venue for Original Suit

103.002. Transfer of Original Proceedings Within State

103.003. Transfer of Original Suit Within State when Party or Child Resides Outside State

Ch. 104. Evidence

104.001. Rules of Evidence

104.002. Prerecorded Statement of Child

104.003. Prerecorded Videotaped Testimony of Child

104.004. Remote Televised Broadcast of Testimony of Child

104.005. Substitution for In–Court Testimony of Child

104.006. Hearsay Statement of Child Abuse Victim

104.007. Video Testimony of Certain Professionals

104.008. Certain Testimony Prohibited

Ch. 105. Settings, Hearings, and Orders

105.001. Temporary Orders Before Final Order

105.0011. Information Regarding Protective Orders

105.002. Jury

105.003. Procedure for Contested Hearing

105.004. Preferential Setting

105.005. Findings

105.006. Contents of Final Order

105.007. Compliance With Order Requiring Notice of Change of Required Information

105.008. Record of Support Order for State Case Registry

105.009. Parent Education and Family Stabilization Course

Ch. 106. Costs and Attorney's Fees

106.001. Costs

106.002. Attorney's Fees and Expenses

Ch. 107. Special Appointments, Child Custody Evaluations, and Adoption Evaluations

Subch. A. Court–Ordered Representation in Suits Affecting the Parent–Child Relationship

107.001. Definitions

107.002. Powers and Duties of Guardian Ad Litem for Child

107.003. Powers and Duties of Attorney Ad Litem for Child and Amicus Attorney

107.004. Additional Duties of Attorney Ad Litem for Child

107.0045. Discipline of Attorney Ad Litem

107.005. Additional Duties of Amicus Attorney

107.006. Access to Child and Information Relating to Child

107.007. Attorney Work Product and Testimony

107.008. Substituted Judgment of Attorney for Child

107.009. Immunity

107.010. Discretionary Appointment of Attorney Ad Litem for Incapacitated Person

Subch. B. Appointments in Certain Suits

Part 1. Appointments in Suits By Governmental Entity

107.011. Mandatory Appointment of Guardian Ad Litem

107.012. Mandatory Appointment of Attorney Ad Litem for Child

107.0125. Appointment of Attorney in Dual Role

107.013. Mandatory Appointment of Attorney Ad Litem for Parent

107.0131. Powers and Duties of Attorney Ad Litem for Parent

107.0132. Powers and Duties of Attorney Ad Litem for Alleged Father

107.0133. Discipline of Attorney Ad Litem for Parent or Alleged Father

107.014. Powers and Duties of Attorney Ad Litem for Certain Parents

107.0141. Temporary Appointment of Attorney Ad Litem for Certain Parents

107.015. Attorney Fees

107.016. Continued Representation; Duration of Appointment

107.0161. Ad Litem Appointments for Child Committed to Texas Youth Commission

107.017. Appointment of Amicus Attorney Prohibited

Part 2. Appointments in Suits Other than Suits by Governmental Entity

107.021. Discretionary Appointments

107.022. Certain Prohibited Appointments

107.023. Fees in Suits Other Than Suits by Governmental Entity

Subch. C. Appointment of Volunteer Advocates

107.031. Volunteer Advocates

Subch. D. Child Custody Evaluation

107.101. Definitions

107.102. Applicability

107.1025. Effect of Mental Examination

107.103. Order for Child Custody Evaluation

107.104. Child Custody Evaluator: Minimum Qualifications

107.105. Child Custody Evaluation: Specialized Training Required

107.106. Exception to Qualifications Required to Conduct Child Custody Evaluation

107.107. Child Custody Evaluator: Conflicts of Interest and Bias

107.108. General Provisions Applicable to Conduct of Child Custody Evaluation and Preparation of Report

107.109. Elements of Child Custody Evaluation

107.110. Psychometric Testing

107.1101. Effect of Potentially Undiagnosed Serious Mental Illness

107.111. Child Custody Evaluator Access to Investigative Records of Department; Offense

107.112. Communications and Recordkeeping of Child Custody Evaluator

107.113. Child Custody Evaluation Report Required

107.114. Introduction and Provision of Child Custody Evaluation Report

107.115. Child Custody Evaluation Fee

[First] Subch. E. Office of Child Representation and Office of Parent Representation

107.61. Definition

107.62. Applicability

107.63. Nonprofit Funding

107.64. Office of Child Representation

107.65. Office of Parent Representation

107.66. Creation of Office of Child Representation or Office of Parent Representation

107.67. Nonprofit as Office

107.68. Plan of Operation for Office

107.69. Office Personnel

107.70. Appointments in County in Which Office Created

107.71. Funding of Office

107.72. Oversight Board

[Second] Subch. E. Adoption Evaluation

107.151. Definitions

107.152. Applicability

107.153. Order for Adoption Evaluation

107.154. Adoption Evaluation; Minimum Qualifications

107.155. Exception to Qualifications Required to Conduct Adoption Evaluation

107.156. Adoption Evaluator: Conflicts of Interest and Bias

107.157. Reporting Certain Placements for Adoption

107.158. General Provisions Applicable to Conduct of Adoption Evaluator and Preparation of Reports

107.159. Requirements for Pre–Placement Portion of Adoption Evaluation and Report

107.160. Requirements for Post–Placement Portion of Adoption Evaluation and Report

107.161. Introduction and Provision of Adoption Evaluation Report and Testimony Relating to Adoption Evaluation

107.162. Adoption Evaluation Fee

107.163. Adoption Evaluator Access to Investigative Records of Department; Offense

[First] Subch. F. Managed Assigned Counsel Program for the Representation of Certain Children and Parents

107.101. Definitions

107.102. Managed Assigned Counsel Program

107.103. Creation of Managed Assigned Counsel Program

107.104. Plan for Program Required

107.105. Program Director; Personnel

107.106. Review Committee

107.107. Appointment from Program's Public Appointment List

107.108. Funding of Program

[Second] Subch. F. Evaluations in Contested Adoptions

107.201. Applicability

107.202. Assignment of Evaluations in Contested Adoptions

Ch. 108. Central Record File; Vital Statistics

108.001. Transmittal of Records of Suit by Clerk

108.002. Dissolution of Marriage Records Maintained by Clerk

108.003. Transmittal of Information Regarding Adoption

108.004. Transmittal of Files on Loss of Jurisdiction

108.005. Adoption Records Received by Bureau of Vital Statistics

108.006. Fees

108.007. Microfilm

108.008. Filing Information After Determination of Paternity

108.009. Birth Certificate

108.110. Release of Information by Bureau of Vital Statistics

Ch. 109. Appeals

109.001. Temporary Orders During Pendency of Appeal

109.002. Appeal

109.003. Payment for Statement of Facts

Ch. 110. Court Fees

110.001. General Rule

110.002. Filing Fees and Deposits

110.003. No Separate or Additional Filing Fee

110.004. Fee for Issuing and Delivering Withholding Order or Writ

110.005. Transfer Fee

110.006. Domestic Relations Office Operations Fees and Child Support Service Fees

Ch. 111. Guidelines for Possession and Child Support

111.001. Review of Guidelines

111.002. Guidelines Supersede Court Rules

111.003. Posting Guidelines

Subtitle B. Suits Affecting the Parent–Child Relationship

Ch. 151. Rights and Duties in the Parent–Child Relationship

151.001. Rights and Duties of Parent

151.002. Rights of a Living Child After an Abortion or Premature Birth

151.003. Limitation on State Agency Action

Ch. 152. Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act

Subch. A. Application and Construction

152.001. Application and Construction

152.002. Conflicts Between Provisions

Subch. B. General Provisions

152.101. Short Title

152.102. Definitions

152.103. Proceedings Governed by Other Law

152.104. Application to Indian Tribes

152.105. International Application of Chapter

152.106. Effect of Child Custody Determination

152.107. Priority

152.108. Notice to Persons Outside State

152.109. Appearance and Limited Immunity

152.110. Communication Between Courts

152.111. Taking Testimony in Another State

152.112. Cooperation Between Courts; Preservation of Records

Subch. C. Jurisdiction

152.201. Initial Child Custody Jurisdiction

152.202. Exclusive Continuing Jurisdiction

152.203. Jurisdiction to Modify Determination

152.204. Temporary Emergency Jurisdiction

152.205. Notice; Opportunity to be Heard; Joinder

152.206. Simultaneous Proceedings

152.207. Inconvenient Forum

152.208. Jurisdiction Declined by Reason of Conduct

152.209. Information to be Submitted to Court

152.210. Appearance of Parties and Child

Subch. D. Enforcement

152.301. Definitions

152.302. Enforcement Under Hague Convention

152.303. Duty to Enforce

152.304. Temporary Visitation

152.305. Registration of Child Custody Determination

152.306. Enforcement of Registered Determination

152.307. Simultaneous Proceedings

152.308. Expedited Enforcement of Child Custody Determination

152.309. Service of Petition and Order

152.310. Hearing and Order

152.311. Warrant to Take Physical Custody of Child

152.312. Costs, Fees, and Expenses

152.313. Recognition and Enforcement

152.314. Appeals

152.315. Role of Prosecutor or Public Official

152.316. Role of Law Enforcement

152.317. Costs and Expenses

Ch. 153. Conservatorship, Possession, and Access

Subch. A. General Provisions

153.001. Public Policy

153.002. Best Interest of Child

153.003. No Discrimination Based on Sex or Marital Status

153.004. History of Domestic Violence or Sexual Abuse

153.005. Appointment of Sole or Joint Managing Conservator

153.006. Appointment of Possessory Conservator

153.007. Agreed Parenting Plan

153.0071. Alternate Dispute Resolution Procedures

153.00715. Determination of Validity and Enforceability of Contract Containing Agreement to Arbitrate

153.009. Interview of Child in Chambers

153.010. Order for Family Counseling

153.011. Security Bond

153.012. Right to Privacy; Deletion of Personal Information in Records

153.013. False Report of Child Abuse

153.014. Visitation Centers and Visitation Exchange Facilities

153.015. Electronic Communication With Child by Conservator

Subch. B. Parent Appointed as Conservator: In General

153.071. Court to Specify Rights and Duties of Parent Appointed a Conservator

153.072. Written Finding Required to Limit Parental Rights and Duties

153.073. Rights of Parent at All Times

153.074. Rights and Duties During Period of Possession

153.075. Duties of Parent Not Appointed Conservator

153.076. Duty to Provide Information

Subch. C. Parent Appointed as Sole or Joint Managing Conservator

153.131. Presumption That Parent to be Appointed Managing Conservator

153.132. Rights and Duties of Parent Appointed Sole Managing Conservator

153.133. Parenting Plan for Joint Managing Conservatorship

153.134. Court–Ordered Joint Conservatorship

153.135. Equal Possession Not Required

153.138. Child Support Order Affecting Joint Conservators

Subch. D. Parent Appointed as Possessory Conservator

153.191. Presumption that Parent to be Appointed Possessory Conservator

153.192. Rights and Duties of Parent Appointed Possessory Conservator

153.193. Minimal Restriction on Parent's Possession or Access

Subch. E. Guidelines for the Possession of a Child by a Parent Named as Possessory Conservator

153.251. Policy and General Application of Guidelines

153.252. Rebuttable Presumption

153.253. Standard Possession Order Inappropriate or Unworkable

153.254. Child Less Than Three Years of Age

153.255. Agreement

153.256. Factors for Court to Consider

153.258. Request for Findings When Order Varies From Standard Order

Subch. F. Standard Possession Order

153.3101. Reference to 'School' in Standard Possession Order

153.311. Mutual Agreement or Specified Terms for Possession

153.312. Parents Who Reside 100 Miles or Less Apart

153.313. Parents Who Reside Over 100 Miles Apart

153.314. Holiday Possession Unaffected by Distance Parents Reside Apart

153.315. Weekend Possession Extended by Holiday

153.316. General Terms and Conditions

153.317. Alternative Beginning and Ending Possession Times

Subch. G. Appointment of Nonparent as Conservator

153.371. Rights and Duties of Nonparent Appointed as Sole Managing Conservator

153.372. Nonparent Appointed as Joint Managing Conservator

153.3721. Access to Certain Records by Nonparent Joint Managing Conservator

153.373. Voluntary Surrender of Possession Rebuts Parental Presumption

153.374. Designation of Managing Conservator in Affidavit of Relinquishment

153.375. Annual Report by Nonparent Managing Conservator

153.376. Rights and Duties of Nonparent Possessory Conservator

153.377. Access to Child's Records

Subch. H. Rights of Grandparent, Aunt, or Uncle

153.431. Appointment of Grandparent, Aunt, or Uncle as Managing Conservator

153.432. Suit for Possession or Access by Grandparent

153.433. Possession of or Access to Grandchild

153.434. Limitation on Right to Request Possession or Access

Subch. I. Prevention of International Parental Child Abduction

153.501. Necessity of Measures to Prevent International Parental Child Abduction

153.502. Abduction Risk Factors

153.503. Abduction Prevention Measures

Subch. J. Rights of Siblings

153.551. Suit for Access

Subch. K. Parenting Plan, Parenting Coordinator, and Parenting Facilitator

153.601. Definitions

153.602. Parenting Plan Not Required in Temporary Order

153.603. Requirement of Parenting Plan in Final Order

153.6031. Exception to Dispute Resolution Process Requirement

153.605. Appointment of Parenting Coordinator

153.6051. Appointment of Parenting Facilitator

153.606. Duties of Parenting Coordinator

153.6061. Duties of Parenting Facilitator

153.607. Presumption of Good Faith; Removal of Parenting Coordinator

153.6071. Presumption of Good Faith; Removal of Parenting Facilitator

153.608. Report of Parenting Coordinator

153.6081. Report of Parenting Facilitator

153.6082. Report of Joint Proposal or Statement of Intent; Agreements and Recommendations

153.6083. Communications and Recordkeeping of Parenting Facilitator

153.609. Compensation of Parenting Coordinator

153.6091. Compensation of Parenting Facilitator

153.610. Qualifications of Parenting Coordinator

153.6101. Qualifications of Parenting Facilitator

153.6102. Parenting Facilitator; Conflicts of Interest and Bias

153.611. Exception for Certain Title IV–D Proceedings

Subch. L. Military Duty

153.701. Definitions

153.702. Temporary Orders

153.703. Appointing Designated Person for Conservator With Exclusive Right to Designate Primary Residence of Child

153.704. Appointing Designated Person to Exercise Visitation for Conservator With Exclusive Right to Designate Primary Residence of Child in Certain Circumstances

153.705. Appointing Designated Person to Exercise Visitation for Conservator WithoutExclusive Right to Designate Primary Residence of Child

153.707. Expedited Hearing

153.708. Enforcement

153.709. Additional Periods of Possession or Access

Ch. 154. Child Support

Subch. A. Court–Ordered Child Support

154.001. Support of Child

154.002. Child Support Through High School Graduation

154.003. Manner of Payment

154.004. Place of Payment

154.005. Payments of Support Obligation by Trust

154.006. Termination of Duty of Support

154.007. Order to Withhold Child Support From Income

154.008. Provision for Medical Support

154.009. Retroactive Child Support

154.010. No Discrimination Based on Marital Status of Parents or Sex

154.011. Support Not Conditioned on Possession or Access

154.012. Support Paid in Excess of Support Order

154.013. Continuation of Duty to Pay Support After Death of Obligee

154.014. Payments in Excess of Court–Ordered Amount

154.015. Acceleration of Unpaid Child Support Obligation

154.016. Provision of Support in Event of Death of Parent

Subch. B. Computing Net Resources Available for Payment of Child Support

154.061. Computing Net Monthly Income

154.062. Net Resources

154.063. Party to Furnish Information

154.064. Medical Support for Child Presumptively Provided by Obligor

154.065. Self–Employment Income

154.066. Intentional Unemployment or Underemployment

154.067. Deemed Income

154.068. Wage and Salary Presumption

154.069. Net Resources of Spouse

154.070. Child Support Received by Obligor

Subch. C. Child Support Guidelines

154.121. Guidelines for the Support of a Child

154.122. Application of Guidelines Rebuttably Presumed in Best Interest of Child

154.123. Additional Factors for Court to Consider

154.124. Agreement Concerning Support

154.125. Application of Guidelines to Net Resources

154.126. Application of Guidelines to Additional Net Resources

154.127. Partial Termination of Support Obligation

154.128. Computing Support for Children in More Than One Household

154.129. Alternative Method of Computing Support for Children in More Than One Household

154.130. Findings in Child Support Order

154.131. Retroactive Child Support

154.132. Application of Guidelines to Children of Certain Disabled Obligors

154.133. Application of Guidelines to Children of Obligors Receiving Social Security

Subch. D. Medical Support for Child

154.181. Medical Support Order

154.182. Health Care Coverage for Child

154.1826. Health Care Program for Certain Children in Title IV–D Cases

154.1827. Administrative Adjustment of Medical Support Order

154.183. Medical Support Additional Support Duty of Obligor

154.184. Effect of Order

154.185. Parent to Furnish Information

154.186. Notice to Employer Concerning Medical Support

154.187. Duties of Employer

154.188. Failure to Provide or Pay For Required Health Insurance

154.189. Notice of Termination or Lapse of Insurance Coverage

154.190. Reenrolling Child for Insurance Coverage

154.191. Remedy Not Exclusive

154.192. Cancellation or Elimination of Insurance Coverage for Child

154.193. Medical Support Order Not Qualified

Subch. E. Local Child Support Registry

154.241. Local Registry

154.242. Payment or Transfer of Child Support Payments by Electronic Funds Transfer

154.243. Production of Child Support Payment Record

Subch. F. Support for a Minor or Adult Disabled Child

154.301. Definitions

154.302. Court–Ordered Support for Disabled Child

154.303. Standing to Sue

154.304. General Procedure

154.305. Specific Procedures

154.306. Amount of Support After Age 18

154.307. Modification and Enforcement

154.308. Remedy Not Exclusive

154.309. Possession of or Access to Adult Disabled Child

Ch. 155. Continuing, Exclusive Jurisdiction; Transfer

Subch. A. Continuing, Exclusive Jurisdiction

155.001. Acquiring Continuing, Exclusive Jurisdiction

155.002. Retaining Continuing, Exclusive Jurisdiction

155.003. Exercise of Continuing, Exclusive Jurisdiction

155.004. Loss of Continuing, Exclusive Jurisdiction

155.005. Jurisdiction Pending Transfer

Subch. B. Identification of Court of Continuing, Exclusive Jurisdiction

155.101. Request for Identification of Court of Continuing, Exclusive Jurisdiction

155.102. Dismissal

155.103. Reliance on Bureau of Vital Statistics Information

155.104. Voidable Order

Subch. C. Transfer of Continuing, Exclusive Jurisdiction

155.201. Mandatory Transfer

155.202. Discretionary Transfer

155.203. Determining County of Child's Residence

155.204. Procedure for Transfer

155.205. Transfer of Child Support Registry

155.206. Effect of Transfer

155.207. Transfer of Court Files

Subch. D. Transfer of Proceedings Within the State When Party or Child Resides Outside the State

155.301. Authority to Transfer

Ch. 156. Modification

Subch. A. General Provisions

156.001. Orders Subject to Modification

156.002. Who can File

156.003. Notice

156.004. Procedure

156.005. Frivolous Filing of Suit for Modification

156.006. Temporary Orders

Subch. B. Modification of Conservatorship, Possession and Access, or Determination of Residence

156.101. Grounds for Modification of Order Establishing Conservatorship or Possession and Access

156.102. Modification of Exclusive Right to Determine Primary Residence of Child Within One Year of Order

156.103. Increased Expenses Because of Change of Residence

156.104. Modification of Order on Conviction for Child Abuse; Penalty

156.1045. Modification of Order on Conviction for Family Violence

156.105. Modification of Order Based on Military Duty

Subch. C. [Repealed]

Subch. D. [Repealed]

Subch. E. Modification of Child Support

156.401. Grounds for Modification of Child Support

156.402. Effect of Guidelines

156.403. Voluntary Additional Support

156.404. Net Resources of New Spouse

156.405. Change in Lifestyle

156.406. Use of Guidelines for Children in More Than One Household

156.407. Assignment of Child Support Right

156.408. Modification of Support Order Rendered by Another State

156.409. Change in Physical Possession

Ch. 157. Enforcement

Subch. A. Pleadings and Defenses

157.001. Motion for Enforcement

157.002. Contents of Motion

157.003. Joinder of Claims and Remedies; No Election of Remedies

157.004. Time Limitations; Enforcement of Possession

157.005. Time Limitations; Enforcement of Child Support

157.006. Affirmative Defense to Motion for Enforcement

157.007. Affirmative Defense to Motion for Enforcement of Possession or Access

157.008. Affirmative Defense to Motion for Enforcement of Child Support

157.009. Credit for Payment of Disability Benefits

Subch. B. Procedure

157.061. Setting Hearing

157.062. Notice of Hearing

157.063. Appearance

157.064. Special Exception

157.065. Notice of Hearing, First Class Mail

157.066. Failure to Appear

Subch. C. Failure To Appear; Bond or Security

157.101. Bond or Security for Release of Respondent

157.102. Capias or Warrant; Duty of Law Enforcement Officials

157.103. Capias Fees

157.104. Conditional Release

157.105. Release Hearing

157.106. Cash Bond as Support

157.107. Appearance Bond or Security Other Than Cash Bond as Support

157.108. Cash Bond as Property of Respondent

157.109. Security for Compliance With Order

157.110. Forfeiture of Security for Failure to Comply With Order

157.111. Forfeiture Not Defense to Contempt

157.112. Joinder of Forfeiture and Contempt Proceedings

157.113. Application of Bond Pending Writ

157.114. Failure to Appear

157.115. Default Judgment

Subch. D. Hearing and Enforcement Order

157.161. Record

157.162. Proof

157.163. Appointment of Attorney

157.164. Payment of Appointed Attorney

157.165. Probation of Contempt Order

157.166. Contents of Enforcement Order

157.167. Respondent to Pay Attorney's Fees and Costs

157.168. Additional Periods of Possession or Access

Subch. E. Community Supervision

157.211. Conditions of Community Supervision

157.212. Term of Community Supervision

157.213. Community Supervision Fees

157.214. Motion to Revoke Community Supervision

157.215. Arrest for Alleged Violation of Community Supervision

157.216. Hearing on Motion to Revoke Community Supervision

157.217. Discharge From Community Supervision

Subch. F. Judgment and Interest

157.261. Unpaid Child Support as Judgment

157.263. Confirmation of Arrearages

157.264. Enforcement of Judgment

157.265. Accrual of Interest on Child Support

157.266. Date of Delinquency

157.268. Application of Child Support Payment

157.269. Retention of Jurisdiction

Subch. G. Child Support Lien

157.311. Definitions

157.312. General Provisions

157.313. Contents of Child Support Lien Notice

157.314. Filing Lien Notice or Abstract of Judgment; Notice to Obligor

157.3145. Service on Financial Institution

157.315. Recording and Indexing Lien

157.316. Perfection of Child Support Lien

157.317. Property to Which Lien Attaches

157.3171. Release of Lien on Homestead Property

157.318. Duration and Effect of Child Support Lien

157.319. Effect of Lien Notice

157.320. Priority of Lien as to Real Property

157.321. Discretionary Release of Lien

157.322. Mandatory Release of Lien

157.323. Foreclosure or Suit to Determine Arrearages

157.324. Liability for Failure to Comply With Order or Lien

157.325. Release of Excess Funds to Debtor or Obligor

157.326. Interest of Obligor's Spouse or Another Person Having Ownership Interest

157.327. Execution and Levy on Financial Assets of Obligor

157.3271. Levy on Financial Institution Account of Deceased Obligor

157.328. Notice of Levy Sent to Obligor

157.329. No Liability for Compliance With Notice of Levy

157.330. Failure to Comply With Notice of Levy

157.331. Additional Levy to Satisfy Arrearages

Subch. H. Habeas Corpus

157.371. Jurisdiction

157.372. Return of Child

157.373. Relator Relinquished Possession; Temporary Orders

157.374. Welfare of Child

157.375. Immunity to Civil Process

157.376. No Existing Order

Subch. I. Clarification of Orders

157.421. Clarifying Nonspecific Order

157.422. Procedure

157.423. Substantive Change Not Enforceable

157.424. Relation to Motion for Contempt

157.425. Order Not Retroactive

157.426. Time Allowed to Comply

Ch. 158. Withholding from Earnings for Child Support

Subch. A. Income Withholding Required; General Provisions

158.001. Income Withholding; General Rule

158.002. Suspension Of Income Withholding

158.003. Withholding for Arrearages in Addition to Current Support

158.004. Withholding for Arrearages When no Current Support is Due

158.005. Withholding to Satisfy Judgment for Arrearages

158.0051. Order for Withholding for Costs and Fees

158.006. Income Withholding in Title IV–D Suits

158.007. Extension of Repayment Schedule by Court or Title IV–D Agency; Unreasonable Hardship

158.008. Priority of Withholding

158.009. Maximum Amount Withheld From Earnings

158.010. Order or Writ Binding on Employer Doing Business in State

158.011. Voluntary Withholding by Obligor

Subch. B. Procedure

158.101. Applicability of Procedure

158.102. Time Limitations

158.103. Contents of Order or Writ of Withholding

158.104. Request for Issuance of Order or Judicial Writ of Withholding

158.105. Issuance and Delivery of Order or Judicial Writ of Withholding

158.106. Required Forms for Income Withholding

Subch. C. Rights and Duties of Employer

158.201. Order or Writ Binding on Employer

158.202. Effective Date of and Duration of Withholding

158.203. Remitting Withheld Payments

158.204. Employer May Deduct Fee From Earnings

158.205. Hearing Requested by Employer

158.206. Liability and Obligation of Employer; Workers' Compensation Claims

158.207. Employer Receiving More Than One Order or Writ

158.208. Employer may Combine Amounts Withheld

158.209. Employer's Penalty for Discriminatory Hiring or Discharge

158.210. Fine for Noncompliance

158.211. Notice of Termination of Employment and of New Employment

158.212. Improper Payment

158.213. Withholding From Workers' Compensation Benefits

158.214. Withholding From Severance Pay

158.215. Withholding From Lump–Sum Payments

Subch. D. Judicial Writ of Withholding Issued by Clerk

158.301. Notice of Application for Judicial Writ Of Withholding; Filing

158.302. Contents of Notice of Application for Judicial Writ Of Withholding

158.303. Interstate Request for Income Withholding

158.304. Additional Arrearages

158.306. Delivery of Notice of Application for Judicial Writ Of Withholding; Time of Delivery

158.307. Motion to Stay Issuance of Writ of Withholding

158.308. Effect of Filing Motion to Stay

158.309. Hearing on Motion to Stay

158.310. Special Exceptions

158.311. Arrearages

158.312. Request for Issuance and Delivery of Writ of Withholding

158.313. Issuance and Delivery of Writ of Withholding

158.314. Contents of Writ of Withholding

158.315. Extension of Repayment Schedule by Party; Unreasonable Hardship

158.316. Payment of Amount to be Withheld

158.317. Failure to Receive Notice of Application for Judicial Writ Of Withholding

158.319. Issuance and Delivery of Judicial Writ of Withholding to Subsequent Employer

Subch. E. Modification, Reduction, or Termination of Withholding

158.401. Modifications to or Termination of Withholding by Title IV–D Agency

158.402. Agreement by Parties Regarding Amount or Duration of Withholding

158.403. Modifications to or Termination of Withholding in Voluntary Withholding Cases

158.404. Delivery of Order of Reduction or Termination of Withholding

158.405. Liability of Employers

Subch. F. Administrative Writ of Withholding

158.501. Issuance of Administrative Writ of Withholding

158.502. When Administrative Writ of Withholding May be Issued

158.503. Delivery of Administrative Writ to Employer; Filing With Court or Maintaining Record

158.504. Contents of Administrative Writ of Withholding

158.505. Notice to Obligor

158.506. Contest by Obligor to Administrative Writ of Withholding

158.507. Administrative Writ Terminating Withholding

Ch. 159. Uniform Interstate Family Support Act

Subch. A. Conflicts Between Provisions

159.001. Conflicts Between Provisions

Subch. B. General Provisions

159.101. Short Title

159.102. Definitions

159.103. State Tribunal and Support Enforcement Agency

159.104. Remedies Cumulative

159.105. Application of Chapter to Resident of Foreign Country and Foreign Support Proceeding

Subch. C. Jurisdiction

159.201. Bases for Jurisdiction over Nonresident

159.202. Duration of Personal Jurisdiction

159.203. Initiating and Responding Tribunal of State

159.204. Simultaneous Proceedings

159.205. Continuing, Exclusive Jurisdiction to Modify Child Support Order

159.206. Continuing Jurisdiction to Enforce Child Support Order

159.207. Determination of Controlling Child Support Order

159.208. Child Support Orders for Two or More Obligees

159.209. Credit for Payments

159.210. Applicability to Nonresident Subject to Personal Jurisdiction

159.211. Continuing, Exclusive Jurisdiction to Modify Spousal Support Order

Subch. D. Civil Provisions of General Application

159.301. Proceedings Under Chapter

159.302. Proceeding by Minor Parent

159.303. Application of Law of State

159.304. Duties of Initiating Tribunal

159.305. Duties and Powers of Responding Tribunal

159.306. Inappropriate Tribunal

159.307. Duties of Support Enforcement Agency

159.308. Duty of Certain State Officials

159.309. Private Counsel

159.310. Duties of State Information Agency

159.311. Pleadings and Accompanying Documents

159.312. Nondisclosure of Information in Exceptional Circumstances

159.313. Costs and Fees

159.314. Limited Immunity of Petitioner

159.315. Nonparentage as Defense

159.316. Special Rules of Evidence and Procedure

159.317. Communications Between Tribunals

159.318. Assistance With Discovery

159.319. Receipt and Disbursement of Payments

Subch. E. Establishment of Support Order

159.401. Establishment of Support Order

159.402. Proceeding to Determine Parentage

Subch. F. Enforcement of Order of Another State Without Registration

159.501. Employer's Receipt of Income–Withholding Order of Another State

159.502. Employer's Compliance With Income–Withholding Order of Another State

159.503. Employer's Compliance with Two or More Income–Withholding Orders

159.504. Immunity From Civil Liability

159.505. Penalties for Noncompliance

159.506. Contest by Obligor

159.507. Administrative Enforcement of Orders

Subch. G. Registration, Enforcement, and Modification of Support Order

Part 1. Registration for Enforcement of Support Order

159.601. Registration of Order for Enforcement

159.602. Procedure to Register Order for Enforcement

159.603. Effect of Registration for Enforcement

159.604. Choice of Law

Part 2. Contest of Validity or Enforcement

159.605. Notice of Registration of Order

159.606. Procedure to Contest Validity or Enforcement of Registered Order

159.607. Contest of Registration or Enforcement

159.608. Confirmed Order

Part 3. Registration and Modification of Child Support Order of Another State

159.609. Procedure to Register Child Support Order of Another State for Modification

159.610. Effect of Registration for Modification

159.611. Modification of Child Support Order of Another State

159.612. Recognition of Order Modified in Another State

159.613. Jurisdiction to Modify Child Support Order of Another State When Individual Parties Reside in This State

159.614. Notice to Issuing Tribunal of Modification

Part 4. Registration and Modification of Foreign Child Support Order

159.615. Jurisdiction to Modify Child Support Order of Foreign Country

159.616. Procedure to Register Child Support Order of Foreign Country for Modification

Subch. H. Support Proceeding Under Convention

159.701. Definitions

159.702. Applicability

159.703. Relationship of Office of Attorney General to United States Central Authority

159.704. Initiation by Office of Attorney General of Support Proceeding Under Convention

159.705. Direct Request

159.706. Registration of Convention Support Order

159.707. Contest of Registered Convention Support Order

159.708. Recognition and Enforcement of Registered Convention Support Order

159.709. Partial Enforcement

159.710. Foreign Support Agreement

159.711. Modification of Convention Child Support Order

159.712. Personal Information; Limit on Use

159.713. Record in Original Language; English Translation

Subch. I. Interstate Rendition

159.801. Grounds for Rendition

159.802. Conditions of Rendition

Subch. J. Miscellaneous Provisions

159.901. Uniformity of Application and Construction

Ch. 160. Uniform Parentage Act

Subch. A. Application and Construction

160.001. Application and Construction

160.002. Conflicts Between Provisions

Subch. B. General Provisions

160.101. Short Title

160.102. Definitions

160.103. Scope of Chapter; Choice of Law

160.104. Authorized Courts

160.105. Protection of Participants

160.106. Determination of Maternity

Subch. C. Parent–Child Relationship

160.201. Establishment of Parent–Child Relationship

160.202. No Discrimination Based on Marital Status

160.203. Consequences of Establishment of Parentage

160.204. Presumption of Paternity

Subch. D. Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity

160.301. Acknowledgment of Paternity

160.302. Execution of Acknowledgment of Paternity

160.303. Denial of Paternity

160.304. Rules for Acknowledgment and Denial of Paternity

160.305. Effect of Acknowledgment or Denial of Paternity

160.306. Filing Fee Not Required

160.307. Procedures for Rescission

160.308. Challenge After Expiration of Period for Rescission

160.309. Procedure for Challenge

160.310. Ratification Barred

160.311. Full Faith and Credit

160.312. Forms

160.313. Release of Information

160.314. Adoption of Rules

160.315. Memorandum of Understanding

Subch. E. Registry of Paternity

160.401. Establishment of Registry

160.402. Registration for Notification

160.403. Notice of Proceeding

160.404. Termination of Parental Rights: Failure to Register

160.411. Required Form

160.412. Furnishing of Information; Confidentiality

160.413. Offense: Unauthorized Release of Information

160.414. Rescission of Registration

160.415. Untimely Registration

160.416. Fees for Registry

160.421. Search of Appropriate Registry

160.422. Certificate of Search of Registry

160.423. Admissibility of Certificate

Subch. F. Genetic Testing

160.501. Application of Subchapter

160.502. Order for Testing

160.503. Requirements for Genetic Testing

160.504. Report of Genetic Testing

160.505. Genetic Testing Results; Rebuttal

160.506. Costs of Genetic Testing

160.507. Additional Genetic Testing

160.508. Genetic Testing When All Individuals Not Available

160.509. Deceased Individual

160.510. Identical Brothers

160.511. Offense: Unauthorized Release of Specimen

160.512. Offense: Falsification of Specimen

Subch. G. Proceeding to Adjudicate Parentage

160.601. Proceeding Authorized; Rules of Procedure

160.602. Standing to Maintain Proceeding

160.603. Necessary Parties to Proceeding

160.604. Personal Jurisdiction

160.605. Venue

160.606. No Time Limitation: Child Having no Presumed, Acknowledged, or Adjudicated Father

160.607. Time Limitation: Child Having Presumed Father

160.608. Authority to Deny Motion for Genetic Testing

160.609. Time Limitation: Child Having Acknowledged or Adjudicated Father

160.610. Joinder of Proceedings

160.611. Proceedings Before Birth

160.612. Child as Party; Representation

160.621. Admissibility of Results of Genetic Testing; Expenses

160.622. Consequences of Declining Genetic Testing

160.623. Admission of Paternity Authorized

160.624. Temporary Order

160.631. Rules for Adjudication of Paternity

160.632. Jury Prohibited

160.633. Hearings; Inspection of Records

160.634. Order on Default

160.635. Dismissal for Want of Prosecution

160.636. Order Adjudicating Parentage; Costs

160.637. Binding Effect of Determination of Parentage

Subch. H. Child of Assisted Reproduction

160.701. Scope of Subchapter

160.702. Parental Status of Donor

160.703. Husband's Paternity of Child of Assisted Reproduction

160.7031. Unmarried Man's Paternity of Child of Assisted Reproduction

160.704. Consent to Assisted Reproduction

160.705. Limitation on Husband's Dispute of Paternity

160.706. Effect of Dissolution of Marriage

160.707. Parental Status of Deceased Spouse

Subch. I. Gestational Agreements

160.751. Definition

160.752. Scope of Subchapter; Choice of Law

160.753. Establishment of Parent–Child Relationship

160.754. Gestational Agreement Authorized

160.755. Petition to Validate Gestational Agreement

160.756. Hearing to Validate Gestational Agreement

160.757. Inspection of Records

160.758. Continuing, Exclusive Jurisdiction

160.759. Termination of Gestational Agreement

160.760. Parentage Under Validated Gestational Agreement

160.761. Effect of Gestational Mother's Marriage After Validation of Agreement

160.762. Effect of Gestational Agreement That is Not Validated

160.763. Health Care Facility Reporting Requirement

Ch. 161. Termination of the Parent–Child Relationship

Subch. A. Grounds

161.001. Involuntary Termination of Parent–Child Relationship

161.002. Termination of the Rights of an Alleged Biological Father

161.003. Involuntary Termination: Inability to Care for Child

161.004. Termination of Parental Rights After Denial of Prior Petition to Terminate

161.005. Termination When Parent is Petitioner

161.006. Termination After Abortion

161.007. Termination When Pregnancy Results From Criminal Act

Subch. B. Procedures

161.101. Petition Allegations

161.102. Filing Suit for Termination Before Birth

161.103. Affidavit of Voluntary Relinquishment of Parental Rights

161.1031. Medical History Report

161.1035. Revocability of Certain Affidavits

161.104. Rights of Designated Managing Conservator Pending Court Appointment

161.106. Affidavit of Waiver of Interest in Child

161.107. Missing Parent or Relative

161.108. Release of Child From Hospital or Birthing Center

161.109. Requirement of Paternity Registry Certificate

Subch. C. Hearing and Order

161.2011. Continuance; Access to Child

161.202. Preferential Setting

161.2021. Medical History Report

161.203. Dismissal of Petition

161.204. Termination Based on Affidavit of Waiver of Interest

161.205. Order Denying Termination

161.206. Order Terminating Parental Rights

161.2061. Terms Regarding Limited Post–termination Contact

161.2062. Provision for Limited Contact Between Biological Parent and Child

161.207. Appointment of Managing Conservator on Termination

161.208. Appointment of Department of Family and Protective Services as Managing Conservator

161.209. Copy of Order of Termination

161.210. Sealing of File

161.211. Direct or Collateral Attack on Termination Order

Ch. 162. Adoption

Subch. A. Adoption of a Child

162.001. Who May Adopt and be Adopted

162.002. Prerequisites to Petition

162.0025. Adoption Sought by Military Service Member

162.003. Pre–Adoptive and Post–Placement Social Studies

162.0045. Preferential Setting

162.005. Preparation of Health, Social, Educational, and Genetic History Report

162.006. Right to Examine Records

162.0062. Access to Information

162.0065. Editing Adoption Records in Department Placement

162.007. Contents of Health, Social, Educational, and Genetic History Report

162.008. Filing of Health, Social, Educational, and Genetic History Report

162.0085. Criminal History Report Required

162.009. Residence With Petitioner

162.010. Consent Required

162.011. Revocation of Consent

162.012. Direct or Collateral Attack

162.013. Abatement or Dismissal

162.014. Attendance at Hearing Required

162.015. Race or Ethnicity

162.016. Adoption Order

162.017. Effect of Adoption

162.019. Copy of Order

162.020. Withdrawal or Denial of Petition

162.021. Sealing File

162.022. Confidentiality Maintained by Clerk

162.023. Adoption Order From Foreign Country

162.025. Placement by Unauthorized Person; Offense

Subch. B. Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children

162.101. Definitions

162.102. Adoption of Compact; Text

162.103. Financial Responsibility for Child

162.104. Approval of Placement

162.105. Placement in Another State

162.106. Compact Authority

162.107. Offenses; Penalties

Subch. C. Interstate Compact on Adoption and Medical Assistance

162.201. Adoption of Compact; Text

162.202. Authority of Department of Family and Protective Services

162.203. Compact Administration

162.204. Supplementary Agreements

162.205. Payments by State

162.206. Penalties

Subch. D. Adoption Services by the Department of Family and Protective Services

162.301. Definitions

162.304. Financial and Medical Assistance

162.3041. Continuation of Assistance After Child's 18th Birthday

162.306. Postadoption Services

162.3085. Adoptive Placement in Compliance with Federal Law Required

Subch. E. Voluntary Adoption Registries

162.401. Purpose

162.402. Definitions

162.403. Establishment of Voluntary Adoption Registries

162.404. Requirement to Send Information to Central Registry

162.405. Determination of Appropriate Registry

162.406. Registration Eligibility

162.407. Registration

162.408. Proof of Identity

162.409. Application

162.411. Fees

162.412. Supplemental Information

162.413. Counseling

162.414. Matching Procedures

162.416. Disclosure of Identifying Information

162.419. Registry Records Confidential

162.420. Rulemaking

162.421. Prohibited Acts; Criminal Penalties

162.422. Immunity From Liability

Subch. F. Adoption of an Adult

162.501. Adoption of Adult

162.502. Jurisdiction

162.503. Requirements of Petition

162.504. Consent

162.505. Attendance Required

162.506. Adoption Order

162.507. Effect of Adoption

Subch. G. Miscellaneous Provisions

162.601. Incentives for Licensed Child–Placing Agencies

162.602. Documentation to Accompany Petition for Adoption or Annulment or Revocation of Adoption

Title 5: The Parent–Child Relationship and the Suit Affecting the Parent–Child Relationship

Subtitle C. Judicial Resources and Services

Ch. 201. Associate Judge

Subch. A. Associate Judge

201.001. Appointment

201.002. Qualifications

201.003. Compensation

201.004. Termination of Associate Judge

201.005. Cases That May Be Referred

201.006. Order of Referral

201.007. Powers of Associate Judge

201.008. Attendance of Bailiff

201.009. Court Reporter; Record

201.010. Witness

201.011. Report

201.012. Notice of Right to De Novo Hearing Before Referring Court

201.013. Order of Court

201.014. Judicial Action on Associate Judge's Proposed Order or Judgment

201.015. De Novo Hearing Before Referring Court

201.016. Appellate Review

201.017. Immunity

201.018. Visiting Associate Judge

Subch. B. Associate Judge for Title IV–D Cases

201.101. Authority of Presiding Judge

201.102. Application of Law Governing Associate Judges

201.1021. Qualifications

201.103. Designation of Host County

201.104. Powers of Associate Judge

201.1041. Judicial Action on Associate Judge's Proposed Order or Judgment

201.1042. De Novo Hearing Before Referring Court

201.105. Compensation of Associate Judge

201.106. Child Support Court Monitor and Other Personnel

201.1065. Duties of Child Support Court Monitor

201.1066. Supervision of Associate Judges

201.107. State and Federal Funds

201.110. Time for Disposition of Title IV–D Cases

201.111. Time to Act on Associate Judge's Proposed Order or Judgment That Includes Recommended Finding of Contempt

201.112. Limitation on Law Practice by Certain Associate Judges

201.113. Visiting Associate Judge

Subch. C. Associate Judge for Child Protection Cases

201.201. Authority of Presiding Judge

201.202. Application of Law Governing Associate Judges

201.2021. Qualifications

201.203. Designation of Host County

201.204. General Powers of Associate Judge

201.2041. Judicial Action on Associate Judge's Proposed Order or Judgment

201.2042. De Novo Hearing Before Referring Court

201.205. Compensation of Associate Judge

201.206. Personnel

201.2061. Supervision of Associate Judges

201.207. State and Federal Funds; Personnel

201.208. Assignment of Judges and Appointment of Visiting Associate Judges

201.209. Limitation on Law Practice by Associate Judge

Subch. D. Associate Judge for Juvenile Matters

201.301. Applicability

201.302. Appointment

201.303. Qualifications

201.304. Compensation

201.305. Termination

201.306. Cases That May Be Referred

201.307. Methods of Referral

201.308. Powers of Associate Judge

201.309. Referees

201.310. Attendance of Bailiff

201.311. Witness

201.312. Court Reporter; Record

201.313. Report

201.314. Notice of Right to De Novo Hearing; Waiver

201.315. Order of Court

201.316. Judicial Action on Associate Judge's Proposed Order or Judgment

201.317. De Novo Hearing

201.318. Appellate Review

201.319. Judicial Immunity

201.320. Visiting Associate Judge

Ch. 202. Friend of the Court

202.001. Appointment

202.002. Authority and Duties

202.003. Duty of Local Offices and Officials to Report

202.004. Access to Information

202.005. Compensation

Ch. 203. Domestic Relations Offices

203.001. Definitions

203.002. Establishment of Domestic Relations Office

203.003. Administration

203.004. Powers and Duties

203.005. Fees and Charges

203.006. Fund

203.007. Access to Records; Offense

Ch. 204. Child Support Collection by Private Entity

204.001. Applicability

204.002. Authority to Contract

204.003. Terms and Conditions of Contract

204.004. Funding

204.005. Cumulative Effect of Chapter

Title 5: The Parent–Child Relationship and the Suit Affecting the Parent–Child Relationship

Subtitle D. Administrative Services

Ch. 231. Title IV–D Services

Subch. A. Administration of Title IV–D Program

231.001. Designation of Title IV–D Agency

231.0011. Development of Statewide Integrated System for Child Support and Medical Support Enforcement

231.0012. Child Support Enforcement Management

231.0013. Dedication of Funds

231.002. Powers and Duties

231.003. Forms and Procedures

231.005. Biennial Report Required

231.006. Ineligibility to Receive State Grants or Loans or Receive Payment on State Contracts

231.007. Debts to State

231.008. Disposition of Funds

231.009. Payment of Penalties

231.010. Cooperation With Department of Protective and Regulatory Services

231.012. Child Support Work Group

231.013. Information Resources Steering Committee

231.014. Personnel

231.015. Insurance Reporting Program

Subch. B. Services Provided by Title IV–D Program

231.101. Title IV–D Child Support Services

231.102. Eligibility for Child Support Services

231.103. Application and Service Fees

231.104. Assignment of Right to Support

231.105. Notice of Change of Payee

231.106. Notice of Termination of Assignment

231.107. Certificate of Assignment or of Termination of Assignment

231.108. Confidentiality of Records and Privileged Communications

231.109. Attorneys Representing State

231.110. Authorization of Service

231.111. Disqualification of Agency

231.112. Information on Paternity Establishment

231.113. Enforcement of Support Obligations in Public Assistance Cases

231.114. Reports of Child Support Payments to Consumer Reporting Agencies

231.115. Noncooperation by Recipient of Public Assistance

231.116. Information on Internet

231.1165. Information on Service of Citation

231.117. Unemployed and Underemployed Obligors

231.118. Service of Citation

231.119. Ombudsman Program

231.120. Toll–free Telephone Number for Employers

231.121. Availability of Brochures

231.122. Monitoring Child Support Cases; Enforcement

231.123. Cooperation With Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Programs

231.124. Child Support Arrearages Payment Incentive Program

Subch. C. Payment of Fees and Costs

231.201. Definitions

231.202. Authorized Costs and Fees in Title IV–D Cases

231.2025. Contingency Fees

231.203. State Exemption From Bond Not Affected

231.204. Prohibited Fees in Title IV–D Cases

231.205. Limitations on Liability of Attorney General for Authorized Fees and Costs

231.206. Restriction on Fees for Child Support or Registry Services in Title IV–D Cases

231.207. Method of Billing for Allowable Fees

231.208. Agreements for Reimbursement in Lieu of Fees

231.209. Payment for Services Not Affected by This Subchapter

231.210. Authority to Pay Litigation Expenses

231.211. Award of Cost Against Nonprevailing Party in Title IV–D Case

Subch. D. Location of Parents and Resources

231.301. Title IV–D Parent Locator Services

231.302. Information to Assist in Location of Persons or Property

231.303. Title IV–D Administrative Subpoena

231.305. Memorandum of Understanding on Child Support for Children Receiving Public Assistance

231.306. Maximizing Medical Support Establishment and Collection by the Title IV–D Agency

231.307. Financial Institution Data Matches

231.308. Public Identification of Certain Obligors

231.309. Rewards for Information

Ch. 232. Suspension of License

232.001. Definitions

232.002. Licensing Authorities Subject to Chapter

232.0021. Application of Chapter to Texas Lottery Commission

232.0022. Suspension or Nonrenewal of Motor Vehicle Registration

232.003. Suspension of License

232.004. Petition for Suspension of License

232.005. Contents of Petition

232.006. Notice

232.007. Hearing on Petition to Suspend License

232.008. Order Suspending License for Failure to Pay Child Support

232.009. Default Order

232.010. Review of Final Administrative Order

232.011. Action by Licensing Authority

232.012. Motion to Revoke Stay

232.013. Vacating or Staying Order Suspending License

232.0135. Denial of License Issuance or Renewal

232.014. Fee by Licensing Authority

232.015. Cooperation Between Licensing Authorities and Title IV–D Agency

232.016. Rules, Forms, and Procedures

Ch. 233. Child Support Review Process To Establish or Enforce Support Obligations

233.001. Purpose

233.002. Agreements Encouraged

233.003. Bilingual Forms Required

233.004. Interpreter Required

233.005. Initiating Administrative Actions

233.006. Contents of Notice of Child Support Review

233.007. Service of Notice

233.008. Administrative Subpoena in Child Support Review

233.009. Notice of Proposed Child Support Review Order; Negotiation Conference

233.0095. Notice of Proposed Child Support Review Order in Cases of Acknowledged Paternity

233.010. Notice of Negotiation Conference; Failure to Attend Conference

233.011. Rescheduling Negotiation Conference; Notice Required

233.012. Information Required to be Provided at Negotiation Conference

233.013. Determining Support Amount; Modification

233.014. Record of Proceedings

233.015. Issuance of Child Support Review Order or Finding That No Order Should be Issued; Effect

233.016. Vacating Child Support Review Order

233.017. Contents of Child Support Review Order

233.018. Additional Contents of Agreed Child Support Review Order

233.019. Filing of Agreed Review Order

233.020. Contents of Petition for Confirmation of Nonagreed Order

233.021. Duties of Clerk of Court

233.022. Form to Request a Court Hearing on Nonagreed Order

233.023. Time to Request a Court Hearing

233.024. Confirmation of Agreed Order

233.025. Effect of Request for Hearing on Nonagreed Order; Pleading

233.026. Time for Court Hearing

233.027. Nonagreed Order After Hearing

233.0271. Confirmation of Nonagreed Order Without Hearing

233.028. Special Child Support Review Procedures Relating to Establishment of Parentage

233.029. Administrative Procedure Law Not Applicable

Ch. 234. State Case Registry, Disbursement Unit, and Directory of New Hires

Subch. A. Unified State Case Registry and Disbursement Unit

234.001. Establishment and Operation of State Case Registry and State Disbursement Unit

234.002. Integrated System for Child Support and Medical Support Enforcement

234.004. Contracts and Cooperative Agreements

234.006. Rulemaking

234.007. Notice of Place of Payment

234.008. Deposit, Distribution, and Issuance of Payments

234.009. Official Child Support Payment Record

234.0091. Administrative Review of Child Support Payment Record

234.010. Direct Deposit and Electronic Benefits Transfer of Child Support Payments

234.012. Release of Information From State Case Registry

Subch. B. State Directory of New Hires

234.101. Definitions

234.102. Operation of New Hire Directory

234.103. Contracts and Cooperative Agreements

234.104. Procedures

234.105. Civil Penalty

Ch. 236. Competitive Bidding for Child Support Collection Services

236.001. Definition

236.002. Powers and Duties of Council

236.003. Child Support Collection Agreement

Subtitle A. General Provisions

Ch. 101. Definitions

Sec. 101.001. Applicability of Definitions.

(a) Definitions in this subchapter apply to this title.

(b) If, in another part of this title, a term defined by this chapter has a meaning different from the meaning provided by this chapter, the meaning of that other provision prevails.

[Contents]

Sec. 101.0010. Acknowledged Father. "Acknowledged father" means a man who has established a father–child relationship under Chapter 160.

[Contents]

Sec. 101.0011. Administrative Writ of Withholding. "Administrative writ of withholding" means the document issued by the Title IV–D agency or domestic relations office and delivered to an employer directing that earnings be withheld for payment of child support as provided by Chapter 158.

[Contents]

Sec. 101.0015. Alleged Father.

(a) "Alleged father" means a man who alleges himself to be, or is alleged to be, the genetic father or a possible genetic father of a child, but whose paternity has not been determined.

(b) The term does not include:

(1) a presumed father;

(2) a man whose parental rights have been terminated or declared to not exist; or

(3) a male donor.

[Contents]

Sec. 101.0017. Amicus Attorney. "Amicus attorney" has the meaning assigned by Section 107.001.

[Contents]

Sec. 101.0018. Attorney Ad Litem. "Attorney ad litem" has the meaning assigned by Section 107.001.

[Contents]

Sec. 101.003. Child or Minor; Adult.

(a) "Child" or "minor" means a person under 18 years of age who is not and has not been married or who has not had the disabilities of minority removed for general purposes.

(b) In the context of child support, "child" includes a person over 18 years of age for whom a person may be obligated to pay child support.

(c) "Adult" means a person who is not a child.

[Contents]

Sec. 101.004. Child Support Agency. "Child support agency" means:

(1) the Title IV–D agency;

(2) a county or district attorney or any other county officer or county agency that executes a cooperative agreement with the Title IV–D agency to provide child support services under Part D of Title IV of the federal Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. Section 651 et seq.) and Chapter 231; or

(3) a domestic relations office.

[Contents]

Sec. 101.005. Child Support Review Officer. "Child support review officer" means an individual designated and trained by a child support agency to conduct reviews under this title.

[Contents]

Sec. 101.006. Child Support Services. "Child support services" means administrative or court actions to:

(1) establish paternity;

(2) establish, modify, or enforce child support or medical support obligations;

(3) locate absent parents; or

(4) cooperate with other states in these actions and any other action authorized or required under Part D of Title IV of the federal Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. Section 651 et seq.) or Chapter 231.

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Sec. 101.007. Clear and Convincing Evidence. "Clear and convincing evidence" means the measure or degree of proof that will produce in the mind of the trier of fact a firm belief or conviction as to the truth of the allegations sought to be established.

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Sec. 101.008. Court. "Court" means the district court, juvenile court having the same jurisdiction as a district court, or other court expressly given jurisdiction of a suit affecting the parent–child relationship.

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Sec. 101.009. Danger to Physical Health or Safety of Child. "Danger to the physical health or safety of a child" includes exposure of the child to loss or injury that jeopardizes the physical health or safety of the child without regard to whether there has been an actual prior injury to the child.

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Sec. 101.011. Earnings. "Earnings" means a payment to or due an individual, regardless of source and how denominated. The term includes a periodic or lump–sum payment for:

(1) wages, salary, compensation received as an independent contractor, overtime pay, severance pay, commission, bonus, and interest income;

(2) payments made under a pension, an annuity, workers' compensation, and a disability or retirement program; and

(3) unemployment benefits.

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Sec. 101.012. Employer. "Employer" means a person, corporation, partnership, workers' compensation insurance carrier, governmental entity, the United States, or any other entity that pays or owes earnings to an individual. The term includes, for the purposes of enrolling dependents in a group health or dental insurance plan, a union, trade association, or other similar organization.

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Sec. 101.0125. Family Violence. "Family violence" has the meaning assigned by Section 71.004.

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Sec. 101.013. Filed. "Filed" means officially filed with the clerk of the court.

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Sec. 101.0133. Foster Care. "Foster care" means the placement of a child who is in the conservatorship of the Department of Family and Protective Services and in care outside the child's home in an agency foster group home, agency foster home, foster group home, foster home, or another facility licensed or certified under Chapter 42, Human Resources Code, in which care is provided for 24 hours a day.

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Sec. 101.0134. Foster Child. "Foster child" means a child who is in the managing conservatorship of the Department of Family and Protective Services.

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Sec. 101.014. Governmental Entity. "Governmental entity" means the state, a political subdivision of the state, or an agency of the state.

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Sec. 101.0145. Guardian Ad Litem. "Guardian ad litem" has the meaning assigned by Section 107.001.

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Sec. 101.015. Health Insurance. "Health insurance" means insurance coverage that provides basic health care services, including usual physician services, office visits, hospitalization, and laboratory, X–ray, and emergency services, that may be provided through a health maintenance organization or other private or public organization, other than medical assistance under Chapter 32, Human Resources Code.

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Sec. 101.016. Joint Managing Conservatorship. "Joint managing conservatorship" means the sharing of the rights and duties of a parent by two parties, ordinarily the parents, even if the exclusive right to make certain decisions may be awarded to one party.

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Sec. 101.0161. Judicial Writ of Withholding. "Judicial writ of withholding" means the document issued by the clerk of a court and delivered to an employer directing that earnings be withheld for payment of child support as provided by Chapter 158.

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Sec. 101.017. Licensed Child Placing Agency. "Licensed child placing agency" means a person, including an organization or corporation, licensed or certified under Chapter 42, Human Resources Code, by the Department of Family and Protective Services to place a child in a child–care facility, agency foster home, agency foster group home, or adoptive home.

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Sec. 101.018. Local Registry. "Local registry" means a county agency or public entity operated under the authority of a district clerk, county government, juvenile board, juvenile probation office, domestic relations office, or other county agency or public entity that serves a county or a court that has jurisdiction under this title and that:

(1) receives child support payments;

(2) maintains records of child support payments;

(3) distributes child support payments as required by law; and

(4) maintains custody of official child support payment records.

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Sec. 101.019. Managing Conservatorship. "Managing conservatorship" means the relationship between a child and a managing conservator appointed by court order.

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Sec. 101.020. Medical Support. "Medical support" means periodic payments or a lump–sum payment made under an order to cover medical expenses, including health insurance coverage, incurred for the benefit of a child.

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Sec. 101.0201. Notice of Application for Judicial Writ of Withholding. "Notice of application for judicial writ of withholding" means the document delivered to an obligor and filed with the court as required by Chapter 158 for the nonjudicial determination of arrears and initiation of withholding.

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Sec. 101.021. Obligee. "Obligee" means a person or entity entitled to receive payments of child support, including an agency of this state or of another jurisdiction to which a person has assigned the person's right to support.

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Sec. 101.022. Obligor. "Obligor" means a person required to make payments under the terms of a support order for a child.

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Sec. 101.023. Order. "Order" means a final order unless identified as a temporary order or the context clearly requires a different meaning. The term includes a decree and a judgment.

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Sec. 101.024. Parent.

(a) "Parent" means the mother, a man presumed to be the father, a man legally determined to be the father, a man who has been adjudicated to be the father by a court of competent jurisdiction, a man who has acknowledged his paternity under applicable law, or an adoptive mother or father. Except as provided by Subsection (b), the term does not include a parent as to whom the parent–child relationship has been terminated.

(b) For purposes of establishing, determining the terms of, modifying, or enforcing an order, a reference in this title to a parent includes a person ordered to pay child support under Section 154.001(a–1) or to provide medical support for a child.

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Sec. 101.025. Parent–Child Relationship. "Parent–child relationship" means the legal relationship between a child and the child's parents as provided by Chapter 160. The term includes the mother and child relationship and the father and child relationship.

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Sec. 101.0255. Record. "Record" means information that is:

(1) inscribed on a tangible medium or stored in an electronic or other medium; and

(2) retrievable in a perceivable form.

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Sec. 101.026. Render. "Render" means the pronouncement by a judge of the court's ruling on a matter. The pronouncement may be made orally in the presence of the court reporter or in writing, including on the court's docket sheet or by a separate written instrument.

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Sec. 101.027. Parent Locator Service. "Parent locator service" means the service established under 42 U.S.C. Section 653.

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Sec. 101.028. School. "School" means an elementary or secondary school in which a child is enrolled or, if the child is not enrolled in an elementary or secondary school, the public school district in which the child primarily resides. For purposes of this section, a reference to elementary school includes prekindergarten.

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Sec. 101.029. Standard Possession Order. "Standard possession order" means an order that provides a parent with rights of possession of a child in accordance with the terms and conditions of Subchapter F, Chapter 153.

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Sec. 101.030. State. "State" means a state of the United States, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, or a territory or insular possession subject to the jurisdiction of the United States. The term includes an Indian tribe and a foreign jurisdiction that has established procedures for rendition and enforcement of an order that are substantially similar to the procedures of this title.

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Sec. 101.0301. State Case Registry. "State case registry" means the registry established and operated by the Title IV–D agency under 42 U.S.C. Section 654a that has responsibility for maintaining records with respect to child support orders in all Title IV–D cases and in all other cases in which a support order is rendered or modified under this title on or after October 1, 1998.

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Sec. 101.0302. State Disbursement Unit. "State disbursement unit" means the unit established and operated by the Title IV–D agency under 42 U.S.C. Section 654b that has responsibility for receiving, distributing, maintaining, and furnishing child support payments and records on or after October 1, 1999.

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Sec. 101.031. Suit. "Suit" means a legal action under this title.

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Sec. 101.032. Suit Affecting the Parent–Child Relationship.

(a) "Suit affecting the parent–child relationship" means a suit filed as provided by this title in which the appointment of a managing conservator or a possessory conservator, access to or support of a child, or establishment or termination of the parent–child relationship is requested.

(b) The following are not suits affecting the parent–child relationship:

(1) a habeas corpus proceeding under Chapter 157;

(2) a proceeding filed under Chapter 159 to determine parentage or to establish, enforce, or modify child support, whether this state is acting as the initiating or responding state; and

(3) a proceeding under Title 2.

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Sec. 101.033. Title IV–D Agency. "Title IV–D agency" means the state agency designated under Chapter 231 to provide services under Part D of Title IV of the federal Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. Section 651 et seq.).

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Sec. 101.034. Title IV–D Case. "Title IV–D case" means an action in which services are provided by the Title IV–D agency under Part D, Title IV, of the federal Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. Section 651 et seq.), relating to the location of an absent parent, determination of parentage, or establishment, modification, or enforcement of a child support or medical support obligation.

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Sec. 101.035. Tribunal. "Tribunal" means a court, administrative agency, or quasi–judicial entity of a state authorized to establish, enforce, or modify support orders or to determine parentage.

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Sec. 101.036. Vital Statistics Unit. "Vital statistics unit" means the vital statistics unit of the Department of State Health Services.

Ch. 102. Filing Suit

Sec. 102.001. Suit Authorized; Scope of Suit.

(a) A suit may be filed as provided in this title.

(b) One or more matters covered by this title may be determined in the suit. The court, on its own motion, may require the parties to replead in order that any issue affecting the parent–child relationship may be determined in the suit.

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Sec. 102.002. Commencement of Suit. An original suit begins by the filing of a petition as provided by this chapter.

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Sec. 102.003. General Standing to File Suit.

(a) An original suit may be filed at any time by:

(1) a parent of the child;

(2) the child through a representative authorized by the court;

(3) a custodian or person having the right of visitation with or access to the child appointed by an order of a court of another state or country;

(4) a guardian of the person or of the estate of the child;

(5) a governmental entity;

(6) the Department of Family and Protective Services;

(7) a licensed child placing agency;

(8) a man alleging himself to be the father of a child filing in accordance with Chapter 160, subject to the limitations of that chapter, but not otherwise;

(9) a person, other than a foster parent, who has had actual care, control, and possession of the child for at least six months ending not more than 90 days preceding the date of the filing of the petition;

(10) a person designated as the managing conservator in a revoked or unrevoked affidavit of relinquishment under Chapter 161 or to whom consent to adoption has been given in writing under Chapter 162;

(11) a person with whom the child and the child's guardian, managing conservator, or parent have resided for at least six months ending not more than 90 days preceding the date of the filing of the petition if the child's guardian, managing conservator, or parent is deceased at the time of the filing of the petition;

(12) a person who is the foster parent of a child placed by the Department of Family and Protective Services in the person's home for at least 12 months ending not more than 90 days preceding the date of the filing of the petition;

(13) a person who is a relative of the child within the third degree by consanguinity, as determined by Chapter 573, Government Code, if the child's parents are deceased at the time of the filing of the petition; or

(14) a person who has been named as a prospective adoptive parent of a child by a pregnant woman or the parent of the child, in a verified written statement to confer standing executed under Section 102.0035, regardless of whether the child has been born.

(b) In computing the time necessary for standing under Subsections (a)(9), (11), and (12), the court may not require that the time be continuous and uninterrupted but shall consider the child's principal residence during the relevant time preceding the date of commencement of the suit.

(c) Notwithstanding the time requirements of Subsection (a)(12), a person who is the foster parent of a child may file a suit to adopt a child for whom the person is providing foster care at any time after the person has been approved to adopt the child. The standing to file suit under this subsection applies only to the adoption of a child who is eligible to be adopted.

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Sec. 102.0035. Statement to Confer Standing.

(a) A pregnant woman or a parent of a child may execute a statement to confer standing to a prospective adoptive parent as provided by this section to assert standing under Section 102.003(a)(14). A statement to confer standing under this section may not be executed in a suit brought by a governmental entity under Chapter 262 or 263.

(b) A statement to confer standing must contain:

(1) the signature, name, age, and address of the person named as a prospective adoptive parent;

(2) the signature, name, age, and address of the pregnant woman or of the parent of the child who is consenting to the filing of a petition for adoption or to terminate the parent–child relationship as described by Subsection (a);

(3) the birth date of the child or the anticipated birth date if the child has not been born; and

(4) the name of the county in which the suit will be filed.

(c) The statement to confer standing must be attached to the petition in a suit affecting the parent–child relationship. The statement may not be used for any purpose other than to confer standing in a proceeding for adoption or to terminate the parent–child relationship.

(d) A statement to confer standing may be signed at any time during the pregnancy of the mother of the unborn child whose parental rights are to be terminated.

(e) A statement to confer standing is not required in a suit brought by a person who has standing to file a suit affecting the parent–child relationship under Sections 102.003(a)(1)–(13) or any other law under which the person has standing to file a suit.

(f) A person who executes a statement to confer standing may revoke the statement at any time before the person executes an affidavit for voluntary relinquishment of parental rights. The revocation of the statement must be in writing and must be sent by certified mail, return receipt requested, to the prospective adoptive parent.

(g) On filing with the court proof of the delivery of the revocation of a statement to confer standing under Subsection (f), the court shall dismiss any suit affecting the parent–child relationship filed by the prospective adoptive parent named in the statement.

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Sec. 102.004. Standing for Grandparent or Other Person.

(a) In addition to the general standing to file suit provided by Section 102.003, a grandparent, or another relative of the child related within the third degree by consanguinity, may file an original suit requesting managing conservatorship if there is satisfactory proof to the court that:

(1) the order requested is necessary because the child's present circumstances would significantly impair the child's physical health or emotional development; or

(2) both parents, the surviving parent, or the managing conservator or custodian either filed the petition or consented to the suit.

(b) An original suit requesting possessory conservatorship may not be filed by a grandparent or other person. However, the court may grant a grandparent or other person deemed by the court to have had substantial past contact with the child leave to intervene in a pending suit filed by a person authorized to do so under this subchapter if there is satisfactory proof to the court that appointment of a parent as a sole managing conservator or both parents as joint managing conservators would significantly impair the child's physical health or emotional development.

(c) Possession of or access to a child by a grandparent is governed by the standards established by Chapter 153.

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Sec. 102.0045. Standing for Sibling.

(a) The sibling of a child may file an original suit requesting access to the child as provided by Section 153.551 if the sibling is at least 18 years of age.

(a–1) The sibling of a child who is separated from the sibling as the result of an action by the Department of Family and Protective Services may file an original suit as provided by Section 153.551 requesting access to the child, regardless of the age of the sibling. A court shall expedite a suit filed under this subsection.

(b) Access to a child by a sibling of the child is governed by the standards established by Section 153.551.

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Sec. 102.005. Standing to Request Termination and Adoption. An original suit requesting only an adoption or for termination of the parent–child relationship joined with a petition for adoption may be filed by:

(1) a stepparent of the child;

(2) an adult who, as the result of a placement for adoption, has had actual possession and control of the child at any time during the 30–day period preceding the filing of the petition;

(3) an adult who has had actual possession and control of the child for not less than two months during the three–month period preceding the filing of the petition;

(4) an adult who has adopted, or is the foster parent of and has petitioned to adopt, a sibling of the child; or

(5) another adult whom the court determines to have had substantial past contact with the child sufficient to warrant standing to do so.

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Sec. 102.006. Limitations on Standing.

(a) Except as provided by Subsections (b) and (c), if the parent–child relationship between the child and every living parent of the child has been terminated, an original suit may not be filed by:

(1) a former parent whose parent–child relationship with the child has been terminated by court order;

(2) the father of the child; or

(3) a family member or relative by blood, adoption, or marriage of either a former parent whose parent–child relationship has been terminated or of the father of the child.

(b) The limitations on filing suit imposed by this section do not apply to a person who:

(1) has a continuing right to possession of or access to the child under an existing court order; or

(2) has the consent of the child's managing conservator, guardian, or legal custodian to bring the suit.

(c) The limitations on filing suit imposed by this section do not apply to an adult sibling of the child, a grandparent of the child, an aunt who is a sister of a parent of the child, or an uncle who is a brother of a parent of the child if the adult sibling, grandparent, aunt, or uncle files an original suit or a suit for modification requesting managing conservatorship of the child not later than the 90th day after the date the parent–child relationship between the child and the parent is terminated in a suit filed by the Department of Family and Protective Services requesting the termination of the parent–child relationship.

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Sec. 102.007. Standing of Title IV–D Agency. In providing services authorized by Chapter 231, the Title IV–D agency or a political subdivision contracting with the attorney general to provide Title IV–D services under this title may file a child support action authorized under this title, including a suit for modification or a motion for enforcement.

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Sec. 102.008. Contents of Petition.

(a) The petition and all other documents in a proceeding filed under this title, except a suit for adoption of an adult, shall be entitled "In the interest of __________, a child." In a suit in which adoption of a child is requested, the style shall be "In the interest of a child."

(b) The petition must include:

(1) a statement that the court in which the petition is filed has continuing, exclusive jurisdiction or that no court has continuing jurisdiction of the suit;

(2) the name and date of birth of the child, except that if adoption of a child is requested, the name of the child may be omitted;

(3) the full name of the petitioner and the petitioner's relationship to the child or the fact that no relationship exists;

(4) the names of the parents, except in a suit in which adoption is requested;

(5) the name of the managing conservator, if any, or the child's custodian, if any, appointed by order of a court of another state or country;

(6) the names of the guardians of the person and estate of the child, if any;

(7) the names of possessory conservators or other persons, if any, having possession of or access to the child under an order of the court;

(8) the name of an alleged father of the child or a statement that the identity of the father of the child is unknown;

(9) a full description and statement of value of all property owned or possessed by the child;

(10) a statement describing what action the court is requested to take concerning the child and the statutory grounds on which the request is made; and

(11) any other information required by this title.

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Sec. 102.0086. Confidentiality of Pleadings.

(a) This section applies only in a county with a population of 3.4 million or more.

(b) Except as otherwise provided by law, all pleadings and other documents filed with the court in a suit affecting the parent–child relationship are confidential, are excepted from required public disclosure under Chapter 552, Government Code, and may not be released to a person who is not a party to the suit until after the date of service of citation or the 31st day after the date of filing the suit, whichever date is sooner.

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Sec. 102.009. Service of Citation.

(a) Except as provided by Subsection (b), the following are entitled to service of citation on the filing of a petition in an original suit:

(1) a managing conservator;

(2) a possessory conservator;

(3) a person having possession of or access to the child under an order;

(4) a person required by law or by order to provide for the support of the child;

(5) a guardian of the person of the child;

(6) a guardian of the estate of the child;

(7) each parent as to whom the parent–child relationship has not been terminated or process has not been waived under Chapter 161;

(8) an alleged father, unless there is attached to the petition an affidavit of waiver of interest in a child executed by the alleged father as provided by Chapter 161 or unless the petitioner has complied with the provisions of Section 161.002(b)(2), (3), or (4);

(9) a man who has filed a notice of intent to claim paternity as provided by Chapter 160;

(10) the Department of Family and Protective Services, if the petition requests that the department be appointed as managing conservator of the child;

(11) the Title IV–D agency, if the petition requests the termination of the parent–child relationship and support rights have been assigned to the Title IV–D agency under Chapter 231;

(12) a prospective adoptive parent to whom standing has been conferred under Section 102.0035; and

(13) a person designated as the managing conservator in a revoked or unrevoked affidavit of relinquishment under Chapter 161 or to whom consent to adoption has been given in writing under Chapter 162.

(b) Citation may be served on any other person who has or who may assert an interest in the child.

(c) Citation on the filing of an original petition in a suit shall be issued and served as in other civil cases.

(d) If the petition requests the establishment, termination, modification, or enforcement of a support right assigned to the Title IV–D agency under Chapter 231 or the rescission of a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity under Chapter 160, notice shall be given to the Title IV–D agency in a manner provided by Rule 21a, Texas Rules of Civil Procedure.

(e) In a proceeding under Chapter 233, the requirements imposed by Subsections (a) and (c) do not apply to the extent of any conflict between those requirements and the provisions in Chapter 233.

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Sec. 102.0091. Waiver of Citation.

(a) A party to a suit under this title may waive the issuance or service of citation after the suit is filed by filing with the clerk of the court in which the suit is filed the waiver of the party acknowledging receipt of a copy of the filed petition.

(b) The party executing the waiver may not sign the waiver using a digitized signature.

(c) The waiver must contain the mailing address of the party executing the waiver.

(d) Notwithstanding Section 132.001, Civil Practice and Remedies Code, the waiver must be sworn before a notary public who is not an attorney in the suit. This subsection does not apply if the party executing the waiver is incarcerated.

(e) The Texas Rules of Civil Procedure do not apply to a waiver executed under this section.

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Sec. 102.010. Service of Citation by Publication.

(a) Citation may be served by publication as in other civil cases to persons entitled to service of citation who cannot be notified by personal service or registered or certified mail and to persons whose names are unknown.

(b) Citation by publication shall be published one time. If the name of a person entitled to service of citation is unknown, the notice to be published shall be addressed to "All Whom It May Concern." One or more causes to be heard on a certain day may be included in one notice and hearings may be continued from time to time without further notice.

(c) Citation by publication shall be sufficient if given in substantially the following form:

To (names of persons to be served with citation) and to all whom it may concern (if the name of any person to be served with citation is unknown), Respondent(s),"STATE OF TEXAS

"You have been sued. You may employ an attorney. If you or your attorney do (does) not file a written answer with the clerk who issued this citation by 10 a.m. on the Monday next following the expiration of 20 days after you were served this citation and petition, a default judgment may be taken against you. The petition of ______________, Petitioner, was filed in the Court of _______________ County, Texas, on the ___ day of _________, _____, against __________, Respondent(s), numbered _____, and entitled 'In the interest of __________, a child (or children).' The suit requests (statement of relief requested, e.g., 'terminate the parent–child relationship'). The date and place of birth of the child (children) who is (are) the subject of the suit: _____________.

"The court has authority in this suit to render an order in the child's (children's) interest that will be binding on you, including the termination of the parent–child relationship, the determination of paternity, and the appointment of a conservator with authority to consent to the child's (children's) adoption."Issued and given under my hand and seal of the Court at _________, Texas, this the ___ day of _______, ____.

". . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Clerk of the District Court of

______________ County, Texas.

By _____________, Deputy."

(d) In any suit in which service of citation is by publication, a statement of the evidence of service, approved and signed by the court, must be filed with the papers of the suit as a part of the record.

(e) In a suit filed under Chapter 161 or 262 in which the last name of the respondent is unknown, the court may order substituted service of citation by publication, including publication by posting the citation at the courthouse door for a specified time, if the court finds and states in its order that the method of substituted service is as likely as citation by publication in a newspaper in the manner described by Subsection (b) to give the respondent actual notice of the suit. If the court orders that citation by publication shall be completed by posting the citation at the courthouse door for a specified time, service must be completed on, and the answer date is computed from, the expiration date of the posting period. If the court orders another method of substituted service of citation by publication, service shall be completed as directed by the court.

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Sec. 102.011. Acquiring Jurisdiction Over Nonresident.

(a) The court may exercise status or subject matter jurisdiction over the suit as provided by Chapter 152.

(b) The court may also exercise personal jurisdiction over a person on whom service of citation is required or over the person's personal representative, although the person is not a resident or domiciliary of this state, if:

(1) the person is personally served with citation in this state;

(2) the person submits to the jurisdiction of this state by consent, by entering a general appearance, or by filing a responsive document having the effect of waiving any contest to personal jurisdiction;

(3) the child resides in this state as a result of the acts or directives of the person;

(4) the person resided with the child in this state;

(5) the person resided in this state and provided prenatal expenses or support for the child;

(6) the person engaged in sexual intercourse in this state and the child may have been conceived by that act of intercourse;

(7) the person, as provided by Chapter 160:

(A) registered with the paternity registry maintained by the vital statistics unit; or

(B) signed an acknowledgment of paternity of a child born in this state; or

(8) there is any basis consistent with the constitutions of this state and the United States for the exercise of the personal jurisdiction.

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Sec. 102.012. Exercising Partial Jurisdiction.

(a) A court in which a suit is filed may exercise its jurisdiction over those portions of the suit for which it has authority.

(b) The court's authority to resolve all issues in controversy between the parties may be restricted because the court lacks:

(1) the required personal jurisdiction over a nonresident party;

(2) the required jurisdiction under Chapter 152; or

(3) the required jurisdiction under Chapter 159.

(c) If a provision of Chapter 152 or Chapter 159 expressly conflicts with another provision of this title and the conflict cannot be reconciled, the provision of Chapter 152 or Chapter 159 prevails.

(d) In exercising jurisdiction, the court shall seek to harmonize the provisions of this code, the federal Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act (28 U.S.C. Section 1738A), and the federal Full Faith and Credit for Child Support Order Act (28 U.S.C. Section 1738B).

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Sec. 102.013. Docketing Requirements.

(a) In a suit for modification or a motion for enforcement, the clerk shall file the petition or motion and all related papers under the same docket number as the prior proceeding without additional letters, digits, or special designations.

(b) If a suit requests the adoption of a child, the clerk shall file the suit and all other papers relating to the suit in a new file having a new docket number.

(c) In a suit to determine parentage under this title in which the court has rendered an order relating to an earlier born child of the same parents, the clerk shall file the suit and all other papers relating to the suit under the same docket number as the prior parentage action. For all other purposes, including the assessment of fees and other costs, the suit is a separate suit.

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Sec. 102.014. Use of Digitized Signature.

(a) A digitized signature on an original petition under this chapter or any other pleading or order in a suit satisfies the requirements for and imposes the duties of signatories to pleadings, motions, and other papers identified under Rule 13, Texas Rules of Civil Procedure.

(b) A digitized signature under this section may be applied only by, and must remain under the sole control of, the person whose signature is represented.

Ch. 103. Venue and Transfer of Original Proceedings

Sec. 103.001. Venue for Original Suit.

(a) Except as otherwise provided by this title, an original suit shall be filed in the county where the child resides, unless:

(1) another court has continuing exclusive jurisdiction under Chapter 155; or

(2) venue is fixed in a suit for dissolution of a marriage under Subchapter D, Chapter 6.

(b) A suit in which adoption is requested may be filed in the county where the child resides or in the county where the petitioners reside, regardless of whether another court has continuing exclusive jurisdiction under Chapter 155. A court that has continuing exclusive jurisdiction is not required to transfer the suit affecting the parent–child relationship to the court in which the adoption suit is filed.

(c) A child resides in the county where the child's parents reside or the child's parent resides, if only one parent is living, except that:

(1) if a guardian of the person has been appointed by order of a county or probate court and a managing conservator has not been appointed, the child resides in the county where the guardian of the person resides;

(2) if the parents of the child do not reside in the same county and if a managing conservator, custodian, or guardian of the person has not been appointed, the child resides in the county where the parent having actual care, control, and possession of the child resides;

(3) if the child is in the care and control of an adult other than a parent and a managing conservator, custodian, or guardian of the person has not been appointed, the child resides where the adult having actual care, control, and possession of the child resides;

(4) if the child is in the actual care, control, and possession of an adult other than a parent and the whereabouts of the parent and the guardian of the person is unknown, the child resides where the adult having actual possession, care, and control of the child resides;

(5) if the person whose residence would otherwise determine venue has left the child in the care and control of the adult, the child resides where that adult resides;

(6) if a guardian or custodian of the child has been appointed by order of a court of another state or country, the child resides in the county where the guardian or custodian resides if that person resides in this state; or

(7) if it appears that the child is not under the actual care, control, and possession of an adult, the child resides where the child is found.

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Sec. 103.002. Transfer of Original Proceedings Within State.

(a) If venue of a suit is improper in the court in which an original suit is filed and no other court has continuing, exclusive jurisdiction of the suit, on the timely motion of a party other than the petitioner, the court shall transfer the proceeding to the county where venue is proper.

(b) On a showing that a suit for dissolution of the marriage of the child's parents has been filed in another court, a court in which a suit is pending shall transfer the proceedings to the court where the dissolution of the marriage is pending.

(c) The procedures in Chapter 155 apply to a transfer of:

(1) an original suit under this section; or

(2) a suit for modification or a motion for enforcement under this title.

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Sec. 103.003. Transfer of Original Suit Within State when Party or Child Resides Outside State.

(a) A court of this state in which an original suit is filed or in which a suit for child support is filed under Chapter 159 shall transfer the suit to the county of residence of the party who is a resident of this state if all other parties and children affected by the proceedings reside outside this state.

(b) If one or more of the parties affected by the suit reside outside this state and if more than one party or one or more children affected by the proceeding reside in this state in different counties, the court shall transfer the suit according to the following priorities:

(1) to the court of continuing, exclusive jurisdiction, if any;

(2) to the county of residence of the child, if applicable, provided that:

(A) there is no court of continuing, exclusive jurisdiction; or

(B) the court of continuing, exclusive jurisdiction finds that neither a party nor a child affected by the proceeding resides in the county of the court of continuing jurisdiction; or

(3) if Subdivisions (1) and (2) are inapplicable, to the county most appropriate to serve the convenience of the resident parties, the witnesses, and the interest of justice.

(c) If a transfer of an original suit or suit for child support under Chapter 159 is sought under this section, Chapter 155 applies to the procedures for transfer of the suit.

Ch. 104. Evidence

[Contents]

Sec. 104.001. Rules of Evidence. Except as otherwise provided, the Texas Rules of Evidence apply as in other civil cases.

[Contents]

Sec. 104.002. Prerecorded Statement of Child. If a child 12 years of age or younger is alleged in a suit under this title to have been abused, the recording of an oral statement of the child recorded prior to the proceeding is admissible into evidence if:

(1) no attorney for a party was present when the statement was made;

(2) the recording is both visual and aural and is recorded on film or videotape or by other electronic means;

(3) the recording equipment was capable of making an accurate recording, the operator was competent, and the recording is accurate and has not been altered;

(4) the statement was not made in response to questioning calculated to lead the child to make a particular statement;

(5) each voice on the recording is identified;

(6) the person conducting the interview of the child in the recording is present at the proceeding and available to testify or be cross–examined by either party; and

(7) each party is afforded an opportunity to view the recording before it is offered into evidence.

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Sec. 104.003. Prerecorded Videotaped Testimony of Child.

(a) The court may, on the motion of a party to the proceeding, order that the testimony of the child be taken outside the courtroom and be recorded for showing in the courtroom before the court, the finder of fact, and the parties to the proceeding.

(b) Only an attorney for each party, an attorney ad litem for the child or other person whose presence would contribute to the welfare and well–being of the child, and persons necessary to operate the equipment may be present in the room with the child during the child's testimony.

(c) Only the attorneys for the parties may question the child.

(d) The persons operating the equipment shall be placed in a manner that prevents the child from seeing or hearing them.

(e) The court shall ensure that:

(1) the recording is both visual and aural and is recorded on film or videotape or by other electronic means;

(2) the recording equipment was capable of making an accurate recording, the operator was competent, and the recording is accurate and is not altered;

(3) each voice on the recording is identified; and

(4) each party to the proceeding is afforded an opportunity to view the recording before it is shown in the courtroom.

[Contents]

Sec. 104.004. Remote Televised Broadcast of Testimony of Child.

(a) If in a suit a child 12 years of age or younger is alleged to have been abused, the court may, on the motion of a party to the proceeding, order that the testimony of the child be taken in a room other than the courtroom and be televised by closed–circuit equipment in the courtroom to be viewed by the court and the parties.

(b) The procedures that apply to prerecorded videotaped testimony of a child apply to the remote broadcast of testimony of a child.

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Sec. 104.005. Substitution for In–Court Testimony of Child.

(a) If the testimony of a child is taken as provided by this chapter, the child may not be compelled to testify in court during the proceeding.

(b) The court may allow the testimony of a child of any age to be taken in any manner provided by this chapter if the child, because of a medical condition, is incapable of testifying in open court.

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Sec. 104.006. Hearsay Statement of Child Abuse Victim. In a suit affecting the parent–child relationship, a statement made by a child 12 years of age or younger that describes alleged abuse against the child, without regard to whether the statement is otherwise inadmissible as hearsay, is admissible as evidence if, in a hearing conducted outside the presence of the jury, the court finds that the time, content, and circumstances of the statement provide sufficient indications of the statement's reliability and:

(1) the child testifies or is available to testify at the proceeding in court or in any other manner provided for by law; or

(2) the court determines that the use of the statement in lieu of the child's testimony is necessary to protect the welfare of the child.

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Sec. 104.007. Video Testimony of Certain Professionals.

(a) In this section, "professional" has the meaning assigned by Section 261.101(b).

(b) In a proceeding brought by the Department of Family and Protective Services concerning a child who is alleged in a suit to have been abused or neglected, the court may order that the testimony of a professional be taken outside the courtroom by videoconference:

(1) on the agreement of the department's counsel and respondent's counsel; or

(2) if good cause exists, on the court's own motion.

(c) In ordering testimony to be taken as provided by Subsection (b), the court shall ensure that the videoconference testimony allows:

(1) the parties and attorneys involved in the proceeding to be able to see and hear the professional as the professional testifies; and

(2) the professional to be able to see and hear the parties and attorneys examining the professional while the professional is testifying.

(d) If the court permits the testimony of a professional by videoconference as provided by this section to be admitted during the proceeding, the professional may not be compelled to be physically present in court during the same proceeding to provide the same testimony unless ordered by the court.

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Sec. 104.008. Certain Testimony Prohibited.

(a) A person may not offer an expert opinion or recommendation relating to the conservatorship of or possession of or access to a child at issue in a suit unless the person has conducted a child custody evaluation relating to the child under Subchapter D, Chapter 107.

(b) In a contested suit, a mental health professional may provide other relevant information and opinions, other than those prohibited by Subsection (a), relating to any party that the mental health professional has personally evaluated.

(c) This section does not apply to a suit in which the Department of Family and Protective Services is a party.

Ch. 105. Settings, Hearings, and Orders

[Contents]

Sec. 105.001. Temporary Orders Before Final Order.

(a) In a suit, the court may make a temporary order, including the modification of a prior temporary order, for the safety and welfare of the child, including an order:

(1) for the temporary conservatorship of the child;

(2) for the temporary support of the child;

(3) restraining a party from disturbing the peace of the child or another party;

(4) prohibiting a person from removing the child beyond a geographical area identified by the court; or

(5) for payment of reasonable attorney's fees and expenses.

(b) Except as provided by Subsection (c), temporary restraining orders and temporary injunctions under this section shall be granted without the necessity of an affidavit or verified pleading stating specific facts showing that immediate and irreparable injury, loss, or damage will result before notice can be served and a hearing can be held. Except as provided by Subsection (h), an order may not be rendered under Subsection (a)(1), (2), or (5) except after notice and a hearing. A temporary restraining order or temporary injunction granted under this section need not:

(1) define the injury or state why it is irreparable;

(2) state why the order was granted without notice; or

(3) include an order setting the cause for trial on the merits with respect to the ultimate relief requested.

(c) Except on a verified pleading or an affidavit in accordance with the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, an order may not be rendered:

(1) attaching the body of the child;

(2) taking the child into the possession of the court or of a person designated by the court; or

(3) excluding a parent from possession of or access to a child.

(d) In a suit, the court may dispense with the necessity of a bond in connection with temporary orders on behalf of the child.

(e) Temporary orders rendered under this section are not subject to interlocutory appeal.

(f) The violation of a temporary restraining order, temporary injunction, or other temporary order rendered under this section is punishable by contempt and the order is subject to and enforceable under Chapter 157.

(g) The rebuttable presumptions established in favor of the application of the guidelines for a child support order and for the standard possession order under Chapters 153 and 154 apply to temporary orders. The presumptions do not limit the authority of the court to render other temporary orders.

(h) An order under Subsection (a)(1) may be rendered without notice and an adversary hearing if the order is an emergency order sought by a governmental entity under Chapter 262.

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Sec. 105.0011. Information Regarding Protective Orders. At any time while a suit is pending, if the court believes, on the basis of any information received by the court, that a party to the suit or a member of the party's family or household may be a victim of family violence, the court shall inform that party of the party's right to apply for a protective order under Title 4.

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Sec. 105.002. Jury.

(a) Except as provided by Subsection (b), a party may demand a jury trial.

(b) A party may not demand a jury trial in:

(1) a suit in which adoption is sought, including a trial on the issue of denial or revocation of consent to the adoption by the managing conservator; or

(2) a suit to adjudicate parentage under Chapter 160.

(c) In a jury trial:

(1) a party is entitled to a verdict by the jury and the court may not contravene a jury verdict on the issues of:

(A) the appointment of a sole managing conservator;

(B) the appointment of joint managing conservators;

(C) the appointment of a possessory conservator;

(D) the determination of which joint managing conservator has the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of the child;

(E) the determination of whether to impose a restriction on the geographic area in which a joint managing conservator may designate the child's primary residence; and

(F) if a restriction described by Paragraph

(E) is imposed, the determination of the geographic area within which the joint managing conservator must designate the child's primary residence; and

(2) the court may not submit to the jury questions on the issues of:

(A) support under Chapter 154 or Chapter 159;

(B) a specific term or condition of possession of or access to the child; or

(C) any right or duty of a conservator, other than the determination of which joint managing conservator has the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of the child under Subdivision (1)(D).

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Sec. 105.003. Procedure for Contested Hearing.

(a) Except as otherwise provided by this title, proceedings shall be as in civil cases generally.

(b) On the agreement of all parties to the suit, the court may limit attendance at the hearing to only those persons who have a direct interest in the suit or in the work of the court.

(c) A record shall be made as in civil cases generally unless waived by the parties with the consent of the court.

(d) When information contained in a report, study, or examination is before the court, the person making the report, study, or examination is subject to both direct examination and cross–examination as in civil cases generally.

(e) The hearing may be adjourned from time to time.

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Sec. 105.004. Preferential Setting. After a hearing, the court may:

(1) grant a motion filed by a party or by the amicus attorney or attorney ad litem for the child for a preferential setting for a trial on the merits; and

(2) give precedence to that hearing over other civil cases if the court finds that the delay created by ordinary scheduling practices will unreasonably affect the best interest of the child.

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Sec. 105.005. Findings. Except as otherwise provided by this title, the court's findings shall be based on a preponderance of the evidence.

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Sec. 105.006. Contents of Final Order.

(a) A final order, other than in a proceeding under Chapter 161 or 162, must contain:

(1) the social security number and driver's license number of each party to the suit, including the child, except that the child's social security number or driver's license number is not required if the child has not been assigned a social security number or driver's license number; and

(2) each party's current residence address, mailing address, home telephone number, name of employer, address of employment, and work telephone number, except as provided by Subsection (c).

(b) Except as provided by Subsection (c), the court shall order each party to inform each other party, the court that rendered the order, and the state case registry under Chapter 234 of an intended change in any of the information required by this section as long as any person, as a result of the order, is under an obligation to pay child support or is entitled to possession of or access to a child. The court shall order that notice of the intended change be given at the earlier of:

(1) the 60th day before the date the party intends to make the change; or

(2) the fifth day after the date that the party knew of the change, if the party did not know or could not have known of the change in sufficient time to comply with Subdivision (1).

(c) If a court finds after notice and hearing that requiring a party to provide the information required by this section to another party is likely to cause the child or a conservator harassment, abuse, serious harm, or injury, or to subject the child or a conservator to family violence, as defined by Section 71.004, the court may:

(1) order the information not to be disclosed to another party; or

(2) render any other order the court considers necessary.

(d) An order in a suit that orders child support or possession of or access to a child must contain the following prominently displayed statement in boldfaced type, capital letters, or underlined:

"FAILURE TO OBEY A COURT ORDER FOR CHILD SUPPORT OR FOR POSSESSION OF OR ACCESS TO A CHILD MAY RESULT IN FURTHER LITIGATION TO ENFORCE THE ORDER, INCLUDING CONTEMPT OF COURT. A FINDING OF CONTEMPT MAY BE PUNISHED BY CONFINEMENT IN JAIL FOR UP TO SIX MONTHS, A FINE OF UP TO $500 FOR EACH VIOLATION, AND A MONEY JUDGMENT FOR PAYMENT OF ATTORNEY'S FEES AND COURT COSTS."

"FAILURE OF A PARTY TO MAKE A CHILD SUPPORT PAYMENT TO THE PLACE AND IN THE MANNER REQUIRED BY A COURT ORDER MAY RESULT IN THE PARTY NOT RECEIVING CREDIT FOR MAKING THE PAYMENT."

"FAILURE OF A PARTY TO PAY CHILD SUPPORT DOES NOT JUSTIFY DENYING THAT PARTY COURT&NDASH;ORDERED POSSESSION OF OR ACCESS TO A CHILD. REFUSAL BY A PARTY TO ALLOW POSSESSION OF OR ACCESS TO A CHILD DOES NOT JUSTIFY FAILURE TO PAY COURT&NDASH;ORDERED CHILD SUPPORT TO THAT PARTY."

(e) Except as provided by Subsection (c), an order in a suit that orders child support or possession of or access to a child must also contain the following prominently displayed statement in boldfaced type, capital letters, or underlined:

"EACH PERSON WHO IS A PARTY TO THIS ORDER IS ORDERED TO NOTIFY EACH OTHER PARTY, THE COURT, AND THE STATE CASE REGISTRY OF ANY CHANGE IN THE PARTY'S CURRENT RESIDENCE ADDRESS, MAILING ADDRESS, HOME TELEPHONE NUMBER, NAME OF EMPLOYER, ADDRESS OF EMPLOYMENT, DRIVER'S LICENSE NUMBER, AND WORK TELEPHONE NUMBER. THE PARTY IS ORDERED TO GIVE NOTICE OF AN INTENDED CHANGE IN ANY OF THE REQUIRED INFORMATION TO EACH OTHER PARTY, THE COURT, AND THE STATE CASE REGISTRY ON OR BEFORE THE 60TH DAY BEFORE THE INTENDED CHANGE. IF THE PARTY DOES NOT KNOW OR COULD NOT HAVE KNOWN OF THE CHANGE IN SUFFICIENT TIME TO PROVIDE 60&NDASH;DAY NOTICE, THE PARTY IS ORDERED TO GIVE NOTICE OF THE CHANGE ON OR BEFORE THE FIFTH DAY AFTER THE DATE THAT THE PARTY KNOWS OF THE CHANGE."

"THE DUTY TO FURNISH THIS INFORMATION TO EACH OTHER PARTY, THE COURT, AND THE STATE CASE REGISTRY CONTINUES AS LONG AS ANY PERSON, BY VIRTUE OF THIS ORDER, IS UNDER AN OBLIGATION TO PAY CHILD SUPPORT OR ENTITLED TO POSSESSION OF OR ACCESS TO A CHILD."

"FAILURE BY A PARTY TO OBEY THE ORDER OF THIS COURT TO PROVIDE EACH OTHER PARTY, THE COURT, AND THE STATE CASE REGISTRY WITH THE CHANGE IN THE REQUIRED INFORMATION MAY RESULT IN FURTHER LITIGATION TO ENFORCE THE ORDER, INCLUDING CONTEMPT OF COURT. A FINDING OF CONTEMPT MAY BE PUNISHED BY CONFINEMENT IN JAIL FOR UP TO SIX MONTHS, A FINE OF UP TO $500 FOR EACH VIOLATION, AND A MONEY JUDGMENT FOR PAYMENT OF ATTORNEY'S FEES AND COURT COSTS."

(e–1) An order in a suit that provides for the possession of or access to a child must contain the following prominently displayed statement in boldfaced type, in capital letters, or underlined:

"NOTICE TO ANY PEACE OFFICER OF THE STATE OF TEXAS: YOU MAY USE REASONABLE EFFORTS TO ENFORCE THE TERMS OF CHILD CUSTODY SPECIFIED IN THIS ORDER. A PEACE OFFICER WHO RELIES ON THE TERMS OF A COURT ORDER AND THE OFFICER'S AGENCY ARE ENTITLED TO THE APPLICABLE IMMUNITY AGAINST ANY CLAIM, CIVIL OR OTHERWISE, REGARDING THE OFFICER'S GOOD FAITH ACTS PERFORMED IN THE SCOPE OF THE OFFICER'S DUTIES IN ENFORCING THE TERMS OF THE ORDER THAT RELATE TO CHILD CUSTODY. ANY PERSON WHO KNOWINGLY PRESENTS FOR ENFORCEMENT AN ORDER THAT IS INVALID OR NO LONGER IN EFFECT COMMITS AN OFFENSE THAT MAY BE PUNISHABLE BY CONFINEMENT IN JAIL FOR AS LONG AS TWO YEARS AND A FINE OF AS MUCH AS $10,000."

(e–2) An order in a suit that orders child support must contain the following prominently displayed statement in boldfaced type, in capital letters, or underlined:

"THE COURT MAY MODIFY THIS ORDER THAT PROVIDES FOR THE SUPPORT OF A CHILD, IF:

(1) THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CHILD OR A PERSON AFFECTED BY THE ORDER HAVE MATERIALLY AND SUBSTANTIALLY CHANGED; OR

(2) IT HAS BEEN THREE YEARS SINCE THE ORDER WAS RENDERED OR LAST MODIFIED AND THE MONTHLY AMOUNT OF THE CHILD SUPPORT AWARD UNDER THE ORDER DIFFERS BY EITHER 20 PERCENT OR $100 FROM THE AMOUNT THAT WOULD BE AWARDED IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CHILD SUPPORT GUIDELINES."

(f) Except for an action in which contempt is sought, in any subsequent child support enforcement action, the court may, on a showing that diligent effort has been made to determine the location of a party, consider due process requirements for notice and service of process to be met with respect to that party on delivery of written notice to the most recent residential or employer address filed by that party with the court and the state case registry.

(g) The Title IV–D agency shall promulgate and provide forms for a party to use in reporting to the court and the state case registry under Chapter 234 the information required under this section.

(h) The court may include in a final order in a suit in which a party to the suit makes an allegation of child abuse or neglect a finding on whether the party who made the allegation knew that the allegation was false. This finding shall not constitute collateral estoppel for any criminal proceeding. The court may impose on a party found to have made a false allegation of child abuse or neglect any civil sanction permitted under law, including attorney's fees, costs of experts, and any other costs.

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Sec. 105.007. Compliance with Order Requiring Notice of Change of Required Information.

(a) A party shall comply with the order by giving written notice to each other party of an intended change in the party's current residence address, mailing address, home telephone number, name of employer, address of employment, and work telephone number.

(b) The party must give written notice by registered or certified mail of an intended change in the required information to each other party on or before the 60th day before the change is made. If the party does not know or could not have known of the change in sufficient time to provide 60–day notice, the party shall provide the written notice of the change on or before the fifth day after the date that the party knew of the change.

(c) The court may waive the notice required by this section on motion by a party if it finds that the giving of notice of a change of the required information would be likely to expose the child or the party to harassment, abuse, serious harm, or injury.

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Sec. 105.008. Record of Support Order for State Case Registry.

(a) The clerk of the court shall provide the state case registry with a record of a court order for child support. The record of an order shall include information provided by the parties on a form developed by the Title IV–D agency. The form shall be completed by the petitioner and submitted to the clerk at the time the order is filed for record.

(b) To the extent federal funds are available, the Title IV–D agency shall reimburse the clerk of the court for the costs incurred in providing the record of support order required under this section.

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Sec. 105.009. Parent Education and Family Stabilization Course.

(a) In a suit affecting the parent–child relationship, including an action to modify an order in a suit affecting the parent–child relationship providing for possession of or access to a child, the court may order the parties to the suit to attend a parent education and family stabilization course if the court determines that the order is in the best interest of the child.

(b) The parties to the suit may not be required to attend the course together. The court, on its own motion or the motion of either party, may prohibit the parties from taking the course together if there is a history of family violence in the marriage.

(c) A course under this section must be at least four hours, but not more than 12 hours, in length and be designed to educate and assist parents with regard to the consequences of divorce on parents and children. The course must include information on the following issues:

(1) the emotional effects of divorce on parents;

(2) the emotional and behavioral reactions to divorce by young children and adolescents;

(3) parenting issues relating to the concerns and needs of children at different development stages;

(4) stress indicators in young children and adolescents;

(5) conflict management;

(6) family stabilization through development of a coparenting relationship;

(7) the financial responsibilities of parenting;

(8) family violence, spousal abuse, and child abuse and neglect; and

(9) the availability of community services and resources.

(d) A course may not be designed to provide individual mental health therapy or individual legal advice.

(e) A course satisfies the requirements of this section if it is offered by:

(1) a mental health professional who has at least a master's degree with a background in family therapy or parent education; or

(2) a religious practitioner who performs counseling consistent with the laws of this state or another person designated as a program counselor by a church or religious institution if the litigant so chooses.

(f) Information obtained in a course or a statement made by a participant to a suit during a course may not be considered in the adjudication of the suit or in any subsequent legal proceeding. Any report that results from participation in the course may not become a record in the suit unless the parties stipulate to the record in writing.

(g) The court may take appropriate action with regard to a party who fails to attend or complete a course ordered by the court under this section, including holding the party in contempt of court, striking pleadings, or invoking any sanction provided by Rule 215, Texas Rules of Civil Procedure. The failure or refusal by a party to attend or complete a course required by this section may not delay the court from rendering a judgment in a suit affecting the parent–child relationship.

(h) The course required under this section may be completed by:

(1) personal instruction;

(2) videotape instruction;

(3) instruction through an electronic medium; or

(4) a combination of those methods.

(i) On completion of the course, the course provider shall issue a certificate of completion to each participant. The certificate must state:

(1) the name of the participant;

(2) the name of the course provider;

(3) the date the course was completed; and

(4) whether the course was provided by:

(A) personal instruction;

(B) videotape instruction;

(C) instruction through an electronic medium; or

(D) a combination of those methods.

(j) The county clerk in each county may establish a registry of course providers in the county and a list of locations at which courses are provided. The clerk shall include information in the registry identifying courses that are offered on a sliding fee scale or without charge.

(k) The court may not order the parties to a suit to attend a course under this section if the parties cannot afford to take the course. If the parties cannot afford to take a course, the court may direct the parties to a course that is offered on a sliding fee scale or without charge, if a course of that type is available. A party to a suit may not be required to pay more than $100 to attend a course ordered under this section.

(l) A person who has attended a course under this section may not be required to attend the course more than twice before the fifth anniversary of the date the person completes the course for the first time.

Text of subsection as added by Acts 2005, 79th Leg., R.S., Ch. 916 (H.B. 260), Sec. 6

(m) A course under this section must be available in both English and Spanish.

Text of subsection as added by Acts 2005, 79th Leg., R.S., Ch. 1171 (H.B. 3531), Sec. 3

(m) A course under this section in a suit filed in a county with a population of more than two million that is adjacent to a county with a population of more than one million must be available in both English and Spanish.

Ch. 106. Costs and Attorney's Fees

[Contents]

Sec. 106.001. Costs. The court may award costs in a suit or motion under this title and in a habeas corpus proceeding.

[Contents]

Sec. 106.002. Attorney's Fees and Expenses.

(a) In a suit under this title, the court may render judgment for reasonable attorney's fees and expenses and order the judgment and postjudgment interest to be paid directly to an attorney.

(b) A judgment for attorney's fees and expenses may be enforced in the attorney's name by any means available for the enforcement of a judgment for debt.

Ch. 107. Special Appointments, Child Custody Evaluations, and Adoption Evaluations

Subch. A. Court–Ordered Representation in Suits Affecting the Parent–Child Relationship

[Contents]

Sec. 107.001. Definitions. In this chapter:

(1) "Amicus attorney" means an attorney appointed by the court in a suit, other than a suit filed by a governmental entity, whose role is to provide legal services necessary to assist the court in protecting a child's best interests rather than to provide legal services to the child.

(2) "Attorney ad litem" means an attorney who provides legal services to a person, including a child, and who owes to the person the duties of undivided loyalty, confidentiality, and competent representation.

(3) "Developmentally appropriate" means structured to account for a child's age, level of education, cultural background, and degree of language acquisition.

(4) "Dual role" means the role of an attorney who is appointed under Section 107.0125 to act as both guardian ad litem and attorney ad litem for a child in a suit filed by a governmental entity.

(5) "Guardian ad litem" means a person appointed to represent the best interests of a child. The term includes:

(A) a volunteer advocate from a charitable organization described by Subchapter C who is appointed by the court as the child's guardian ad litem;

(B) a professional, other than an attorney, who holds a relevant professional license and whose training relates to the determination of a child's best interests;

(C) an adult having the competence, training, and expertise determined by the court to be sufficient to represent the best interests of the child; or

(D) an attorney ad litem appointed to serve in the dual role.

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Sec. 107.002. Powers and Duties of Guardian Ad Litem for Child.

(a) A guardian ad litem appointed for a child under this chapter is not a party to the suit but may:

(1) conduct an investigation to the extent that the guardian ad litem considers necessary to determine the best interests of the child; and

(2) obtain and review copies of the child's relevant medical, psychological, and school records as provided by Section 107.006.

(b) A guardian ad litem appointed for the child under this chapter shall:

(1) within a reasonable time after the appointment, interview:

(A) the child in a developmentally appropriate manner, if the child is four years of age or older;

(B) each person who has significant knowledge of the child's history and condition, including any foster parent of the child; and

(C) the parties to the suit;

(2) seek to elicit in a developmentally appropriate manner the child's expressed objectives;

(3) consider the child's expressed objectives without being bound by those objectives;

(4) encourage settlement and the use of alternative forms of dispute resolution; and

(5) perform any specific task directed by the court.

(b–1) In addition to the duties required by Subsection (b), a guardian ad litem appointed for a child in a proceeding under Chapter 262 or 263 shall:

(1) review the medical care provided to the child; and

(2) in a developmentally appropriate manner, seek to elicit the child's opinion on the medical care provided.

(c) A guardian ad litem appointed for the child under this chapter is entitled to:

(1) receive a copy of each pleading or other paper filed with the court in the case in which the guardian ad litem is appointed;

(2) receive notice of each hearing in the case;

(3) participate in case staffings by the Department of Family and Protective Services concerning the child;

(4) attend all legal proceedings in the case but may not call or question a witness or otherwise provide legal services unless the guardian ad litem is a licensed attorney who has been appointed in the dual role;

(5) review and sign, or decline to sign, an agreed order affecting the child; and

(6) explain the basis for the guardian ad litem's opposition to the agreed order if the guardian ad litem does not agree to the terms of a proposed order.

(d) The court may compel the guardian ad litem to attend a trial or hearing and to testify as necessary for the proper disposition of the suit.

(e) Unless the guardian ad litem is an attorney who has been appointed in the dual role and subject to the Texas Rules of Evidence, the court shall ensure in a hearing or in a trial on the merits that a guardian ad litem has an opportunity to testify regarding, and is permitted to submit a report regarding, the guardian ad litem's recommendations relating to:

(1) the best interests of the child; and

(2) the bases for the guardian ad litem's recommendations.

(f) In a nonjury trial, a party may call the guardian ad litem as a witness for the purpose of cross–examination regarding the guardian's report without the guardian ad litem being listed as a witness by a party. If the guardian ad litem is not called as a witness, the court shall permit the guardian ad litem to testify in the narrative.

(g) In a contested case, the guardian ad litem shall provide copies of the guardian ad litem's report, if any, to the attorneys for the parties as directed by the court, but not later than the earlier of:

(1) the date required by the scheduling order; or

(2) the 10th day before the date of the commencement of the trial.

(h) Disclosure to the jury of the contents of a guardian ad litem's report to the court is subject to the Texas Rules of Evidence.

(i) A guardian ad litem appointed to represent a child in the managing conservatorship of the Department of Family and Protective Services shall, before each scheduled hearing under Chapter 263, determine whether the child's educational needs and goals have been identified and addressed.

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Sec. 107.003. Powers and Duties of Attorney Ad Litem for Child and Amicus Attorney.

(a) An attorney ad litem appointed to represent a child or an amicus attorney appointed to assist the court:

(1) shall:

(A) subject to Rules 4.02, 4.03, and 4.04, Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct, and within a reasonable time after the appointment, interview:

(i) the child in a developmentally appropriate manner, if the child is four years of age or older;

(ii) each person who has significant knowledge of the child's history and condition, including any foster parent of the child; and

(iii) the parties to the suit;

(B) seek to elicit in a developmentally appropriate manner the child's expressed objectives of representation;

(C) consider the impact on the child in formulating the attorney's presentation of the child's expressed objectives of representation to the court;

(D) investigate the facts of the case to the extent the attorney considers appropriate;

(E) obtain and review copies of relevant records relating to the child as provided by Section 107.006;

(F) participate in the conduct of the litigation to the same extent as an attorney for a party;

(G) take any action consistent with the child's interests that the attorney considers necessary to expedite the proceedings;

(H) encourage settlement and the use of alternative forms of dispute resolution; and

(I) review and sign, or decline to sign, a proposed or agreed order affecting the child;

(2) must be trained in child advocacy or have experience determined by the court to be equivalent to that training; and

(3) is entitled to:

(A) request clarification from the court if the role of the attorney is ambiguous;

(B) request a hearing or trial on the merits;

(C) consent or refuse to consent to an interview of the child by another attorney;

(D) receive a copy of each pleading or other paper filed with the court;

(E) receive notice of each hearing in the suit;

(F) participate in any case staffing concerning the child conducted by the Department of Family and Protective Services; and

(G) attend all legal proceedings in the suit.

(b) In addition to the duties required by Subsection (a), an attorney ad litem appointed for a child in a proceeding under Chapter 262 or 263 shall:

(1) review the medical care provided to the child;

(2) in a developmentally appropriate manner, seek to elicit the child's opinion on the medical care provided; and

(3) for a child at least 16 years of age, advise the child of the child's right to request the court to authorize the child to consent to the child's own medical care under Section 266.010.

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Sec. 107.004. Additional Duties of Attorney Ad Litem for Child.

(a) Except as otherwise provided by this chapter, the attorney ad litem appointed for a child shall, in a developmentally appropriate manner:

(1) advise the child;

(2) represent the child's expressed objectives of representation and follow the child's expressed objectives of representation during the course of litigation if the attorney ad litem determines that the child is competent to understand the nature of an attorney–client relationship and has formed that relationship with the attorney ad litem; and

(3) as appropriate, considering the nature of the appointment, become familiar with the American Bar Association's standards of practice for attorneys who represent children in abuse and neglect cases, the suggested amendments to those standards adopted by the National Association of Counsel for Children, and the American Bar Association's standards of practice for attorneys who represent children in custody cases.

(b) An attorney ad litem appointed for a child in a proceeding under Subtitle E shall complete at least three hours of continuing legal education relating to representing children in child protection cases as described by Subsection (c) as soon as practicable after the attorney ad litem is appointed. An attorney ad litem is not required to comply with this subsection if the court finds that the attorney ad litem has experience equivalent to the required education.

(b–1) An attorney who is on the list maintained by the court as being qualified for appointment as an attorney ad litem for a child in a child protection case must complete at least three hours of continuing legal education relating to the representation of a child in a proceeding under Subtitle E each year before the anniversary date of the attorney's listing.

(c) The continuing legal education required by Subsections (b) and (b–1) must:

(1) be low–cost and available to persons throughout this state, including on the Internet provided through the State Bar of Texas; and

(2) focus on the duties of an attorney ad litem in, and the procedures of and best practices for, representing a child in a proceeding under /p>

(d) Except as provided by Subsection (e), an attorney ad litem appointed for a child in a proceeding under Chapter 262 or 263 shall:

(1) meet before each court hearing with:

(A) the child, if the child is at least four years of age; or

(B) the individual with whom the child ordinarily resides, including the child's parent, conservator, guardian, caretaker, or custodian, if the child is younger than four years of age; and

(2) if the child or individual is not present at the court hearing, file a written statement with the court indicating that the attorney ad litem complied with Subdivision (1).

(d–1) A meeting required by Subsection (d) must take place:

(1) a sufficient time before the hearing to allow the attorney ad litem to prepare for the hearing in accordance with the child's expressed objectives of representation; and

(2) in a private setting that allows for confidential communications between the attorney ad litem and the child or individual with whom the child ordinarily resides, as applicable.

(d–2) An attorney ad litem appointed to represent a child in the managing conservatorship of the Department of Family and Protective Services shall, before each scheduled hearing under Chapter 263, determine whether the child's educational needs and goals have been identified and addressed.

(e) An attorney ad litem appointed for a child in a proceeding under Chapter 262 or 263 is not required to comply with Subsection (d) before a hearing if the court finds at that hearing that the attorney ad litem has shown good cause why the attorney ad litem's compliance with that subsection is not feasible or in the best interest of the child. Additionally, a court may, on a showing of good cause, authorize an attorney ad litem to comply with Subsection (d) by conferring with the child or other individual, as appropriate, by telephone or video conference.

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Sec. 107.0045. Discipline of Attorney Ad Litem. An attorney ad litem who fails to perform the duties required by Sections 107.003 and 107.004 is subject to disciplinary action under Subchapter E, Chapter 81, Government Code.

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Sec. 107.005. Additional Duties of Amicus Attorney.

(a) Subject to any specific limitation in the order of appointment, an amicus attorney shall advocate the best interests of the child after reviewing the facts and circumstances of the case. Notwithstanding Subsection (b), in determining the best interests of the child, an amicus attorney is not bound by the child's expressed objectives of representation.

(b) An amicus attorney shall, in a developmentally appropriate manner:

(1) with the consent of the child, ensure that the child's expressed objectives of representation are made known to the court;

(2) explain the role of the amicus attorney to the child;

(3) inform the child that the amicus attorney may use information that the child provides in providing assistance to the court; and

(4) become familiar with the American Bar Association's standards of practice for attorneys who represent children in custody cases.

(c) An amicus attorney may not disclose confidential communications between the amicus attorney and the child unless the amicus attorney determines that disclosure is necessary to assist the court regarding the best interests of the child.

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Sec. 107.006. Access to Child and Information Relating to Child.

(a) In conjunction with an appointment under this chapter, other than an appointment of an attorney ad litem for an adult or a parent, the court shall issue an order authorizing the attorney ad litem, guardian ad litem for the child, or amicus attorney to have immediate access to the child and any information relating to the child.

(b) Without requiring a further order or release, the custodian of any relevant records relating to the child, including records regarding social services, law enforcement records, school records, records of a probate or court proceeding, and records of a trust or account for which the child is a beneficiary, shall provide access to a person authorized to access the records under Subsection (a).

(c) Without requiring a further order or release, the custodian of a medical, mental health, or drug or alcohol treatment record of a child that is privileged or confidential under other law shall release the record to a person authorized to access the record under Subsection (a), except that a child's drug or alcohol treatment record that is confidential under 42 U.S.C. Section 290dd–2 may only be released as provided under applicable federal regulations.

(d) The disclosure of a confidential record under this section does not affect the confidentiality of the record, and the person provided access to the record may not disclose the record further except as provided by court order or other law.

(e) Notwithstanding the provisions of this section, the requirements of Section 159.008, Occupations Code, apply.

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Sec. 107.007. Attorney Word Product and Testimony.

(a) An attorney ad litem, an attorney serving in the dual role, or an amicus attorney may not:

(1) be compelled to produce attorney work product developed during the appointment as an attorney;

(2) be required to disclose the source of any information;

(3) submit a report into evidence; or

(4) testify in court except as authorized by Rule 3.08, Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct.

(b) Subsection (a) does not apply to the duty of an attorney to report child abuse or neglect under Section 261.101.

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Sec. 107.008. Substituted Judgment of Attorney for Child.

(a) An attorney ad litem appointed to represent a child or an attorney appointed in the dual role may determine that the child cannot meaningfully formulate the child's objectives of representation in a case because the child:

(1) lacks sufficient maturity to understand and form an attorney–client relationship with the attorney;

(2) despite appropriate legal counseling, continues to express objectives of representation that would be seriously injurious to the child; or

(3) for any other reason is incapable of making reasonable judgments and engaging in meaningful communication.

(b) An attorney ad litem or an attorney appointed in the dual role who determines that the child cannot meaningfully formulate the child's expressed objectives of representation may present to the court a position that the attorney determines will serve the best interests of the child.

(c) If a guardian ad litem has been appointed for the child in a suit filed by a governmental entity requesting termination of the parent–child relationship or appointment of the entity as conservator of the child, an attorney ad litem who determines that the child cannot meaningfully formulate the child's expressed objectives of representation:

(1) shall consult with the guardian ad litem and, without being bound by the guardian ad litem's opinion or recommendation, ensure that the guardian ad litem's opinion and basis for any recommendation regarding the best interests of the child are presented to the court; and

(2) may present to the court a position that the attorney determines will serve the best interests of the child.

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Sec. 107.009. Immunity.

(a) A guardian ad litem, an attorney ad litem, or an amicus attorney appointed under this chapter is not liable for civil damages arising from an action taken, a recommendation made, or an opinion given in the capacity of guardian ad litem, attorney ad litem, or amicus attorney.

(b) Subsection (a) does not apply to an action taken, a recommendation made, or an opinion given:

(1) with conscious indifference or reckless disregard to the safety of another;

(2) in bad faith or with malice; or

(3) that is grossly negligent or wilfully wrongful.

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Sec. 107.010. Discretionary Appointment of Attorney Ad Litem for Incapacitated Person. The court may appoint an attorney to serve as an attorney ad litem for a person entitled to service of citation in a suit if the court finds that the person is incapacitated. The attorney ad litem shall follow the person's expressed objectives of representation and, if appropriate, refer the proceeding to the proper court for guardianship proceedings.

Subch. B. Appointments in Certain Suits

Part 1. Appointments in Suits by Governmental Entity

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Sec. 107.011. Mandatory Appointment of Guardian Ad Litem.

(a) Except as otherwise provided by this subchapter, in a suit filed by a governmental entity seeking termination of the parent–child relationship or the appointment of a conservator for a child, the court shall appoint a guardian ad litem to represent the best interests of the child immediately after the filing of the petition but before the full adversary hearing.

(b) The guardian ad litem appointed for a child under this section may be:

(1) a charitable organization composed of volunteer advocates or an individual volunteer advocate appointed under Subchapter C;

(2) an adult having the competence, training, and expertise determined by the court to be sufficient to represent the best interests of the child; or

(3) an attorney appointed in the dual role.

(c) The court may not appoint a guardian ad litem in a suit filed by a governmental entity if an attorney is appointed in the dual role unless the court appoints another person to serve as guardian ad litem for the child and restricts the role of the attorney to acting as an attorney ad litem for the child.

(d) The court may appoint an attorney to serve as guardian ad litem for a child without appointing the attorney to serve in the dual role only if the attorney is specifically appointed to serve only in the role of guardian ad litem. An attorney appointed solely as a guardian ad litem:

(1) may take only those actions that may be taken by a nonattorney guardian ad litem; and

(2) may not:

(A) perform legal services in the case; or

(B) take any action that is restricted to a licensed attorney, including engaging in discovery other than as a witness, making opening and closing statements, or examining witnesses.

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Sec. 107.012. Mandatory Appointment of Attorney Ad Litem for Child. In a suit filed by a governmental entity requesting termination of the parent–child relationship or to be named conservator of a child, the court shall appoint an attorney ad litem to represent the interests of the child immediately after the filing, but before the full adversary hearing, to ensure adequate representation of the child.

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Sec. 107.0125. Appointment of Attorney in Dual Role.

(a) In order to comply with the mandatory appointment of a guardian ad litem under Section 107.011 and the mandatory appointment of an attorney ad litem under Section 107.012, the court may appoint an attorney to serve in the dual role.

(b) If the court appoints an attorney to serve in the dual role under this section, the court may at any time during the pendency of the suit appoint another person to serve as guardian ad litem for the child and restrict the attorney to acting as an attorney ad litem for the child.

(c) An attorney appointed to serve in the dual role may request the court to appoint another person to serve as guardian ad litem for the child. If the court grants the attorney's request, the attorney shall serve only as the attorney ad litem for the child.

(d) Unless the court appoints another person as guardian ad litem in a suit filed by a governmental entity, an appointment of an attorney to serve as an attorney ad litem in a suit filed by a governmental entity is an appointment to serve in the dual role regardless of the terminology used in the appointing order.

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Sec. 107.013. Mandatory Appointment of Attorney Ad Litem for Parent.

(a) In a suit filed by a governmental entity under Subtitle E in which termination of the parent–child relationship or the appointment of a conservator for a child is requested, the court shall appoint an attorney ad litem to represent the interests of:

(1) an indigent parent of the child who responds in opposition to the termination or appointment;

(2) a parent served by citation by publication;

(3) an alleged father who failed to register with the registry under Chapter 160 and whose identity or location is unknown; and

(4) an alleged father who registered with the paternity registry under Chapter 160, but the petitioner's attempt to personally serve citation at the address provided to the registry and at any other address for the alleged father known by the petitioner has been unsuccessful.

(a–1) In a suit described by Subsection (a), if a parent is not represented by an attorney at the parent's first appearance in court, the court shall inform the parent of:

(1) the right to be represented by an attorney; and

(2) if the parent is indigent and appears in opposition to the suit, the right to an attorney ad litem appointed by the court.

(b) If both parents of the child are entitled to the appointment of an attorney ad litem under this section and the court finds that the interests of the parents are not in conflict and that there is no history or pattern of past or present family violence by one parent directed against the other parent, a spouse, or a child of the parties, the court may appoint an attorney ad litem to represent the interests of both parents.

(c) [Repealed]

(d) The court shall require a parent who claims indigence under Subsection (a) to file an affidavit of indigence in accordance with Rule 145(b) of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure before the court may conduct a hearing to determine the parent's indigence under this section. The court may consider additional evidence at that hearing, including evidence relating to the parent's income, source of income, assets, property ownership, benefits paid in accordance with a federal, state, or local public assistance program, outstanding obligations, and necessary expenses and the number and ages of the parent's dependents. If the court determines the parent is indigent, the court shall appoint an attorney ad litem to represent the parent.

(e) A parent who the court has determined is indigent for purposes of this section is presumed to remain indigent for the duration of the suit and any subsequent appeal unless the court, after reconsideration on the motion of the parent, the attorney ad litem for the parent, or the attorney representing the governmental entity, determines that the parent is no longer indigent due to a material and substantial change in the parent's financial circumstances.

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Sec. 107.0131. Powers and Duties of Attorney Ad Litem for Parent.

(a) An attorney ad litem appointed under Section 107.013 to represent the interests of a parent:

(1) shall:

(A) subject to Rules 4.02, 4.03, and 4.04, Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct, and within a reasonable time after the appointment, interview:

(i) the parent, unless the parent's location is unknown;

(ii) each person who has significant knowledge of the case; and

(iii) the parties to the suit;

(B) investigate the facts of the case;

(C) to ensure competent representation at hearings, mediations, pretrial matters, and the trial on the merits:

(i) obtain and review copies of all court files in the suit during the attorney ad litem's course of representation; and

(ii) when necessary, conduct formal discovery under the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure or the discovery control plan;

(D) take any action consistent with the parent's interests that the attorney ad litem considers necessary to expedite the proceedings;

(E) encourage settlement and the use of alternative forms of dispute resolution;

(F) review and sign, or decline to sign, a proposed or agreed order affecting the parent;

(G) meet before each court hearing with the parent, unless the court:

(i) finds at that hearing that the attorney ad litem has shown good cause why the attorney ad litem's compliance is not feasible; or

(ii) on a showing of good cause, authorizes the attorney ad litem to comply by

(H) abide by the parent's objectives for representation;

(I) become familiar with the American Bar Association's standards of practice for attorneys who represent parents in abuse and neglect cases; and

(J) complete at least three hours of continuing legal education relating to representing parents in child protection cases as described by Subsection (b) as soon as practicable after the attorney ad litem is appointed, unless the court finds that the attorney ad litem has experience equivalent to that education; and

(2) is entitled to:

(A) request clarification from the court if the role of the attorney ad litem is ambiguous;

(B) request a hearing or trial on the merits;

(C) consent or refuse to consent to an interview of the parent by another attorney;

(D) receive a copy of each pleading or other paper filed with the court;

(E) receive notice of each hearing in the suit;

(F) participate in any case staffing conducted by the Department of Family and Protective Services in which the parent is invited to participate, including, as appropriate, a case staffing to develop a family plan of service, a family group conference, a permanency conference, a mediation, a case staffing to plan for the discharge and return of the child to the parent, and any other case staffing that the department determines would be appropriate for the parent to attend, but excluding any internal department staffing or staffing between the department and the department's legal representative; and

(G) attend all legal proceedings in the suit.

(b) The continuing legal education required by Subsection (a)(1)(J) must:

(1) be low–cost and available to persons throughout this state, including on the Internet provided through the State Bar of Texas; and

(2) focus on the duties of an attorney ad litem in, and the procedures of and best practices for, representing a parent in a proceeding under Subtitle E.

(c) An attorney who is on the list maintained by the court as being qualified for appointment as an attorney ad litem for a parent in a child protection case must complete at least three hours of continuing legal education relating to the representation of a parent in a proceeding under Subtitle E each year before the anniversary date of the attorney's listing.

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Sec. 107.0132. Powers and Duties of Attorney Ad Litem for Alleged Father.

(a) Except as provided by Subsections (b) and (d), an attorney ad litem appointed under Section 107.013 to represent the interests of an alleged father is only required to:

(1) conduct an investigation regarding the petitioner's due diligence in locating the alleged father, including by verifying that the petitioner has obtained a certificate of the results of a search of the paternity registry under Chapter 160;

(2) interview any party or other person who has significant knowledge of the case who may have information relating to the identity or location of the alleged father; and

(3) conduct an independent investigation to identify or locate the alleged father, as applicable.

(b) If the attorney ad litem identifies and locates the alleged father, the attorney ad litem shall:

(1) provide to each party and the court the alleged father's name and address and any other locating information; and

(2) if appropriate, request the court's approval for the attorney ad litem to assist the alleged father in establishing paternity.

(c) If the alleged father is adjudicated to be a parent of the child and is determined by the court to be indigent, the court may appoint the attorney ad litem to continue to represent the father's interests as a parent under Section 107.013(a)(1) or (c).

(d) If the attorney ad litem is unable to identify or locate the alleged father, the attorney ad litem shall submit to the court a written summary of the attorney ad litem's efforts to identify or locate the alleged father with a statement that the attorney ad litem was unable to identify or locate the alleged father. On receipt of the summary required by this subsection, the court shall discharge the attorney from the appointment.

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Sec. 107.0133. Discipline of Attorney Ad Litem for Parent or Alleged Father. An attorney ad litem appointed for a parent or an alleged father who fails to perform the duties required by Section 107.0131 or 107.0132, as applicable, is subject to disciplinary action under Subchapter E, Chapter 81, Government Code.

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Sec. 107.014. Powers and Duties of Attorney Ad Litem for Certain Parents.

(a) Except as provided by Subsections (b) and (e), an attorney ad litem appointed under Section 107.013 to represent the interests of a parent whose identity or location is unknown or who has been served by citation by publication is only required to:

(1) conduct an investigation regarding the petitioner's due diligence in locating the parent;

(2) interview any party or other person who has significant knowledge of the case who may have information relating to the identity or location of the parent; and

(3) conduct an independent investigation to identify or locate the parent, as applicable.

(b) If the attorney ad litem identifies and locates the parent, the attorney ad litem shall:

(1) provide to each party and the court the parent's name and address and any other available locating information unless the court finds that:

(A) disclosure of a parent's address is likely to cause that parent harassment, serious harm, or injury; or

(B) the parent has been a victim of family violence; and

(2) if appropriate, assist the parent in making a claim of indigence for the appointment of an attorney.

(c) If the court makes a finding described by Subsection (b)(1)(A) or (B), the court may:

(1) order that the information not be disclosed; or

(2) render any other order the court considers necessary.

(d) If the court determines the parent is indigent, the court may appoint the attorney ad litem to continue to represent the parent under Section 107.013(a)(1).

(e) If the attorney ad litem is unable to identify or locate the parent, the attorney ad litem shall submit to the court a written summary of the attorney ad litem's efforts to identify or locate the parent with a statement that the attorney ad litem was unable to identify or locate the parent. On receipt of the summary required by this subsection, the court shall discharge the attorney from the appointment.

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Sec. 107.0141. Temporary Appointment of Attorney Ad Litem for Certain Parents.

(a) The court may appoint an attorney ad litem to represent the interests of a parent for a limited period beginning at the time the court issues a temporary restraining order or attachment of the parent's child under Chapter 262 and ending on the court's determination of whether the parent is indigent before commencement of the full adversary hearing.

(b) An attorney ad litem appointed for a parent under this section:

(1) has the powers and duties of an attorney ad litem appointed under Section 107.0131; and

(2) if applicable, shall:

(A) conduct an investigation regarding the petitioner's due diligence in locating and serving citation on the parent; and

(B) interview any party or other person who may have information relating to the identity or location of the parent.

(c) If the attorney ad litem identifies and locates the parent, the attorney ad litem shall:

(1) inform the parent of the parent's right to be represented by an attorney and of the parent's right to an attorney ad litem appointed by the court, if the parent is indigent and appears in opposition to the suit;

(2) if the parent claims indigence and requests an attorney ad litem beyond the period of the temporary appointment under this section, assist the parent in making a claim of indigence for the appointment of an attorney ad litem; and

(3) assist the parent in preparing for the full adversary hearing under Subchapter C, Chapter 262.

(d) If the court determines the parent is indigent, the court may appoint the attorney ad litem to continue to represent the parent under Section 107.013(a)(1).

(e) If the attorney ad litem is unable to identify or locate the parent, the attorney ad litem shall submit to the court a written summary of the attorney ad litem's efforts to identify or locate the parent with a statement that the attorney ad litem was unable to identify or locate the parent. On receipt of the summary required by this subsection, the court shall discharge the attorney ad litem from the appointment.

(f) If the attorney ad litem identifies or locates the parent, and the court determines that the parent is not indigent, the court shall discharge the attorney ad litem from the appointment.

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Sec. 107.015. Attorney Fees.

(a) An attorney appointed under this chapter to serve as an attorney ad litem for a child, an attorney in the dual role, or an attorney ad litem for a parent is entitled to reasonable fees and expenses in the amount set by the court to be paid by the parents of the child unless the parents are indigent.

(b) If the court determines that one or more of the parties are able to defray the fees and expenses of an attorney ad litem or guardian ad litem for the child as determined by the reasonable and customary fees for similar services in the county of jurisdiction, the fees and expenses may be ordered paid by one or more of those parties, or the court may order one or more of those parties, prior to final hearing, to pay the sums into the registry of the court or into an account authorized by the court for the use and benefit of the payee on order of the court. The sums may be taxed as costs to be assessed against one or more of the parties.

(c) If indigency of the parents is shown, an attorney ad litem appointed to represent a child or parent in a suit filed by a governmental entity shall be paid from the general funds of the county according to the fee schedule that applies to an attorney appointed to represent a child in a suit under Title 3 as provided by Chapter 51. The court may not award attorney ad litem fees under this chapter against the state, a state agency, or a political subdivision of the state except as provided by this subsection.

(d) A person appointed as a guardian ad litem or attorney ad litem shall complete and submit to the court a voucher or claim for payment that lists the fees charged and hours worked by the guardian ad litem or attorney ad litem. Information submitted under this section is subject to disclosure under Chapter 552, Government Code.

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Sec. 107.016. Continued Representation; Duration of Appointment. In a suit filed by a governmental entity in which termination of the parent–child relationship or appointment of the entity as conservator of the child is requested:

(1) an order appointing the Department of Family and Protective Services as the child's managing conservator may provide for the continuation of the appointment of the guardian ad litem or attorney ad litem for the child for any period set by the court; and

(2) an attorney appointed under this subchapter to serve as an attorney ad litem for a parent or an alleged father continues to serve in that capacity until the earliest of:

(A) the date the suit affecting the parent–child relationship is dismissed;

(B) the date all appeals in relation to any final order terminating parental rights are exhausted or waived; or

(C) the date the attorney is relieved of the attorney's duties or replaced by another attorney after a finding of good cause is rendered by the court on the record.

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Sec. 107.0161. Ad Litem Appointments for Child Committed to Texas Juvenile Justice Department. If an order appointing the Department of Family and Protective Services as managing conservator of a child does not continue the appointment of the child's guardian ad litem or attorney ad litem and the child is committed to the Texas Juvenile Justice Department or released under supervision by the Texas Juvenile Justice Department, the court may appoint a guardian ad litem or attorney ad litem for the child.

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Sec. 107.017. Appointment of Amicus Attorney Prohibited. The court may not appoint a person to serve as an amicus attorney in a suit filed by a governmental entity under this chapter.

Part 2. Appointments in Suits Other than Suits by Governmental Entity

[Contents]

Sec. 107.021. Discretionary Appointments.

(a) In a suit in which the best interests of a child are at issue, other than a suit filed by a governmental entity requesting termination of the parent–child relationship or appointment of the entity as conservator of the child, the court may appoint one of the following:

(1) an amicus attorney;

(2) an attorney ad litem; or

(3) a guardian ad litem.

(a–1) In a suit requesting termination of the parent–child relationship that is not filed by a governmental entity, the court shall, unless the court finds that the interests of the child will be represented adequately by a party to the suit whose interests are not in conflict with the child's interests, appoint one of the following:

(1) an amicus attorney; or

(2) an attorney ad litem.

(b) In determining whether to make an appointment under this section, the court:

(1) shall:

(A) give due consideration to the ability of the parties to pay reasonable fees to the appointee; and

(B) balance the child's interests against the cost to the parties that would result from an appointment by taking into consideration the cost of available alternatives for resolving issues without making an appointment;

(2) may make an appointment only if the court finds that the appointment is necessary to ensure the determination of the best interests of the child, unless the appointment is otherwise required by this code; and

(3) may not require a person appointed under this section to serve without reasonable compensation for the services rendered by the person.

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Sec. 107.022. Certain Prohibited Appointments. In a suit other than a suit filed by a governmental entity requesting termination of the parent–child relationship or appointment of the entity as conservator of the child, the court may not appoint:

(1) an attorney to serve in the dual role; or

(2) a volunteer advocate to serve as guardian ad litem for a child unless the training of the volunteer advocate is designed for participation in suits other than suits filed by a governmental entity requesting termination of the parent–child relationship or appointment of the entity as conservator of the child.

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Sec. 107.023. Fees in Suits Other than Suits by Governmental Entity.

(a) In a suit other than a suit filed by a governmental entity requesting termination of the parent–child relationship or appointment of the entity as conservator of the child, in addition to the attorney's fees that may be awarded under Chapter 106, the following persons are entitled to reasonable fees and expenses in an amount set by the court and ordered to be paid by one or more parties to the suit:

(1) an attorney appointed as an amicus attorney or as an attorney ad litem for the child; and

(2) a professional who holds a relevant professional license and who is appointed as guardian ad litem for the child, other than a volunteer advocate.

(b) The court shall:

(1) determine the fees and expenses of an amicus attorney, an attorney ad litem, or a guardian ad litem by reference to the reasonable and customary fees for similar services in the county of jurisdiction;

(2) order a reasonable cost deposit to be made at the time the court makes the appointment; and

(3) before the final hearing, order an additional amount to be paid to the credit of a trust account for the use and benefit of the amicus attorney, attorney ad litem, or

(c) A court may not award costs, fees, or expenses to an amicus attorney, attorney ad litem, or guardian ad litem against the state, a state agency, or a political subdivision of the state under this part.

(d) The court may determine that fees awarded under this subchapter to an amicus attorney, an attorney ad litem for the child, or a guardian ad litem for the child are necessaries for the benefit of the child.

Subch. C. Appointment of Volunteer Advocates

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Sec. 107.031. Volunteer Advocates.

(a) In a suit filed by a governmental entity requesting termination of the parent–child relationship or appointment of the entity as conservator of the child, the court may appoint a charitable organization composed of volunteer advocates whose charter mandates the provision of services to allegedly abused and neglected children or an individual who has received the court's approved training regarding abused and neglected children and who has been certified by the court to appear at court hearings as a guardian ad litem for the child or as a volunteer advocate for the child.

(b) In a suit other than a suit filed by a governmental entity requesting termination of the parent–child relationship or appointment of the entity as conservator of the child, the court may appoint a charitable organization composed of volunteer advocates whose training provides for the provision of services in private custody disputes or a person who has received the court's approved training regarding the subject matter of the suit and who has been certified by the court to appear at court hearings as a guardian ad litem for the child or as a volunteer advocate for the child. A person appointed under this subsection is not entitled to fees under Section 107.023.

(c) A court–certified volunteer advocate appointed under this section may be assigned to act as a surrogate parent for the child, as provided by 20 U.S.C. Section 1415(b), if:

(1) the child is in the conservatorship of the Department of Family and Protective Services;

(2) the volunteer advocate is serving as guardian ad litem for the child; and

(3) a foster parent of the child is not acting as the child's parent under Section 29.015, Education Code.

Subch. D. Child Custody Evaluation

Editor's note: There are two Subchapters F (see below). The section numbering in the first Subchapter F ("Managed Assigned Counsel Program for the Representation of Certain Children and Parents") is duplicative of the numbering in this Subchapter D.

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Sec. 107.101. Definitions. In this subchapter:

(1) "Child custody evaluation" means an evaluative process ordered by a court in a contested case through which information, opinions, recommendations, and answers to specific questions asked by the court may be:

(A) made regarding:

(i) conservatorship of a child, including the terms and conditions of conservatorship;

(ii) possession of or access to a child, including the terms and conditions of possession or access; or

(iii) any other issue affecting the best interest of a child; and

(B) made to the court, the parties to the suit, the parties' attorneys, and any other person appointed under this chapter by the court in the suit.

(2) "Child custody evaluator" means an individual who conducts a child custody evaluation under this subchapter. The term includes a private child custody evaluator.

(3) "Department" means the Department of Family and Protective Services.

(4) "Person" includes an agency or a domestic relations office.

(5) "Private child custody evaluator" means a person conducting a child custody evaluation who is not conducting the evaluation as an employee of or contractor with a domestic relations office.

(6) "Supervision" means directing, regularly reviewing, and meeting with a person with respect to the completion of work for which the supervisor is responsible for the outcome. The term does not require the constant physical presence of the person providing supervision and may include telephonic or other electronic communication.

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Sec. 107.102. Applicability.

(a) For purposes of this subchapter, a child custody evaluation does not include services provided in accordance with the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children adopted under Subchapter B, Chapter 162, or an evaluation conducted in accordance with Section 262.114 by an employee of or contractor with the department.

(b) The department may not conduct a child custody evaluation.

(c) Except as provided by Subsections (a) and (b), this subchapter does not apply to the department or to a suit to which the department is a party.

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Sec. 107.1025. Effect of Mental Examination. A mental examination described by Rule 204.4, Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, does not by itself satisfy the requirements for a child custody evaluation under this subchapter. A mental examination may be included in the report required under this subchapter and relied on by the child custody evaluator to the extent the evaluator considers appropriate under the circumstances.

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Sec. 107.103. Order for Child Custody Evaluation.

(a) The court, after notice and hearing or on agreement of the parties, may order the preparation of a child custody evaluation regarding:

(1) the circumstances and condition of:

(A) a child who is the subject of a suit;

(B) a party to a suit; and

(C) the residence of any person requesting conservatorship of, possession of, or access to a child who is the subject of the suit; and

(2) any issue or question relating to the suit at the request of the court before or during the evaluation process.

(b) The court may not appoint a child custody evaluator in a suit involving a nonparent seeking conservatorship of a child unless, after notice and hearing or on agreement of the parties, the court makes a specific finding that good cause has been shown for the appointment of a child custody evaluator.

(c) An order for a child custody evaluation must include:

(1) the name of each person who will conduct the evaluation;

(2) the purpose of the evaluation; and

(3) the specific issues or questions to be addressed in the evaluation.

(d) Except as provided by Section 107.106, each individual who conducts a child custody evaluation must be qualified under Section 107.104.

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Sec. 107.104. Child Custody Evaluator: Minimum Qualifications.

(a) In this section:

(1) "Full–time experience" means a period during which an individual works at least 30 hours per week.

(2) "Human services field of study" means a field of study designed to prepare an individual in the disciplined application of counseling, family therapy, psychology, or social work values, principles, and methods.

(b) To be qualified to conduct a child custody evaluation, an individual must:

(1) have at least a master's degree from an accredited college or university in a human services field of study and a license to practice in this state as a social worker, professional counselor, marriage and family therapist, or psychologist, or have a license to practice medicine in this state and a board certification in psychiatry and:

(A) after completing any degree required by this subdivision, have two years of full–time experience or equivalent part–time experience under professional supervision during which the individual performed functions involving the evaluation of physical, intellectual, social, and psychological functioning and needs and developed an understanding of the social and physical environment, both present and prospective, to meet those needs; and

(B) after obtaining a license required by this subdivision, have performed at least 10 court–ordered child custody evaluations under the supervision of an individual qualified under this section;

(2) meet the requirements of Subdivision (1)(A) and be practicing under the direct supervision of an individual qualified under this section in order to complete at least 10 court–ordered child custody evaluations under supervision; or

(3) be employed by or under contract with a domestic relations office, provided that the individual conducts child custody evaluations relating only to families ordered by a court to participate in child custody evaluations conducted by the domestic relations office.

(c) Notwithstanding Subsections (b)(1) and (2), an individual with a doctoral degree and who holds a license in a human services field of study is qualified to conduct a child custody evaluation if the individual has completed a number of hours of professional development coursework and practice experience directly related to the performance of child custody evaluations as described by this chapter, satisfactory to the licensing agency that issues the individual's license.

(d) The licensing agency that issues a license to an individual described by Subsection (c) may determine by rule that internships, practicums, and other professional preparatory activities completed by the individual during the course of achieving the person's doctoral degree satisfy the requirements of Subsection (c) in whole or in part.

(e) In addition to the qualifications prescribed by this section, an individual must complete at least eight hours of family violence dynamics training provided by a family violence service provider to be qualified to conduct a child custody evaluation under this subchapter.

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Sec. 107.105. Child Custody Evaluation: Specialized Training Required.

(a) The court shall determine whether the qualifications of a child custody evaluator satisfy the requirements of this subchapter.

(b) A child custody evaluator must demonstrate, if requested, appropriate knowledge and competence in child custody evaluation services consistent with professional models, standards, and guidelines.

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Sec. 107.106. Exception to Qualifications Required to Conduct Child Custody Evaluation.

(a) In a county with a population of less than 500,000, if a court finds that an individual who meets the requirements of Section 107.104 is not available in the county to conduct a child custody evaluation in a timely manner, the court, after notice and hearing or on agreement of the parties, may appoint an individual the court determines to be otherwise qualified to conduct the evaluation.

(b) An individual appointed under this section shall comply with all provisions of this subchapter, other than Section 107.104.

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Sec. 107.107. Child Custody Evaluator: Conflicts of Interest and Bias.

(a) Before accepting appointment as a child custody evaluator in a suit, a person must disclose to the court, each attorney for a party to the suit, any attorney for a child who is the subject of the suit, and any party to the suit who does not have an attorney:

(1) any conflict of interest that the person believes the person has with any party to the suit or a child who is the subject of the suit;

(2) any previous knowledge that the person has of a party to the suit or a child who is the subject of the suit, other than knowledge obtained in a court–ordered evaluation;

(3) any pecuniary relationship that the person believes the person has with an attorney in the suit;

(4) any relationship of confidence or trust that the person believes the person has with an attorney in the suit; and

(5) any other information relating to the person's relationship with an attorney in the suit that a reasonable, prudent person would believe would affect the ability of the person to act impartially in conducting a child custody evaluation.

(b) The court may not appoint a person as a child custody evaluator in a suit if the person makes any of the disclosures in Subsection (a) unless:

(1) the court finds that:

(A) the person has no conflict of interest with a party to the suit or a child who is the subject of the suit;

(B) the person's previous knowledge of a party to the suit or a child who is the subject of the suit is not relevant;

(C) the person does not have a pecuniary relationship with an attorney in the suit; and

(D) the person does not have a relationship of trust or confidence with an attorney in the suit; or

(2) the parties and any attorney for a child who is the subject of the suit agree in writing to the person's appointment as the child custody evaluator.

(c) After being appointed as a child custody evaluator in a suit, a person shall immediately disclose to the court, each attorney for a party to the suit, any attorney for a child who is the subject of the suit, and any party to the suit who does not have an attorney any discovery of:

(1) a conflict of interest that the person believes the person has with a party to the suit or a child who is the subject of the suit; and

(2) previous knowledge that the person has of a party to the suit or a child who is the subject of the suit, other than knowledge obtained in a court–ordered evaluation.

(d) A person shall resign from the person's appointment as a child custody evaluator in a suit if the person makes any of the disclosures in Subsection (c) unless:

(1) the court finds that:

(A) the person has no conflict of interest with a party to the suit or a child who is the subject of the suit; and

(B) the person's previous knowledge of a party to the suit or a child who is the subject of the suit is not relevant; or

(2) the parties and any attorney for a child who is the subject of the suit agree in writing to the person's continued appointment as the child custody evaluator.

(e) A child custody evaluator who has previously conducted a child custody evaluation for a suit may conduct all subsequent evaluations in the suit unless the court finds that the evaluator is biased.

(f) An individual may not be appointed as a child custody evaluator in a suit if the individual has worked in a professional capacity with a party to the suit, a child who is the subject of the suit, or a member of the party's or child's family who is involved in the suit. This subsection does not apply to an individual who has worked in a professional capacity with a party, a child, or a member of the party's or child's family only as a teacher of parenting skills in a group setting, with no individualized interaction with any party, the child, any party's family, or the child's family, or as a child custody evaluator who performed a previous evaluation. A child custody evaluator who has worked as a teacher of parenting skills in a group setting that included a party, a child, or another person who will be the subject of an evaluation or has worked as a child custody evaluator for a previous evaluation must notify the court and the attorney of each represented party or, if a party is not represented, the evaluator must notify the party. For purposes of this subsection, "family" has the meaning assigned by Section 71.003.

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Sec. 107.108. General Provisions Applicable to Conduct of Child Custody Evaluation and Preparation of Report.

(a) Unless otherwise directed by a court or prescribed by a provision of this title, a child custody evaluator's actions in conducting a child custody evaluation must be in conformance with the professional standard of care applicable to the evaluator's licensure and any administrative rules, ethical standards, or guidelines adopted by the licensing authority that licenses the evaluator.

(b) A court may impose requirements or adopt local rules applicable to a child custody evaluation or a child custody evaluator that do not conflict with this subchapter.

(c) A child custody evaluator shall follow evidence–based practice methods and make use of current best evidence in making assessments and recommendations.

(d) A child custody evaluator shall disclose to each attorney of record any communication regarding a substantive issue between the evaluator and an attorney of record representing a party in a contested suit. This subsection does not apply to a communication between a child custody evaluator and an attorney ad litem or amicus attorney.

(e) To the extent possible, a child custody evaluator shall verify each statement of fact pertinent to a child custody evaluation and shall note the sources of verification and information in the child custody evaluation report prepared under Section 107.113.

(f) A child custody evaluator shall state the basis for the evaluator's conclusions or recommendations, and the extent to which information obtained limits the reliability and validity of the opinion and the conclusions and recommendations of the evaluator, in the child custody evaluation report prepared under Section 107.113. A child custody evaluator who has evaluated only one side of a contested suit shall refrain from making a recommendation regarding conservatorship of a child or possession of or access to a child, but may state whether any information obtained regarding a child's placement with a party indicates concerns for:

(1) the safety of the child;

(2) the party's parenting skills or capability;

(3) the party's relationship with the child; or

(4) the mental health of the party.

(g) A child custody evaluation must be conducted in compliance with this subchapter, regardless of whether the child custody evaluation is conducted:

(1) by a single child custody evaluator or multiple evaluators working separately or together; or

(2) within a county served by the court with continuing jurisdiction or at a geographically distant location.

(h) A child custody evaluation report must include for each child custody evaluator who conducted any portion of the child custody evaluation:

(1) the name and license number of the child custody evaluator; and

(2) a statement that the child custody evaluator:

(A) has read and meets the requirements of Section 107.104; or

(B) was appointed under Section 107.106.

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Sec. 107.109. Elements of Child Custody Evaluation.

(a) A child custody evaluator may not offer an opinion regarding conservatorship of a child who is the subject of a suit or possession of or access to the child unless each basic element of a child custody evaluation as described by this section has been completed.

(b) A child custody evaluator shall:

(1) identify in the report required by Section 107.113 any basic element or any additional element of a child custody evaluation described by this section that was not completed;

(2) explain the reasons the element was not completed; and

(3) include an explanation of the likely effect of the missing element on the confidence the child custody evaluator has in the evaluator's expert opinion.

(c) The basic elements of a child custody evaluation under this subchapter consist of:

(1) a personal interview of each party to the suit;

(2) interviews, conducted in a developmentally appropriate manner, of each child who is the subject of the suit, regardless of the age of the child, during a period of possession of each party to the suit but outside the presence of the party;

(3) observation of each child who is the subject of the suit, regardless of the age of the child, in the presence of each party to the suit, including, as appropriate, during supervised visitation, unless contact between a party and a child is prohibited by court order or the person conducting the evaluation has good cause for not conducting the observation and states the good cause in writing provided to the parties to the suit before the completion of the evaluation;

(4) an observation and, if the child is at least four years old, an interview of any child who is not a subject of the suit who lives on a full–time basis in a residence that is the subject of the evaluation, including with other children or parties who are subjects of the evaluation, where appropriate;

(5) the obtaining of information from relevant collateral sources, including the review of:

(A) relevant school records;

(B) relevant physical and mental health records of each party to the suit and each child who is the subject of the suit;

(C) relevant records of the department obtained under Section 107.111;

(D) criminal history information relating to each child who is the subject of the suit, each party to the suit, and each person who lives with a party to the suit; and

(E) any other collateral source that may have relevant information;

(6) evaluation of the home environment of each party seeking conservatorship of a child who is the subject of the suit or possession of or access to the child, unless the condition of the home environment is identified as not being in dispute in the court order requiring the child custody evaluation;

(7) for each individual residing in a residence subject to the child custody evaluation, consideration of any criminal history information and any contact with the department or a law enforcement agency regarding abuse or neglect; and

(8) assessment of the relationship between each child who is the subject of the suit and each party seeking possession of or access to the child.

(d) The additional elements of a child custody evaluation under this subchapter consist of:

(1) balanced interviews and observations of each child who is the subject of the suit so that a child who is interviewed or observed while in the care of one party to the suit is also interviewed or observed while in the care of each other party to the suit;

(2) an interview of each individual, including a child who is at least four years of age, residing on a full–time or part–time basis in a residence subject to the child custody evaluation;

(3) evaluation of the home environment of each party seeking conservatorship of a child who is the subject of the suit or possession of or access to the child, regardless of whether the home environment is in dispute;

(4) observation of a child who is the subject of the suit with each adult who lives in a residence that is the subject of the evaluation;

(5) an interview, if the child is at least four years of age, and observation of a child who is not the subject of the suit but who lives on a full–time or part–time basis in a residence that is the subject of the evaluation;

(6) psychometric testing, if necessary, consistent with Section 107.110; and

(7) the performance of other tasks requested of the evaluator by the court, including:

(A) a joint interview of the parties to the suit; or

(B) the review of any other information that the court determines is relevant.

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Sec. 107.110. Psychometric Testing.

(a) A child custody evaluator may conduct psychometric testing as part of a child custody evaluation if:

(1) ordered by the court or determined necessary by the child custody evaluator; and

(2) the child custody evaluator is:

(A) appropriately licensed and trained to administer and interpret the specific psychometric tests selected; and

(B) trained in the specialized forensic application of psychometric testing.

(b) Selection of a specific psychometric test is at the professional discretion of the child custody evaluator based on the specific issues raised in the suit.

(c) A child custody evaluator may only use psychometric tests if the evaluator is familiar with the reliability, validation, and related standardization or outcome studies of, and proper applications and use of, the tests within a forensic setting.

(d) If a child custody evaluator considers psychometric testing necessary but lacks specialized training or expertise to use the specific tests under this section, the evaluator may designate a licensed psychologist to conduct the testing.

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Sec. 107.1101. Effect of Potentially Undiagnosed Serious Mental Illness.

(a) In this section, "serious mental illness" has the meaning assigned by Section 1355.001, Insurance Code.

(b) If a child custody evaluator identifies the presence of a potentially undiagnosed serious mental illness experienced by an individual who is a subject of the child custody evaluation and the evaluator is not qualified by the evaluator's licensure, experience, and training to assess a serious mental illness, the evaluator shall make one or more appropriate referrals for a mental examination of the individual.

(c) The child custody evaluation report must include any information that the evaluator considers appropriate under the circumstances regarding the possible effects of an individual's potentially undiagnosed serious mental illness on the evaluation and the evaluator's recommendations.

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Sec. 107.111. Child Custody Evaluator Access to Investigative Records of Department; Offense.

(a) A child custody evaluator appointed by a court is entitled to obtain from the department a complete, unredacted copy of any investigative record regarding abuse or neglect that relates to any person residing in the residence subject to the child custody evaluation.

(b) Except as provided by this section, records obtained by a child custody evaluator from the department under this section are confidential and not subject to disclosure under Chapter 552, Government Code, or to disclosure in response to a subpoena or a discovery request.

(c) A child custody evaluator may disclose information obtained under Subsection (a) in the child custody evaluation report prepared under Section 107.113 only to the extent the evaluator determines that the information is relevant to the child custody evaluation or a recommendation made under this subchapter.

(d) A person commits an offense if the person recklessly discloses confidential information obtained from the department in violation of this section. An offense under this subsection is a Class A misdemeanor.

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Sec. 107.112. Communications and Recordkeeping of Child Custody Evaluator.

(a) Notwithstanding any rule, standard of care, or privilege applicable to the professional license held by a child custody evaluator, a communication made by a participant in a child custody evaluation is subject to disclosure and may be offered in any judicial or administrative proceeding if otherwise admissible under the rules of evidence.

(b) A child custody evaluator shall:

(1) keep a detailed record of interviews that the evaluator conducts, observations that the evaluator makes, and substantive interactions that the evaluator has as part of a child custody evaluation; and

(2) maintain the evaluator's records consistent with applicable laws, including rules applicable to the evaluator's license.

(c) Except for records obtained from the department in accordance with Section 107.111, a private child custody evaluator shall, after completion of an evaluation and the preparation and filing of a child custody evaluation report under Section 107.113, make available in a reasonable time the evaluator's records relating to the evaluation on the written request of an attorney for a party, a party who does not have an attorney, and any person appointed under this chapter in the suit in which the evaluator conducted the evaluation, unless a court has issued an order restricting disclosure of the records.

(d) Except for records obtained from the department in accordance with Section 107.111, records relating to a child custody evaluation conducted by an employee of or contractor with a domestic relations office shall, after completion of the evaluation and the preparation and filing of a child custody evaluation report under Section 107.113, be made available on written request according to the local rules and policies of the office.

(e) A person maintaining records subject to disclosure under this section may charge a reasonable fee for producing the records before copying the records.

(f) A private child custody evaluator shall retain all records relating to a child custody evaluation conducted by the evaluator until the ending date of the retention period adopted by the licensing authority that issues the professional license held by the evaluator based on the date the evaluator filed the child custody evaluation report prepared under this section with the court.

(g) A domestic relations office shall retain records relating to a child custody evaluation conducted by a child custody evaluator acting as an employee of or contractor with the office for the retention period established by the office.

(h) A person who participates in a child custody evaluation is not a patient as that term is defined by Section 611.001(1), Health and Safety Code.

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Sec. 107.113. Child Custody Evaluation Report Required.

(a) A child custody evaluator who conducts a child custody evaluation shall prepare and file a report containing the evaluator's findings, opinions, recommendations, and answers to specific questions asked by the court relating to the evaluation.

(b) The person conducting a child custody evaluation shall file with the court on a date set by the court a report containing the person's findings and conclusions. The report shall be made a part of the record of the suit.

(c) If the suit is settled before completion of the child custody evaluation report, the report under this section is not required.

(d) A report prepared under this section must include the information required by Section 107.108(h) for each child custody evaluator who conducted any portion of the evaluation.

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Sec. 107.114. Introduction and Provision of Child Custody Evaluation Report.

(a) Disclosure to the jury of the contents of a child custody evaluation report prepared under Section 107.113 is subject to the rules of evidence.

(b) Unless the court has rendered an order restricting disclosure, a private child custody evaluator shall provide to the attorneys of the parties to a suit, any party who does not have an attorney, and any other person appointed by the court under this chapter in a suit a copy of the child custody evaluation report before the earlier of:

(1) the third day after the date the child custody evaluation report is completed; or

(2) the 30th day before the date of commencement of the trial.

(c) A child custody evaluator who conducts a child custody evaluation as an employee of or under contract with a domestic relations office shall provide to the attorneys of the parties to a suit and any person appointed in the suit under this chapter a copy of the child custody evaluation report before the earlier of:

(1) the seventh day after the date the child custody evaluation report is completed; or

(2) the fifth day before the date the trial commences.

(d) A child custody evaluator who conducts a child custody evaluation as an employee of or under contract with a domestic relations office shall provide a copy of the report to a party to the suit as provided by the local rules and policies of the office or by a court order.

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Sec. 107.115. Child Custody Evaluation Fee. If the court orders a child custody evaluation to be conducted, the court shall award the person appointed as the child custody evaluator a reasonable fee for the preparation of the child custody evaluation that shall be imposed in the form of a money judgment and paid directly to the person. The person may enforce the judgment for the fee by any means available under law for civil judgments.

[First] Subch. E. Office of Child Representation and Office of Parent Representation

Editor's note: There are two Subchapters E. The other one (following this one) is titled "Adoption Evaluation."

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Sec. 107.061. Definition. In this subchapter, "governmental entity" includes a county, a group of counties, a department of a county, an administrative judicial region created by Section 74.042, Government Code, and any entity created under the Interlocal Cooperation Act as permitted by Chapter 791, Government Code.

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Sec. 107.062. Applicability. This subchapter applies to a suit filed by a governmental entity seeking termination of the parent–child relationship or the appointment of a conservator for a child in which appointment of an attorney is required under Section 107.012 or 107.013.

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Sec. 107.063. Nonprofit Funding. This subchapter does not limit or prevent a nonprofit corporation from receiving and using money obtained from other entities to provide legal representation and services as authorized by this subchapter.

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Sec. 107.064. Office of Child Representation. An office of child representation is an entity that uses public money to provide legal representation and services for a child in a suit filed by a governmental entity seeking termination of the parent–child relationship or the appointment of a conservator for the child in which appointment is mandatory for a child under Section 107.012.

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Sec. 107.065. Office of Parent Representation. An office of parent representation is an entity that uses public money to provide legal representation and services for a parent in a suit filed by a governmental entity seeking termination of the parent–child relationship or the appointment of a conservator for a child in which appointment is mandatory for a parent under Section 107.013.

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Sec. 107.066. Creation of Office of Child Representation or Office of Parent Representation.

(a) An office described by Section 107.064 or 107.065 may be a governmental entity or a nonprofit corporation operating under a written agreement with a governmental entity, other than an individual judge or court.

(b) The commissioners court of any county, on written approval of a judge of a statutory county court or a district court having family law jurisdiction in the county, may create an office of child representation, an office of parent representation, or both offices by establishing a department of the county or designating under a contract a nonprofit corporation to perform the duties of an office.

(c) The commissioners courts of two or more counties may enter into a written agreement to jointly create and jointly fund a regional office of child representation, a regional office of parent representation, or both regional offices.

(d) In creating an office of child representation or office of parent representation under this section, the commissioners court shall specify or the commissioners courts shall jointly specify, as applicable:

(1) the duties of the office;

(2) the types of cases to which the office may be appointed under this chapter and the courts in which an attorney employed by the office may be required to appear;

(3) if the office is a nonprofit corporation, the term during which the contract designating the office is effective and how that contract may be renewed on expiration of the term; and

(4) if an oversight board is established under Section 107.072 for the office, the powers and duties that have been delegated to the oversight board.

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Sec. 107.067. Nonprofit as Office.

(a) Before contracting with a nonprofit corporation to serve as an office of child representation or office of parent representation, the commissioners court or commissioners courts, as applicable, must solicit proposals for the office.

(b) After considering each proposal for an office of child representation or office of parent representation submitted by a nonprofit corporation, the commissioners court or commissioners courts, as applicable, shall select a proposal that reasonably demonstrates that the office will provide adequate quality representation for children for whom appointed counsel is required under Section 107.012 or for parents for whom appointed counsel is required under Section 107.013, as applicable.

(c) The total cost of the proposal may not be the sole consideration in selecting a proposal.

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Sec. 107.068. Plan of Operation for Office. The applicable commissioners court or commissioners courts shall require a written plan of operation from an entity serving as an office of child representation or office of parent representation. The plan must include:

(1) a budget for the office, including salaries;

(2) a description of each personnel position, including the chief counsel position;

(3) the maximum allowable caseloads for each attorney employed by the office;

(4) provisions for training personnel and attorneys employed by the office;

(5) a description of anticipated overhead costs for the office;

(6) policies regarding the use of licensed investigators and expert witnesses by the office; and

(7) a policy to ensure that the chief of the office and other attorneys employed by the office do not provide representation to a child, a parent, or an alleged father, as applicable, if doing so would create a conflict of interest.

[Contents]

Sec. 107.069. Office Personnel.

(a) An office of child representation or office of parent representation must be directed by a chief counsel who:

(1) is a member of the State Bar of Texas;

(2) has practiced law for at least three years; and

(3) has substantial experience in the practice of child welfare law.

(b) An office of child representation or office of parent representation may employ attorneys, licensed investigators, licensed social workers, and other personnel necessary to perform the duties of the office as specified by the commissioners court or commissioners courts.

(c) An attorney for the office of child representation or office of parent representation must comply with any applicable continuing education and training requirements of Sections 107.004 and 107.0131 before accepting representation.

(d) Except as authorized by this chapter, the chief counsel and other attorneys employed by an office of child representation or office of parent representation may not:

(1) engage in the private practice of child welfare law; or

(2) accept anything of value not authorized by this chapter for services rendered under this chapter.

(e) A judge may remove from a case a person who violates Subsection (d).

[Contents]

Sec. 107.070. Appointments in County in Which Office Created.

(a) If there is an office of child representation or office of parent representation serving a county, a court in that county shall appoint for a child or parent, as applicable, an attorney from the office in a suit filed in the county by a governmental entity seeking termination of the parent–child relationship or the appointment of a conservator for the child, unless there is a conflict of interest or other reason to appoint a different attorney from the list maintained by the court of attorneys qualified for appointment under Section 107.012 or 107.013.

(b) An office of child representation or office of parent representation may not accept an appointment if:

(1) a conflict of interest exists;

(2) the office has insufficient resources to provide adequate representation;

(3) the office is incapable of providing representation in accordance with the rules of professional conduct;

(4) the appointment would require one or more attorneys at the office to have a caseload that exceeds the maximum allowable caseload; or

(5) the office shows other good cause for not accepting the appointment.

(c) An office of parent representation may investigate the financial condition of any person the office is appointed to represent under Section 107.013. The office shall report the results of the investigation to the appointing judge. The judge may hold a hearing to determine if the person is indigent and entitled to appointment of representation under Section 107.013.

(d) If it is necessary to appoint an attorney who is not employed by an office of child representation or office of parent representation for one or more parties, the attorney is entitled to the compensation provided by Section 107.015.

[Contents]

Sec. 107.071. Funding of Office. An office of child representation or office of parent representation is entitled to receive money for personnel costs and expenses incurred in operating as an office in amounts set by the commissioners court and paid out of the appropriate county fund, or jointly fixed by the commissioners courts and proportionately paid out of each appropriate county fund if the office serves more than one county.

[Contents]

Sec. 107.072. Oversight Board.

(a) The commissioners court of a county or the commissioners courts of two or more counties may establish an oversight board for an office of child representation or office of parent representation created in accordance with this subchapter.

(b) A commissioners court that establishes an oversight board under this section shall appoint members of the board. Members may include one or more of the following:

(1) an attorney with substantial experience in child welfare law;

(2) the judge of a trial court having family law jurisdiction in the county or counties for which the office was created;

(3) a county commissioner; and

(4) a county judge.

(c) A commissioners court may delegate to the oversight board any power or duty of the commissioners court to provide oversight of an office of child representation or office of parent representation under this subchapter, including:

(1) recommending selection and removal of a chief counsel of the office;

(2) setting policy for the office; and

(3) developing a budget proposal for the office.

(d) An oversight board established under this section may not access privileged or confidential information.

(e) A judge who serves on an oversight board under this section has judicial immunity in a suit arising from the performance of a power or duty described by Subsection (c).

[Second] Subch. E. Adoption Evaluation

Editor's note: There are two Subchapters E. The other one (above) is titled "Office of Child Representation and Office of Parent Representation."

[Contents]

Sec. 107.151. Definitions. In this subchapter:

(1) "Adoption evaluation" means a pre–placement or post–placement evaluative process through which information and recommendations regarding adoption of a child may be made to the court, the parties, and the parties' attorneys.

(2) "Adoption evaluator" means a person who conducts an adoption evaluation under this subchapter.

(3) "Department" means the Department of Family and Protective Services.

(4) "Supervision" means directing, regularly reviewing, and meeting with a person with respect to the completion of work for which the supervisor is responsible for the outcome. The term does not require the constant physical presence of the person providing supervision and may include telephonic or other electronic communication.

[Contents]

Sec. 107.152. Applicability.

(a) For purposes of this subchapter, an adoption evaluation does not include services provided in accordance with the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children adopted under Subchapter B, Chapter 162, or an evaluation conducted in accordance with Section 262.114 by an employee of or contractor with the department.

(b) This subchapter does not apply to the pre–placement and post–placement parts of an adoption evaluation conducted by a licensed child–placing agency or the department.

(c) The pre–placement and post–placement parts of an adoption evaluation conducted by a licensed child–placing agency or the department are governed by rules adopted by the executive commissioner of the Health and Human Services Commission.

(d) In a suit involving a licensed child–placing agency or the department, a licensed child–placing agency or the department shall conduct the pre–placement and post–placement parts of the adoption evaluation and file reports on those parts with the court before the court renders a final order of adoption.

(e) A court may appoint the department to conduct the pre–placement and post–placement parts of an adoption evaluation in a suit only if the department is:

(1) a party to the suit; or

(2) the managing conservator of the child who is the subject of the suit.

[Contents]

Sec. 107.153. Order for Adoption Evaluation.

(a) The court shall order the performance of an adoption evaluation to evaluate each party who requests termination of the parent–child relationship or an adoption in a suit for:

(1) termination of the parent–child relationship in which a person other than a parent may be appointed managing conservator of a child; or

(2) an adoption.

(b) The adoption evaluation required under Subsection (a) must include an evaluation of the circumstances and the condition of the home and social environment of any person requesting to adopt a child who is at issue in the suit.

(c) The court may appoint a qualified individual, a qualified private entity, or a domestic relations office to conduct the adoption evaluation.

(d) Except as provided by Section 107.155, a person who conducts an adoption evaluation must meet the requirements of Section 107.154.

(e) The costs of an adoption evaluation under this section shall be paid by the prospective adoptive parent.

[Contents]

Sec. 107.154. Adoption Evaluator: Minimum Qualifications.

(a) In this section:

(1) "Full–time experience" means a period during which a person works at least 30 hours per week.

(2) "Human services field of study" means a field of study designed to prepare a person in the disciplined application of counseling, family therapy, psychology, or social work values, principles, and methods.

(b) To be qualified to conduct an adoption evaluation under this subchapter, a person must:

(1) have a degree from an accredited college or university in a human services field of study and a license to practice in this state as a social worker, professional counselor, marriage and family therapist, or psychologist and:

(A) have one year of full–time experience working at a child–placing agency conducting child–placing activities; or

(B) be practicing under the direct supervision of a person qualified under this section to conduct adoption evaluations;

(2) be employed by a domestic relations office, provided that the person conducts adoption evaluations relating only to families ordered to participate in adoption evaluations conducted by the domestic relations office; or

(3) be qualified as a child custody evaluator under Section 107.104.

(c) In addition to the other qualifications prescribed by this section, an individual must complete at least eight hours of family violence dynamics training provided by a family violence service provider to be qualified to conduct an adoption evaluation under this subchapter.

[Contents]

Sec. 107.155. Exception to Qualifications Required to Conduct Adoption Evaluation.

(a) In a county with a population of less than 500,000, if a court finds that an individual who meets the requirements of Section 107.154 is not available in the county to conduct an adoption evaluation in a timely manner, the court, after notice and hearing or on agreement of the parties, may appoint a person the court determines to be otherwise qualified to conduct the evaluation.

(b) An individual appointed under this section shall comply with all provisions of this subchapter, other than Section 107.154.

[Contents]

Sec. 107.156. Adoption Evaluator: Conflicts of Interest and Bias.

(a) Before accepting appointment as an adoption evaluator in a suit, a person must disclose to the court, each attorney for a party to the suit, any attorney for a child who is the subject of the suit, and any party to the suit who does not have an attorney:

(1) any conflict of interest that the person believes the person has with a party to the suit or a child who is the subject of the suit;

(2) any previous knowledge that the person has of a party to the suit or a child who is the subject of the suit;

(3) any pecuniary relationship that the person believes the person has with an attorney in the suit;

(4) any relationship of confidence or trust that the person believes the person has with an attorney in the suit; and

(5) any other information relating to the person's relationship with an attorney in the suit that a reasonable, prudent person would believe would affect the ability of the person to act impartially in conducting an adoption evaluation.

(b) The court may not appoint a person as an adoption evaluator in a suit if the person makes any of the disclosures in Subsection (a) unless:

(1) the court finds that:

(A) the person has no conflict of interest with a party to the suit or a child who is the subject of the suit;

(B) the person's previous knowledge of a party to the suit or a child who is the subject of the suit is not relevant;

(C) the person does not have a pecuniary relationship with an attorney in the suit; and

(D) the person does not have a relationship of trust or confidence with an attorney in the suit; or

(2) the parties and any attorney for a child who is the subject of the suit agree in writing to the person's appointment as the adoption evaluator.

(c) After being appointed as an adoption evaluator in a suit, a person shall immediately disclose to the court, each attorney for a party to the suit, any attorney for a child who is the subject of the suit, and any party to the suit who does not have an attorney any discovery of:

(1) a conflict of interest that the person believes the person has with a party to the suit or a child who is the subject of the suit; and

(2) previous knowledge that the person has of a party to the suit or a child who is the subject of the suit, other than knowledge obtained in a court–ordered evaluation.

(d) A person shall resign from the person's appointment as an adoption evaluator in a suit if the person makes any of the disclosures in Subsection (c) unless:

(1) the court finds that:

(A) the person has no conflict of interest with a party to the suit or a child who is the subject of the suit; and

(B) the person's previous knowledge of a party to the suit or a child who is the subject of the suit is not relevant; or

(2) the parties and any attorney for a child who is the subject of the suit agree in writing to the person's continued appointment as the adoption evaluator.

(e) An individual may not be appointed as an adoption evaluator in a suit if the individual has worked in a professional capacity with a party to the suit, a child who is the subject of the suit, or a member of the party's or child's family who is involved in the suit. This subsection does not apply to an individual who has worked in a professional capacity with a party, a child, or a member of the party's or child's family only as a teacher of parenting skills in a group setting, with no individualized interaction with any party, the child, any party's family, or the child's family, or as a child custody evaluator or adoption evaluator who performed a previous evaluation. For purposes of this subsection, "family" has the meaning assigned by Section 71.003.

[Contents]

Sec. 107.157. Reporting Certain Placements for Adoption. An adoption evaluator shall report to the department any adoptive placement that appears to have been made by someone other than a licensed child–placing agency or a child's parent or managing conservator.

[Contents]

Sec. 107.158. General Provisions Applicable to Conduct of Adoption Evaluator and Preparation of Reports.

(a) Unless otherwise directed by a court or prescribed by this subchapter, an adoption evaluator's actions in conducting an adoption evaluation must be in conformance with the professional standard of care applicable to the evaluator's licensure and any administrative rules, ethical standards, or guidelines adopted by the licensing authority that licenses the evaluator.

(b) A court may impose requirements or adopt local rules applicable to an adoption evaluation or an adoption evaluator that do not conflict with this subchapter.

(c) An adoption evaluator shall follow evidence–based practice methods and make use of current best evidence in making assessments and recommendations.

(d) An adoption evaluator shall disclose to each attorney of record any communication regarding a substantive issue between the evaluator and an attorney of record representing a party in a contested suit. This subsection does not apply to a communication between an adoption evaluator and an amicus attorney.

(e) To the extent possible, an adoption evaluator shall verify each statement of fact pertinent to an adoption evaluation and shall note the sources of verification and information in any report prepared on the evaluation.

(f) An adoption evaluator shall state the basis for the evaluator's conclusions or recommendations in any report prepared on the evaluation.

(g) An adoption evaluation report must include for each adoption evaluator who conducted any portion of the adoption evaluation:

(1) the name and license number of the adoption evaluator; and

(2) a statement that the adoption evaluator:

(A) has read and meets the requirements of Section 107.154; or

(B) was appointed under Section 107.155.

[Contents]

Sec. 107.159. Requirements for Pre–Placement Portion of Adoption Evaluation and Report.

(a) Unless otherwise agreed to by the court, the pre–placement part of an adoption evaluation must comply with the minimum requirements for the pre–placement part of an adoption evaluation under rules adopted by the executive commissioner of the Health and Human Services Commission.

(b) Unless a child who is the subject of the suit begins to reside in a prospective adoptive home before the suit is commenced, an adoption evaluator shall file with the court a report containing the evaluator's findings and conclusions made after completion of the pre–placement portion of the adoption evaluation.

(c) In a suit filed after the date a child who is the subject of the suit begins to reside in a prospective adoptive home, the report required under this section and the post–placement adoption evaluation report required under Section 107.160 may be combined in a single report.

(d) The report required under this section must be filed with the court before the court may sign the final order for termination of the parent–child relationship. The report shall be included in the record of the suit.

(e) A copy of the report prepared under this section must be made available to the prospective adoptive parents before the court renders a final order of adoption.

[Contents]

Sec. 107.160. Requirements for Post–Placement Portion of Adoption Evaluation and Report.

(a) Unless otherwise agreed to by the court, the post–placement part of an adoption evaluation must comply with the minimum requirements for the post–placement part of an adoption evaluation under rules adopted by the executive commissioner of the Health and Human Services Commission.

(b) An adoption evaluator shall file with the court a report containing the evaluator's findings and conclusions made after a child who is the subject of the suit in which the evaluation is ordered begins to reside in a prospective adoptive home.

(c) The report required under this section must be filed with the court before the court renders a final order of adoption. The report shall be included in the record of the suit.

(d) A copy of the report prepared under this section must be made available to the prospective adoptive parents before the court renders a final order of adoption.

[Contents]

Sec. 107.161. Introduction and Provision of Adoption Evaluation Report and Testimony Relating to Adoption Evaluation.

(a) Disclosure to the jury of the contents of an adoption evaluation report prepared under Section 107.159 or 107.160 is subject to the rules of evidence.

(b) The court may compel the attendance of witnesses necessary for the proper disposition of a suit, including a representative of an agency that conducts an adoption evaluation, who may be compelled to testify.

[Contents]

Sec. 107.162. Adoption Evaluation Fee. If the court orders an adoption evaluation to be conducted, the court shall award the adoption evaluator a reasonable fee for the preparation of the evaluation that shall be imposed in the form of a money judgment and paid directly to the evaluator. The evaluator may enforce the judgment for the fee by any means available under law for civil judgments.

[Contents]

Sec. 107.163. Adoption Evaluator Access to Investigative Records of Department; Offense.

(a) An adoption evaluator is entitled to obtain from the department a complete, unredacted copy of any investigative record regarding abuse or neglect that relates to any person residing in the residence subject to the adoption evaluation.

(b) Except as provided by this section, records obtained by an adoption evaluator from the department under this section are confidential and not subject to disclosure under Chapter 552, Government Code, or to disclosure in response to a subpoena or a discovery request.

(c) An adoption evaluator may disclose information obtained under Subsection (a) in the adoption evaluation report prepared under Section 107.159 or 107.160 only to the extent the evaluator determines that the information is relevant to the adoption evaluation or a recommendation made under this subchapter.

(d) A person commits an offense if the person recklessly discloses confidential information obtained from the department in violation of this section. An offense under this subsection is a Class A misdemeanor.

[First] Subch. F. Managed Assigned Counsel Program for the Representation of Certain Children and Parents

Editor's note: There are two Subchapters F. The section numbering in this first Subchapter F ("Managed Assigned Counsel Program for the Representation of Certain Children and Parents") is duplicative of the numbering in Subchapter D above ("Child Custody Evaluation").

[Contents]

Sec. 107.101. Definitions. In this subchapter:

(1) "Governmental entity" includes a county, a group of counties, a department of a county, an administrative judicial region created by Section 74.042, Government Code, and any entity created under the Interlocal Cooperation Act as permitted by Chapter 791, Government Code.

(2) "Program" means a managed assigned counsel program created under this subchapter.

[Contents]

Sec. 107.102. Managed Assigned Counsel Program.

(a) A managed assigned counsel program may be operated with public money for the purpose of appointing counsel to provide legal representation and services for a child or parent in a suit filed by a governmental entity seeking termination of the parent–child relationship or the appointment of a conservator for the child in which appointment is mandatory for a child under Section 107.012 or for a parent under Section 107.013.

(b) The program may be operated by a governmental entity, nonprofit corporation, or local bar association under a written agreement with a governmental entity, other than an individual judge or court.

[Contents]

Sec. 107.103. Creation of Managed Assigned Counsel Program.

(a) The commissioners court of a county, on written approval of a judge of a statutory county court or a district court having family law jurisdiction in the county, may appoint a governmental entity, nonprofit corporation, or local bar association to operate a managed assigned counsel program for the legal representation of:

(1) a child in a suit in which appointment is mandatory under Section 107.012; or

(2) a parent in a suit in which appointment is mandatory under Section 107.013.

(b) The commissioners courts of two or more counties may enter into a written agreement to jointly appoint and fund a governmental entity, nonprofit corporation, or bar association to operate a program that provides legal representation for children, parents, or both children and parents.

(c) In appointing an entity to operate a program under this subchapter, the commissioners court shall specify or the commissioners courts shall jointly specify:

(1) the types of cases in which the program may appoint counsel under this section, and the courts in which the counsel appointed by the program may be required to appear; and

(2) the term of any agreement establishing a program and how the agreement may be terminated or renewed.

[Contents]

Sec. 107.104. Plan for Program Required. The commissioners court or commissioners courts shall require a written plan of operation from an entity operating a program under this subchapter. The plan of operation must include:

(1) a budget for the program, including salaries;

(2) a description of each personnel position, including the program's director;

(3) the maximum allowable caseload for each attorney appointed under the program;

(4) provisions for training personnel of the program and attorneys appointed under the program;

(5) a description of anticipated overhead costs for the program;

(6) a policy regarding licensed investigators and expert witnesses used by attorneys appointed under the program;

(7) a policy to ensure that appointments are reasonably and impartially allocated among qualified attorneys; and

(8) a policy to ensure that an attorney appointed under the program does not accept appointment in a case that involves a conflict of interest for the attorney.

[Contents]

Sec. 107.105. Program Director; Personnel.

(a) Unless a program uses a review committee appointed under Section 107.106, a program under this subchapter must be directed by a person who:

(1) is a member of the State Bar of Texas;

(2) has practiced law for at least three years; and

(3) has substantial experience in the practice of child welfare law.

(b) A program may employ personnel necessary to perform the duties of the program and enter into contracts necessary to perform the program's duties as specified by the commissioners court or commissioners courts under this subchapter.

[Contents]

Sec. 107.106. Review Committee.

(a) The governmental entity, nonprofit corporation, or local bar association operating a program may appoint a review committee of three or more individuals to approve attorneys for inclusion on the program's public appointment list.

(b) Each member of the committee:

(1) must meet the requirements described by Section 107.105(a) for the program director;

(2) may not be employed as a prosecutor; and

(3) may not be included on or apply for inclusion on the public appointment list.

[Contents]

Sec. 107.107. Appointment from Program's Public Appointment List.

(a) The judge of a county served by a program shall make any appointment required under Section 107.012 or 107.013 in a suit filed in the county by a governmental entity seeking termination of the parent–child relationship or the appointment of a conservator for the child from the program's public appointment list, unless there is a conflict of interest or other reason to appoint a different attorney from the list maintained by the court of attorneys qualified for appointment under Section 107.012 or 107.013.

(b) The program's public appointment list from which an attorney is appointed under this section must contain the names of qualified attorneys, each of whom:

(1) applies to be included on the list;

(2) meets any applicable requirements, including any education and training programs required under Sections 107.004 and 107.0131; and

(3) is approved by the program director or review committee, as applicable.

[Contents]

Sec. 107.108. Funding of Program.

(a) A program is entitled to receive money for personnel costs and expenses incurred in amounts set by the commissioners court and paid out of the appropriate county fund or jointly fixed by the commissioners courts and proportionately paid out of each appropriate county fund if the program serves more than one county.

(b) An attorney appointed under the program is entitled to reasonable fees as provided by Section 107.015.

[Second] Subch. F. Evaluations in Contested Adoptions

Editor's note: There are two Subchapters F. The other Section F (above) is titled "Managed Assigned Counsel Program for the Representation of Certain Children and Parents."

[Contents]

Sec. 107.201. Applicability. This subchapter does not apply to services provided in accordance with the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children adopted under Subchapter B, Chapter 162, to an evaluation conducted in accordance with Section 262.114 by an employee of or contractor with the department, or to a suit in which the Department of Family and Protective Services is a party.

[Contents]

Sec. 107.202. Assignment of Evaluations in Contested Adoptions.

(a) In a suit in which the adoption of a child is being contested, the court shall determine the nature of the questions posed before appointing an evaluator to conduct either a child custody evaluation or an adoption evaluation.

(b) If the court is attempting to determine whether termination of parental rights is in the best interest of a child who is the subject of the suit, the court shall order the evaluation as a child custody evaluation under Subchapter D and include termination as one of the specific issues to be addressed in the evaluation.

(c) When appointing an evaluator to assess the issue of termination of parental rights, the court may, through written order, modify the requirements of the child custody evaluation to take into account the circumstances of the family to be assessed. The court may also appoint the evaluator to concurrently address the requirements for an adoption evaluation under Subchapter E if the evaluator recommends that termination of parental rights is in the best interest of the child who is the subject of the suit.

(d) If the court is attempting to determine whether the parties seeking adoption would be suitable to adopt the child who is the subject of the suit if the termination of parental rights is granted, but the court is not attempting to determine whether such termination of parental rights is in the child's best interest, the court may order the evaluation as an adoption evaluation under Subchapter E.>

Ch. 108. Central Record File; Vital Statistics

[Contents]

Sec. 108.001. Transmittal of Records of Suit by Clerk.

(a) Except as provided by this chapter, the clerk of the court shall transmit to the vital statistics unit a certified record of the order rendered in a suit, together with the name and all prior names, birth date, and place of birth of the child on a form provided by the unit. The form shall be completed by the petitioner and submitted to the clerk at the time the order is filed for record.

(b) The vital statistics unit shall maintain these records in a central file according to the name, birth date, and place of birth of the child, the court that rendered the order, and the docket number of the suit.

(c) Except as otherwise provided by law, the records required under this section to be maintained by the vital statistics unit are confidential.

(d) In a Title IV–D case, the Title IV–D agency may transmit the record and information specified by Subsection (a) directly to the vital statistics unit. The record and information are not required to be certified if transmitted by the Title IV–D agency under this subsection.

[Contents]

Sec. 108.002. Dissolution of Marriage Records Maintained by Clerk. A clerk may not transmit to the central record file the pleadings, papers, studies, and records relating to a suit for divorce or annulment or to declare a marriage void.

[Contents]

Sec. 108.003. Transmittal of Information Regarding Adoption.

(a) The clerk of a court that renders a decree of adoption shall, not later than the 10th day of the first month after the month in which the adoption is rendered, transmit to the central registry of the vital statistics unit a certified report of adoption that includes:

(1) the name of the adopted child after adoption as shown in the adoption order;

(2) the birth date of the adopted child;

(3) the docket number of the adoption suit;

(4) the identity of the court rendering the adoption;

(5) the date of the adoption order;

(6) the name and address of each parent, guardian, managing conservator, or other person whose consent to adoption was required or waived under Chapter 162, or whose parental rights were terminated in the adoption suit;

(7) the identity of the licensed child placing agency, if any, through which the adopted child was placed for adoption; and

(8) the identity, address, and telephone number of the registry through which the adopted child may register as an adoptee.

(b) Except as otherwise provided by law, for good cause shown, or on an order of the court that granted the adoption or terminated the proceedings under Section 155.001, the records concerning a child maintained by the district clerk after rendition of a decree of adoption, the records of a child–placing agency that has ceased operations, and the records required under this section to be maintained by the vital statistics unit are confidential, and no person is entitled to access to or information from these records.

(c) If the vital statistics unit determines that a report filed with the unit under this section requires correction, the unit shall mail the report directly to an attorney of record with respect to the adoption. The attorney shall return the corrected report to the unit. If there is no attorney of record, the unit shall mail the report to the clerk of the court for correction.

[Contents]

Sec. 108.004. Transmittal of Files on Loss of Jurisdiction. On the loss of jurisdiction of a court under Chapter 155, 159, or 262, the clerk of the court shall transmit to the central registry of the vital statistics unit a certified record, on a form provided by the unit, stating that jurisdiction has been lost, the reason for the loss of jurisdiction, and the name and all previous names, date of birth, and place of birth of the child.

[Contents]

Sec. 108.005. Adoption Records Received by Vital Statistics Unit.

(a) When the vital statistics unit receives a record from the district clerk showing that continuing, exclusive jurisdiction of a child has been lost due to the adoption of the child, the unit shall close the records concerning that child.

(b) An inquiry concerning a child who has been adopted shall be handled as though the child had not previously been the subject of a suit affecting the parent–child relationship.

[Contents]

Sec. 108.006. Fees.

(a) The Department of State Health Services may charge a reasonable fee to cover the cost of determining and sending information concerning the identity of the court with continuing, exclusive jurisdiction.

(b) On the filing of a suit requesting the adoption of a child, the clerk of the court shall collect an additional fee of $15.

(c) The clerk shall send the fees collected under Subsection (b) to the Department of State Health Services for deposit in a special fund in the state treasury from which the legislature may appropriate money only to operate and maintain the central file and central registry of the vital statistics unit.

(d) The receipts from the fees charged under Subsection (a) shall be deposited in a financial institution as determined by the Department of State Health Services and withdrawn as necessary for the sole purpose of operating and maintaining the central record file.

[Contents]

Sec. 108.007. Microfilm.

(a) The vital statistics unit may use microfilm or other suitable means for maintaining the central record file.

(b) A certified reproduction of a document maintained by the vital statistics unit is admissible in evidence as the original document.

[Contents]

Sec. 108.008. Filing Information After Determination of Paternity.

(a) On a determination of paternity, the petitioner shall provide the clerk of the court in which the order was rendered the information necessary to prepare the report of determination of paternity. The clerk shall:

(1) prepare the report on a form provided by the vital statistics unit; and

(2) complete the report immediately after the order becomes final.

(b) On completion of the report, the clerk of the court shall forward to the state registrar a report for each order that became final in that court.

[Contents]

Sec. 108.009. Birth Certificate.

(a) The state registrar shall substitute a new birth certificate for the original based on the order in accordance with laws or rules that permit the correction or substitution of a birth certificate for an adopted child or a child whose parents marry each other subsequent to the birth of the child.

(b) The new certificate may not show that the father and child relationship was established after the child's birth but may show the child's actual place and date of birth.

[Contents]

Sec. 108.110. Release of Information by Vital Statistics Unit.

(a) The vital statistics unit shall provide to the Department of Family and Protective Services:

(1) adoption information as necessary for the department to comply with federal law or regulations regarding the compilation or reporting of adoption information to federal officials; and

(2) other information as necessary for the department to administer its duties.

(b) The unit may release otherwise confidential information from the unit's central record files to another governmental entity that has a specific need for the information and maintains appropriate safeguards to prevent further dissemination of the information.

Ch. 109. Appeals

[Contents]

Sec. 109.001. Temporary Orders During Pendency of Appeal.

(a) Not later than the 30th day after the date an appeal is perfected, on the motion of any party or on the court's own motion and after notice and hearing, the court may make any order necessary to preserve and protect the safety and welfare of the child during the pendency of the appeal as the court may deem necessary and equitable. In addition to other matters, an order may:

(1) appoint temporary conservators for the child and provide for possession of the child;

(2) require the temporary support of the child by a party;

(3) restrain a party from molesting or disturbing the peace of the child or another party;

(4) prohibit a person from removing the child beyond a geographical area identified by the court;

(5) require payment of reasonable attorney's fees and expenses; or

(6) suspend the operation of the order or judgment that is being appealed.

(b) A court retains jurisdiction to enforce its orders rendered under this section unless the appellate court, on a proper showing, supersedes the court's order.

(c) A temporary order rendered under this section is not subject to interlocutory appeal.

(d) The court may not suspend under Subsection (a)(6) the operation of an order or judgment terminating the parent–child relationship in a suit brought by the state or a political subdivision of the state permitted by law to bring the suit.

[Contents]

Sec. 109.002. Appeal.

(a) An appeal from a final order rendered in a suit, when allowed under this section or under other provisions of law, shall be as in civil cases generally under the Texas Rules of Appellate Procedure. An appeal in a suit in which termination of the parent–child relationship is in issue shall be given precedence over other civil cases and shall be accelerated by the appellate courts. The procedures for an accelerated appeal under the Texas Rules of Appellate Procedure apply to an appeal in which the termination of the parent–child relationship is in issue.

(b) An appeal may be taken by any party to a suit from a final order rendered under this title.

(c) An appeal from a final order, with or without a supersedeas bond, does not suspend the order unless suspension is ordered by the court rendering the order. The appellate court, on a proper showing, may permit the order to be suspended, unless the order provides for the termination of the parent–child relationship in a suit brought by the state or a political subdivision of the state permitted by law to bring the suit.

(d) On the motion of the parties or on the court's own motion, the appellate court in its opinion may identify the parties by fictitious names or by their initials only.

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Sec. 109.003. Payment for Statement of Facts.

(a) If the party requesting a statement of facts in an appeal of a suit has filed an affidavit stating the party's inability to pay costs as provided by Rule 20, Texas Rules of Appellate Procedure, and the affidavit is approved by the trial court, the trial court may order the county in which the trial was held to pay the costs of preparing the statement of facts.

(b) Nothing in this section shall be construed to permit an official court reporter to be paid more than once for the preparation of the statement of facts.

Ch. 110. Court Fees

[Contents]

Sec. 110.001. General Rule. Except as provided by this chapter, fees in a matter covered by this title shall be as in civil cases generally.

[Contents]

Sec. 110.002. Filing Fees and Deposits.

(a) The clerk of the court may collect a filing fee of $15 in a suit for filing:

(1) a suit or motion for modification;

(2) a motion for enforcement;

(3) a notice of application for judicial writ of withholding;

(4) a motion to transfer;

(5) a petition for license suspension;

(6) a motion to revoke a stay of license suspension; or

(7) a motion for contempt.

(b) No other filing fee may be collected or required for an action described in this section.

(c) The clerk may collect a deposit as in other cases, in the amount set by the clerk for payment of expected costs and other expenses arising in the proceeding.

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Sec. 110.003. No Separate or Additional Filing Fee. The clerk of the court may not require:

(1) a separate filing fee in a suit joined with a suit for dissolution of marriage under Title 1; or

(2) an additional filing fee if more than one form of relief is requested in a suit.

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Sec. 110.004. Fee for Issuing and Delivering Withholding Order or Writ. The clerk of the court may charge a reasonable fee, not to exceed $15, for each order or writ of income withholding issued by the clerk and delivered to an employer.

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Sec. 110.005. Transfer Fee.

(a) The fee for filing a transferred case is $45 payable to the clerk of the court to which the case is transferred. No portion of this fee may be sent to the state.

(b) A party may not be assessed any other fee, cost, charge, or expense by the clerk of the court or other public official in connection with filing of the transferred case.

(c) The fee limitation in this section does not affect a fee payable to the court transferring the case.

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Sec. 110.006. Domestic Relations Office Operations Fees and Child Support Service Fees.

(a) If an administering entity of a domestic relations office adopts an initial operations fee under Section 203.005(a)(1), the clerk of the court shall:

(1) collect the operations fee at the time the original suit, motion for modification, or motion for enforcement, as applicable, is filed; and

(2) send the fee to the domestic relations office.

(b) If an administering entity of a domestic relations office adopts an initial child support service fee under Section 203.005(a)(2), the clerk of the court shall:

(1) collect the child support service fee at the time the original suit is filed; and

(2) send the fee to the domestic relations office.

(c) The fees described by Subsections (a) and (b) are not filing fees for purposes of Section 110.002 or 110.003.

Ch. 111. Guidelines for Possession and Child Support

[Contents]

Sec. 111.001. Review of Guidelines.

(a) Prior to each regular legislative session, the standing committees of each house of the legislature having jurisdiction over family law issues shall review and, if necessary, recommend revisions to the guidelines for possession of and access to a child under Chapter 153. The committee shall report the results of the review and shall include any recommended revisions in the committee's report to the legislature.

(b) At least once every four years, the Title IV–D agency shall review the child support guidelines under Chapter 154 as required by 42 U.S.C. Section 667(a) and report the results of the review and any recommendations for any changes to the guidelines and their manner of application to the standing committees of each house of the legislature having jurisdiction over family law issues.

[Contents]

Sec. 111.002. Guidelines Supercede Court Rules.

(a) The guidelines in this title supersede local court rules and rules of the supreme court that conflict with the guidelines.

(b) Notwithstanding other law, the guidelines may not be repealed or modified by a rule adopted by the supreme court.

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Sec. 111.003.Posting Guidelines. A copy of the guidelines for possession of and access to a child under Chapter 153 and a copy of the guidelines for the support of a child under Chapter 154 shall be prominently displayed at or near the entrance to the courtroom of every court having jurisdiction of a suit.

Title 5: The Parent–Child Relationship and the Suit Affecting the Parent–Child Relationship

Subtitle B. Suits Affecting the Parent–Child Relationship

Ch. 151. Rights and Duties in Parent–Child Relationship

[Contents]

Sec. 151.001. Rights and Duties of Parent.

(a) A parent of a child has the following rights and duties:

(1) the right to have physical possession, to direct the moral and religious training, and to designate the residence of the child;

(2) the duty of care, control, protection, and reasonable discipline of the child;

(3) the duty to support the child, including providing the child with clothing, food, shelter, medical and dental care, and education;

(4) the duty, except when a guardian of the child's estate has been appointed, to manage the estate of the child, including the right as an agent of the child to act in relation to the child's estate if the child's action is required by a state, the United States, or a foreign government;

(5) except as provided by Section 264.0111, the right to the services and earnings of the child;

(6) the right to consent to the child's marriage, enlistment in the armed forces of the United States, medical and dental care, and psychiatric, psychological, and surgical treatment;

(7) the right to represent the child in legal action and to make other decisions of substantial legal significance concerning the child;

(8) the right to receive and give receipt for payments for the support of the child and to hold or disburse funds for the benefit of the child;

(9) the right to inherit from and through the child;

(10) the right to make decisions concerning the child's education; and

(11) any other right or duty existing between a parent and child by virtue of law.

(b) The duty of a parent to support his or her child exists while the child is an unemancipated minor and continues as long as the child is fully enrolled in a secondary school in a program leading toward a high school diploma and complies with attendance requirements described by Section 154.002(a)(2).

(c) A parent who fails to discharge the duty of support is liable to a person who provides necessaries to those to whom support is owed.

(d) The rights and duties of a parent are subject to:

(1) a court order affecting the rights and duties;

(2) an affidavit of relinquishment of parental rights; and

(3) an affidavit by the parent designating another person or agency to act as managing conservator.

(e) Only the following persons may use corporal punishment for the reasonable discipline of a child:

(1) a parent or grandparent of the child;

(2) a stepparent of the child who has the duty of control and reasonable discipline of the child; and

(3) an individual who is a guardian of the child and who has the duty of control and reasonable discipline of the child.

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Sec. 151.002. Rights of A Living Child After an Abortion or Premature Birth.

(a) A living human child born alive after an abortion or premature birth is entitled to the same rights, powers, and privileges as are granted by the laws of this state to any other child born alive after the normal gestation period.

(b) In this code, "born alive" means the complete expulsion or extraction from its mother of a product of conception, irrespective of the duration of pregnancy, which, after such separation, breathes or shows any other evidence of life such as beating of the heart, pulsation of the umbilical cord, or definite movement of voluntary muscles, whether or not the umbilical cord has been cut or the placenta is attached. Each product of the birth is considered born alive.

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Sec. 151.003. Limitation on State Agency Action. A state agency may not adopt rules or policies or take any other action that violates the fundamental right and duty of a parent to direct the upbringing of the parent's child.

Ch. 152. Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act

Subch. A. Application and Construction

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Sec. 152.001. Application and Construction. This chapter shall be applied and construed to promote the uniformity of the law among the states that enact it.

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Sec. 152.002. Conflicts Between Provisions. If a provision of this chapter conflicts with a provision of this title or another statute or rule of this state and the conflict cannot be reconciled, this chapter prevails.

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Sec. 152.101. Short Title. This chapter may be cited as the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act.

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Sec. 152.102. Definitions. In this chapter:

(1) "Abandoned" means left without provision for reasonable and necessary care or supervision.

(2) "Child" means an individual who has not attained 18 years of age.

(3) "Child custody determination" means a judgment, decree, or other order of a court providing for legal custody, physical custody, or visitation with respect to a child. The term includes permanent, temporary, initial, and modification orders. The term does not include an order relating to child support or another monetary obligation of an individual.

(4) "Child custody proceeding" means a proceeding in which legal custody, physical custody, or visitation with respect to a child is an issue. The term includes a proceeding for divorce, separation, neglect, abuse, dependency, guardianship, paternity, termination of parental rights, and protection from domestic violence in which the issue may appear. The term does not include a proceeding involving juvenile delinquency, contractual emancipation, or enforcement under Subchapter D.

(5) "Commencement" means the filing of the first pleading in a proceeding.

(6) "Court" means an entity authorized under the law of a state to establish, enforce, or modify a child custody determination.

(7) "Home state" means the state in which a child lived with a parent or a person acting as a parent for at least six consecutive months immediately before the commencement of a child custody proceeding. In the case of a child less than six months of age, the term means the state in which the child lived from birth with a parent or a person acting as a parent. A period of temporary absence of a parent or a person acting as a parent is part of the period.

(8) "Initial determination" means the first child custody determination concerning a particular child.

(9) "Issuing court" means the court that makes a child custody determination for which enforcement is sought under this chapter.

(10) "Issuing state" means the state in which a child custody determination is made.

(11) "Legal custody" means the managing conservatorship of a child.

(12) "Modification" means a child custody determination that changes, replaces, supersedes, or is otherwise made after a previous determination concerning the same child, whether or not it is made by the court that made the previous determination.

(13) "Person acting as a parent" means a person, other than a parent, who:

(A) has physical custody of the child or has had physical custody for a period of six consecutive months, including any temporary absence, within one year immediately before the commencement of a child custody proceeding; and

(B) has been awarded legal custody by a court or claims a right to legal custody under the law of this state.

(14) "Physical custody" means the physical care and supervision of a child.

(15) "Tribe" means an Indian tribe or band, or Alaskan Native village, that is recognized by federal law or formally acknowledged by a state.

(16) "Visitation" means the possession of or access to a child.

(17) "Warrant" means an order issued by a court authorizing law enforcement officers to take physical custody of a child.

[Contents]

Sec. 152.103. Proceedings Governed by Other Law. This chapter does not govern an adoption proceeding or a proceeding pertaining to the authorization of emergency medical care for a child.

[Contents]

Sec. 152.104. Application to Indian Tribes.

(a) A child custody proceeding that pertains to an Indian child as defined in the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (25 U.S.C. Section 1901 et seq.) is not subject to this chapter to the extent that it is governed by the Indian Child Welfare Act.

(b) A court of this state shall treat a tribe as if it were a state of the United States for the purpose of applying this subchapter and Subchapter C.

(c) A child custody determination made by a tribe under factual circumstances in substantial conformity with the jurisdictional standards of this chapter must be recognized and enforced under Subchapter D.

[Contents]

Sec. 152.105. International Application of Ch..

(a) A court of this state shall treat a foreign country as if it were a state of the United States for the purpose of applying this subchapter and Subchapter C.

(b) Except as otherwise provided in Subsection (c), a child custody determination made in a foreign country under factual circumstances in substantial conformity with the jurisdictional standards of this chapter must be recognized and enforced under Subchapter D.

(c) A court of this state need not apply this chapter if the child custody law of a foreign country violates fundamental principles of human rights.

(d) A record of all of the proceedings under this chapter relating to a child custody determination made in a foreign country or to the enforcement of an order for the return of the child made under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction shall be made by a court reporter or as provided by Section 201.009.

[Contents]

Sec. 152.106. Effect of Child Custody Determination. A child custody determination made by a court of this state that had jurisdiction under this chapter binds all persons who have been served in accordance with the laws of this state or notified in accordance with Section 152.108 or who have submitted to the jurisdiction of the court and who have been given an opportunity to be heard. As to those persons, the determination is conclusive as to all decided issues of law and fact except to the extent the determination is modified.

[Contents]

Sec. 152.107. Priority. If a question of existence or exercise of jurisdiction under this chapter is raised in a child custody proceeding, the question, upon request of a party, must be given priority on the calendar and handled expeditiously.

[Contents]

Sec. 152.108. Notice to Persons Outside State.

(a) Notice required for the exercise of jurisdiction when a person is outside this state may be given in a manner prescribed by the law of this state for service of process or by the law of the state in which the service is made. Notice must be given in a manner reasonably calculated to give actual notice but may be by publication if other means are not effective.

(b) Proof of service may be made in the manner prescribed by the law of this state or by the law of the state in which the service is made.

(c) Notice is not required for the exercise of jurisdiction with respect to a person who submits to the jurisdiction of the court.

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Sec. 152.109. Appearance and Limited Immunity.

(a) A party to a child custody proceeding, including a modification proceeding, or a petitioner or respondent in a proceeding to enforce or register a child custody determination, is not subject to personal jurisdiction in this state for another proceeding or purpose solely by reason of having participated, or of having been physically present for the purpose of participating, in the proceeding.

(b) A person who is subject to personal jurisdiction in this state on a basis other than physical presence is not immune from service of process in this state. A party present in this state who is subject to the jurisdiction of another state is not immune from service of process allowed under the laws of that state.

(c) The immunity granted by Subsection (a) does not extend to civil litigation based on acts unrelated to the participation in a proceeding under this chapter committed by an individual while present in this state.

[Contents]

Sec. 152.110. Communication Between Courts.

(a) In this section, "record" means information that is inscribed on a tangible medium or that is stored in an electronic or other medium and is retrievable in perceivable form.

(b) A court of this state may communicate with a court in another state concerning a proceeding arising under this chapter.

(c) The court may allow the parties to participate in the communication. If the parties are not able to participate in the communication, they must be given the opportunity to present facts and legal arguments before a decision on jurisdiction is made.

(d) If proceedings involving the same parties are pending simultaneously in a court of this state and a court of another state, the court of this state shall inform the other court of the simultaneous proceedings. The court of this state shall request that the other court hold the proceeding in that court in abeyance until the court in this state conducts a hearing to determine whether the court has jurisdiction over the proceeding.

(e) Communication between courts on schedules, calendars, court records, and similar matters may occur without informing the parties. A record need not be made of the communication.

(f) Except as otherwise provided in Subsection (e), a record must be made of any communication under this section. The parties must be informed promptly of the communication and granted access to the record.

[Contents]

Sec. 152.111. Taking Testimony in Another State.

(a) In addition to other procedures available to a party, a party to a child custody proceeding may offer testimony of witnesses who are located in another state, including testimony of the parties and the child, by deposition or other means allowed in this state for testimony taken in another state. The court on its own motion may order that the testimony of a person be taken in another state and may prescribe the manner in which and the terms upon which the testimony is taken.

(b) A court of this state may permit an individual residing in another state to be deposed or to testify by telephone, audiovisual means, or other electronic means before a designated court or at another location in that state. A court of this state shall cooperate with courts of other states in designating an appropriate location for the deposition or testimony.

(c) Documentary evidence transmitted from another state to a court of this state by technological means that do not produce an original writing may not be excluded from evidence on an objection based on the means of transmission.

[Contents]

Sec. 152.112. Cooperation Between Courts; Preservation of Records.

(a) A court of this state may request the appropriate court of another state to:

(1) hold an evidentiary hearing;

(2) order a person to produce or give evidence pursuant to procedures of that state;

(3) order that an evaluation be made with respect to the custody of a child involved in a pending proceeding;

(4) forward to the court of this state a certified copy of the transcript of the record of the hearing, the evidence otherwise presented, and any evaluation prepared in compliance with the request; and

(5) order a party to a child custody proceeding or any person having physical custody of the child to appear in the proceeding with or without the child.

(b) Upon request of a court of another state, a court of this state may hold a hearing or enter an order described in Subsection (a).

(c) Travel and other necessary and reasonable expenses incurred under Subsections (a) and (b) may be assessed against the parties according to the law of this state.

(d) A court of this state shall preserve the pleadings, orders, decrees, records of hearings, evaluations, and other pertinent records with respect to a child custody proceeding until the child attains 18 years of age. Upon appropriate request by a court or law enforcement official of another state, the court shall forward a certified copy of those records.

Subch. C. Jurisdiction

[Contents]

Sec. 152.201. Initial Child Custody Jurisdiction.

(a) Except as otherwise provided in Section 152.204, a court of this state has jurisdiction to make an initial child custody determination only if:

(1) this state is the home state of the child on the date of the commencement of the proceeding, or was the home state of the child within six months before the commencement of the proceeding and the child is absent from this state but a parent or person acting as a parent continues to live in this state;

(2) a court of another state does not have jurisdiction under Subdivision (1), or a court of the home state of the child has declined to exercise jurisdiction on the ground that this state is the more appropriate forum under Section 152.207 or 152.208, and:

(A) the child and the child's parents, or the child and at least one parent or a person acting as a parent, have a significant connection with this state other than mere physical presence; and

(B) substantial evidence is available in this state concerning the child's care, protection, training, and personal relationships;

(3) all courts having jurisdiction under Subdivision (1) or (2) have declined to exercise jurisdiction on the ground that a court of this state is the more appropriate forum to determine the custody of the child under Section 152.207 or 152.208; or

(4) no court of any other state would have jurisdiction under the criteria specified in Subdivision (1), (2), or (3).

(b) Subsection (a) is the exclusive jurisdictional basis for making a child custody determination by a court of this state.

(c) Physical presence of, or personal jurisdiction over, a party or a child is not necessary or sufficient to make a child custody determination.

[Contents]

Sec. 152.202. Exclusive Continuing Jurisdiction.

(a) Except as otherwise provided in Section 152.204, a court of this state which has made a child custody determination consistent with Section 152.201 or 152.203 has exclusive continuing jurisdiction over the determination until:

(1) a court of this state determines that neither the child, nor the child and one parent, nor the child and a person acting as a parent, have a significant connection with this state and that substantial evidence is no longer available in this state concerning the child's care, protection, training, and personal relationships; or

(2) a court of this state or a court of another state determines that the child, the child's parents, and any person acting as a parent do not presently reside in this state.

(b) A court of this state which has made a child custody determination and does not have exclusive, continuing jurisdiction under this section may modify that determination only if it has jurisdiction to make an initial determination under Section 152.201.

[Contents]

Sec. 152.203. Jurisdiction to Modify Determination. Except as otherwise provided in Section 152.204, a court of this state may not modify a child custody determination made by a court of another state unless a court of this state has jurisdiction to make an initial determination under Section 152.201(a)(1) or (2) and:

(1) the court of the other state determines it no longer has exclusive continuing jurisdiction under Section 152.202 or that a court of this state would be a more convenient forum under Section 152.207; or

(2) a court of this state or a court of the other state determines that the child, the child's parents, and any person acting as a parent do not presently reside in the other state.

[Contents]

Sec. 152.204. Temporary Emergency Jurisdiction.

(a) A court of this state has temporary emergency jurisdiction if the child is present in this state and the child has been abandoned or it is necessary in an emergency to protect the child because the child, or a sibling or parent of the child, is subjected to or threatened with mistreatment or abuse.

(b) If there is no previous child custody determination that is entitled to be enforced under this chapter and a child custody proceeding has not been commenced in a court of a state having jurisdiction under Sections 152.201 through 152.203, a child custody determination made under this section remains in effect until an order is obtained from a court of a state having jurisdiction under Sections 152.201 through 152.203. If a child custody proceeding has not been or is not commenced in a court of a state having jurisdiction under Sections 152.201 through 152.203, a child custody determination made under this section becomes a final determination, if it so provides and this state becomes the home state of the child.

(c) If there is a previous child custody determination that is entitled to be enforced under this chapter, or a child custody proceeding has been commenced in a court of a state having jurisdiction under Sections 152.201 through 152.203, any order issued by a court of this state under this section must specify in the order a period that the court considers adequate to allow the person seeking an order to obtain an order from the state having jurisdiction under Sections 152.201 through 152.203. The order issued in this state remains in effect until an order is obtained from the other state within the period specified or the period expires.

(d) A court of this state which has been asked to make a child custody determination under this section, upon being informed that a child custody proceeding has been commenced in or a child custody determination has been made by a court of a state having jurisdiction under Sections 152.201 through 152.203, shall immediately communicate with the other court. A court of this state which is exercising jurisdiction pursuant to Sections 152.201 through 152.203, upon being informed that a child custody proceeding has been commenced in or a child custody determination has been made by a court of another state under a statute similar to this section shall immediately communicate with the court of that state to resolve the emergency, protect the safety of the parties and the child, and determine a period for the duration of the temporary order.

[Contents]

Sec. 152.205. Notice; Opportunity to be Heard; Joinder.

(a) Before a child custody determination is made under this chapter, notice and an opportunity to be heard in accordance with the standards of Section 152.108 must be given to all persons entitled to notice under the law of this state as in child custody proceedings between residents of this state, any parent whose parental rights have not been previously terminated, and any person having physical custody of the child.

(b) This chapter does not govern the enforceability of a child custody determination made without notice or an opportunity to be heard.

(c) The obligation to join a party and the right to intervene as a party in a child custody proceeding under this chapter are governed by the law of this state as in child custody proceedings between residents of this state.

[Contents]

Sec. 152.206. Simultaneous Proceedings.

(a) Except as otherwise provided in Section 152.204, a court of this state may not exercise its jurisdiction under this subchapter if, at the time of the commencement of the proceeding, a proceeding concerning the custody of the child has been commenced in a court of another state having jurisdiction substantially in conformity with this chapter, unless the proceeding has been terminated or is stayed by the court of the other state because a court of this state is a more convenient forum under Section 152.207.

(b) Except as otherwise provided in Section 152.204, a court of this state, before hearing a child custody proceeding, shall examine the court documents and other information supplied by the parties pursuant to Section 152.209. If the court determines that a child custody proceeding has been commenced in a court in another state having jurisdiction substantially in accordance with this chapter, the court of this state shall stay its proceeding and communicate with the court of the other state. If the court of the state having jurisdiction substantially in accordance with this chapter does not determine that the court of this state is a more appropriate forum, the court of this state shall dismiss the proceeding.

(c) In a proceeding to modify a child custody determination, a court of this state shall determine whether a proceeding to enforce the determination has been commenced in another state. If a proceeding to enforce a child custody determination has been commenced in another state, the court may:

(1) stay the proceeding for modification pending the entry of an order of a court of the other state enforcing, staying, denying, or dismissing the proceeding for enforcement;

(2) enjoin the parties from continuing with the proceeding for enforcement; or

(3) proceed with the modification under conditions it considers appropriate.

[Contents]

Sec. 152.207. Inconvenient Forum.

(a) A court of this state which has jurisdiction under this chapter to make a child custody determination may decline to exercise its jurisdiction at any time if it determines that it is an inconvenient forum under the circumstances and that a court of another state is a more appropriate forum. The issue of inconvenient forum may be raised upon motion of a party, the court's own motion, or request of another court.

(b) Before determining whether it is an inconvenient forum, a court of this state shall consider whether it is appropriate for a court of another state to exercise jurisdiction. For this purpose, the court shall allow the parties to submit information and shall consider all relevant factors, including:

(1) whether domestic violence has occurred and is likely to continue in the future and which state could best protect the parties and the child;

(2) the length of time the child has resided outside this state;

(3) the distance between the court in this state and the court in the state that would assume jurisdiction;

(4) the relative financial circumstances of the parties;

(5) any agreement of the parties as to which state should assume jurisdiction;

(6) the nature and location of the evidence required to resolve the pending litigation, including testimony of the child;

(7) the ability of the court of each state to decide the issue expeditiously and the procedures necessary to present the evidence; and

(8) the familiarity of the court of each state with the facts and issues in the pending litigation.

(c) If a court of this state determines that it is an inconvenient forum and that a court of another state is a more appropriate forum, the court shall stay the proceedings upon condition that a child custody proceeding be promptly commenced in another designated state and may impose any other condition the court considers just and proper.

(d) A court of this state may decline to exercise its jurisdiction under this chapter if a child custody determination is incidental to an action for divorce or another proceeding while still retaining jurisdiction over the divorce or other proceeding.

[Contents]

Sec. 152.208. Jurisdiction Declined by Reason of Conduct.

(a) Except as otherwise provided in Section 152.204 or other law of this state, if a court of this state has jurisdiction under this chapter because a person seeking to invoke its jurisdiction has engaged in unjustifiable conduct, the court shall decline to exercise its jurisdiction unless:

(1) the parents and all persons acting as parents have acquiesced in the exercise of jurisdiction;

(2) a court of the state otherwise having jurisdiction under Sections 152.201 through 152.203 determines that this state is a more appropriate forum under Section 152.207; or

(3) no court of any other state would have jurisdiction under the criteria specified in Sections 152.201 through 152.203.

(b) If a court of this state declines to exercise its jurisdiction pursuant to Subsection (a), it may fashion an appropriate remedy to ensure the safety of the child and prevent a repetition of the unjustifiable conduct, including staying the proceeding until a child custody proceeding is commenced in a court having jurisdiction under Sections 152.201 through 152.203.

(c) If a court dismisses a petition or stays a proceeding because it declines to exercise its jurisdiction pursuant to Subsection (a), it shall assess against the party seeking to invoke its jurisdiction necessary and reasonable expenses including costs, communication expenses, attorney's fees, investigative fees, expenses for witnesses, travel expenses, and child care during the course of the proceedings, unless the party from whom fees are sought establishes that the assessment would be clearly inappropriate. The court may not assess fees, costs, or expenses against this state unless authorized by law other than this chapter.

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Sec. 152.209. Information to be Submitted to Court.

(a) Except as provided by Subsection (e) or unless each party resides in this state, in a child custody proceeding, each party, in its first pleading or in an attached affidavit, shall give information, if reasonably ascertainable, under oath as to the child's present address or whereabouts, the places where the child has lived during the last five years, and the names and present addresses of the persons with whom the child has lived during that period. The pleading or affidavit must state whether the party:

(1) has participated, as a party or witness or in any other capacity, in any other proceeding concerning the custody of or visitation with the child and, if so, identify the court, the case number, and the date of the child custody determination, if any;

(2) knows of any proceeding that could affect the current proceeding, including proceedings for enforcement and proceedings relating to domestic violence, protective orders, termination of parental rights, and adoptions and, if so, identify the court, the case number, and the nature of the proceeding; and

(3) knows the names and addresses of any person not a party to the proceeding who has physical custody of the child or claims rights of legal custody or physical custody of, or visitation with, the child and, if so, the names and addresses of those persons.

(b) If the information required by Subsection (a) is not furnished, the court, upon motion of a party or its own motion, may stay the proceeding until the information is furnished.

(c) If the declaration as to any of the items described in Subsections (a)(1) through (3) is in the affirmative, the declarant shall give additional information under oath as required by the court. The court may examine the parties under oath as to details of the information furnished and other matters pertinent to the court's jurisdiction and the disposition of the case.

(d) Each party has a continuing duty to inform the court of any proceeding in this or any other state that could affect the current proceeding.

(e) If a party alleges in an affidavit or a pleading under oath that the health, safety, or liberty of a party or child would be jeopardized by disclosure of identifying information, the information must be sealed and may not be disclosed to the other party or the public unless the court orders the disclosure to be made after a hearing in which the court takes into consideration the health, safety, or liberty of the party or child and determines that the disclosure is in the interest of justice.

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Sec. 152.210. Appearance of Parties and Child.

(a) In a child custody proceeding in this state, the court may order a party to the proceeding who is in this state to appear before the court in person with or without the child. The court may order any person who is in this state and who has physical custody or control of the child to appear in person with the child.

(b) If a party to a child custody proceeding whose presence is desired by the court is outside this state, the court may order that a notice given pursuant to Section 152.108 include a statement directing the party to appear in person with or without the child and informing the party that failure to appear may result in a decision adverse to the party.

(c) The court may enter any orders necessary to ensure the safety of the child and of any person ordered to appear under this section.

(d) If a party to a child custody proceeding who is outside this state is directed to appear under Subsection (b) or desires to appear personally before the court with or without the child, the court may require another party to pay reasonable and necessary travel and other expenses of the party so appearing and of the child.

Subch. D. Enforcement

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Sec. 152.301. Definitions. In this subchapter:

(1) "Petitioner" means a person who seeks enforcement of an order for return of a child under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction or enforcement of a child custody determination.

(2) "Respondent" means a person against whom a proceeding has been commenced for enforcement of an order for return of a child under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction or enforcement of a child custody determination.

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Sec. 152.302. Enforcement Under Hague Convention. Under this subchapter a court of this state may enforce an order for the return of the child made under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction as if it were a child custody determination.

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Sec. 152.303. Duty to Enforce.

(a) A court of this state shall recognize and enforce a child custody determination of a court of another state if the latter court exercised jurisdiction in substantial conformity with this chapter or the determination was made under factual circumstances meeting the jurisdictional standards of this chapter and the determination has not been modified in accordance with this chapter.

(b) A court of this state may utilize any remedy available under other law of this state to enforce a child custody determination made by a court of another state. The remedies provided in this subchapter are cumulative and do not affect the availability of other remedies to enforce a child custody determination.

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Sec. 152.304. Temporary Visitation.

(a) A court of this state which does not have jurisdiction to modify a child custody determination may issue a temporary order enforcing:

(1) a visitation schedule made by a court of another state; or

(2) the visitation provisions of a child custody determination of another state that does not provide for a specific visitation schedule.

(b) If a court of this state makes an order under Subsection (a)(2), the court shall specify in the order a period that it considers adequate to allow the petitioner to obtain an order from a court having jurisdiction under the criteria specified in Subchapter C. The order remains in effect until an order is obtained from the other court or the period expires.

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Sec. 152.305. Registration of Child Custody Determination.

(a) A child custody determination issued by a court of another state may be registered in this state, with or without a simultaneous request for enforcement, by sending to the appropriate court in this state:

(1) a letter or other document requesting registration;

(2) two copies, including one certified copy, of the determination sought to be registered and a statement under penalty of perjury that to the best of the knowledge and belief of the person seeking registration the order has not been modified; and

(3) except as otherwise provided in Section 152.209, the name and address of the person seeking registration and any parent or person acting as a parent who has been awarded custody or visitation in the child custody determination sought to be registered.

(b) On receipt of the documents required by Subsection (a), the registering court shall:

(1) cause the determination to be filed as a foreign judgment, together with one copy of any accompanying documents and information, regardless of their form; and

(2) serve notice upon the persons named pursuant to Subsection (a)(3) and provide them with an opportunity to contest the registration in accordance with this section.

(c) The notice required by Subsection (b)(2) must state that:

(1) a registered determination is enforceable as of the date of the registration in the same manner as a determination issued by a court of this state;

(2) a hearing to contest the validity of the registered determination must be requested within 20 days after service of notice; and

(3) failure to contest the registration will result in confirmation of the child custody determination and preclude further contest of that determination with respect to any matter that could have been asserted.

(d) A person seeking to contest the validity of a registered order must request a hearing within 20 days after service of the notice. At that hearing, the court shall confirm the registered order unless the person contesting registration establishes that:

(1) the issuing court did not have jurisdiction under Subchapter C;

(2) the child custody determination sought to be registered has been vacated, stayed, or modified by a court having jurisdiction to do so under Subchapter C; or

(3) the person contesting registration was entitled to notice, but notice was not given in accordance with the standards of Section 152.108, in the proceedings before the court that issued the order for which registration is sought.

(e) If a timely request for a hearing to contest the validity of the registration is not made, the registration is confirmed as a matter of law and the person requesting registration and all persons served must be notified of the confirmation.

(f) Confirmation of a registered order, whether by operation of law or after notice and hearing, precludes further contest of the order with respect to any matter that could have been asserted at the time of registration.

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Sec. 152.306. Enforcement of Registered Determination.

(a) A court of this state may grant any relief normally available under the law of this state to enforce a registered child custody determination made by a court of another state.

(b) A court of this state shall recognize and enforce, but may not modify, except in accordance with Subchapter C, a registered child custody determination of a court of another state.

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Sec. 152.307. Simultaneous Proceedings. If a proceeding for enforcement under this subchapter is commenced in a court of this state and the court determines that a proceeding to modify the determination is pending in a court of another state having jurisdiction to modify the determination under Subchapter C, the enforcing court shall immediately communicate with the modifying court. The proceeding for enforcement continues unless the enforcing court, after consultation with the modifying court, stays or dismisses the proceeding.

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Sec. 152.308. Expedited Enforcement of Child Custody Determination.

(a) A petition under this subchapter must be verified. Certified copies of all orders sought to be enforced and of any order confirming registration must be attached to the petition. A copy of a certified copy of an order may be attached instead of the original.

(b) A petition for enforcement of a child custody determination must state:

(1) whether the court that issued the determination identified the jurisdictional basis it relied upon in exercising jurisdiction and, if so, what the basis was;

(2) whether the determination for which enforcement is sought has been vacated, stayed, or modified by a court whose decision must be enforced under this chapter and, if so, identify the court, the case number, and the nature of the proceeding;

(3) whether any proceeding has been commenced that could affect the current proceeding, including proceedings relating to domestic violence, protective orders, termination of parental rights, and adoptions and, if so, identify the court, the case number, and the nature of the proceeding;

(4) the present physical address of the child and the respondent, if known;

(5) whether relief in addition to the immediate physical custody of the child and attorney's fees is sought, including a request for assistance from law enforcement officials and, if so, the relief sought; and

(6) if the child custody determination has been registered and confirmed under Section 152.305, the date and place of registration.

(c) Upon the filing of a petition, the court shall issue an order directing the respondent to appear in person with or without the child at a hearing and may enter any order necessary to ensure the safety of the parties and the child. The hearing must be held on the next judicial day after service of the order unless that date is impossible. In that event, the court shall hold the hearing on the first judicial day possible. The court may extend the date of hearing at the request of the petitioner.

(d) An order issued under Subsection (c) must state the time and place of the hearing and advise the respondent that at the hearing the court will award the petitioner immediate physical custody of the child and order the payment of fees, costs, and expenses under Section 152.312, and may schedule a hearing to determine whether further relief is appropriate, unless the respondent appears and establishes that:

(1) the child custody determination has not been registered and confirmed under Section 152.305 and that:

(A) the issuing court did not have jurisdiction under Subchapter C;

(B) the child custody determination for which enforcement is sought has been vacated, stayed, or modified by a court having jurisdiction to do so under Subchapter C; or

(C) the respondent was entitled to notice, but notice was not given in accordance with the standards of Section 152.108, in the proceedings before the court that issued the order for which enforcement is sought; or

(2) the child custody determination for which enforcement is sought was registered and confirmed under Section 152.305, but has been vacated, stayed, or modified by a court of a state having jurisdiction to do so under Subchapter C.

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Sec. 152.309. Service of Petition and Order. Except as otherwise provided in Section 152.311, the petition and order must be served, by any method authorized by the law of this state, upon the respondent and any person who has physical custody of the child.

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Sec. 152.310. Hearing and Order.

(a) Unless the court issues a temporary emergency order pursuant to Section 152.204, upon a finding that a petitioner is entitled to immediate physical custody of the child, the court shall order that the petitioner may take immediate physical custody of the child unless the respondent establishes that:

(1) the child custody determination has not been registered and confirmed under Section 152.305 and that:

(A) the issuing court did not have jurisdiction under Subchapter C;

(B) the child custody determination for which enforcement is sought has been vacated, stayed, or modified by a court of a state having jurisdiction to do so under Subchapter C; or

(C) the respondent was entitled to notice, but notice was not given in accordance with the standards of Section 152.108, in the proceedings before the court that issued the order for which enforcement is sought; or

(2) the child custody determination for which enforcement is sought was registered and confirmed under Section 152.305 but has been vacated, stayed, or modified by a court of a state having jurisdiction to do so under Subchapter C.

(b) The court shall award the fees, costs, and expenses authorized under Section 152.312 and may grant additional relief, including a request for the assistance of law enforcement officials, and set a further hearing to determine whether additional relief is appropriate.

(c) If a party called to testify refuses to answer on the ground that the testimony may be self–incriminating, the court may draw an adverse inference from the refusal.

(d) A privilege against disclosure of communications between spouses and a defense of immunity based on the relationship of husband and wife or parent and child may not be invoked in a proceeding under this subchapter.

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Sec. 152.311. Warrant to Take Physical Custody of Child.

(a) Upon the filing of a petition seeking enforcement of a child custody determination, the petitioner may file a verified application for the issuance of a warrant to take physical custody of the child if the child is imminently likely to suffer serious physical harm or be removed from this state.

(b) If the court, upon the testimony of the petitioner or other witness, finds that the child is imminently likely to suffer serious physical harm or be removed from this state, it may issue a warrant to take physical custody of the child. The petition must be heard on the next judicial day after the warrant is executed unless that date is impossible. In that event, the court shall hold the hearing on the first judicial day possible. The application for the warrant must include the statements required by Section 152.308(b).

(c) A warrant to take physical custody of a child must:

(1) recite the facts upon which a conclusion of imminent serious physical harm or removal from the jurisdiction is based;

(2) direct law enforcement officers to take physical custody of the child immediately;

(3) state the date for the hearing on the petition; and

(4) provide for the safe interim placement of the child pending further order of the court and impose conditions on placement of the child to ensure the appearance of the child and the child's custodian.

(c–1) If the petition seeks to enforce a child custody determination made in a foreign country or an order for the return of the child made under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, the court may place a child with a parent or family member in accordance with Subsection (c)(4) only if the parent or family member has significant ties to the jurisdiction of the court. If a parent or family member of the child does not have significant ties to the jurisdiction of the court, the court shall provide for the delivery of the child to the Department of Family and Protective Services in the manner provided for the delivery of a missing child by Section 262.007(c).

(d) The respondent must be served with the petition, warrant, and order immediately after the child is taken into physical custody.

(e) A warrant to take physical custody of a child is enforceable throughout this state. If the court finds on the basis of the testimony of the petitioner or other witness that a less intrusive remedy is not effective, it may authorize law enforcement officers to enter private property to take physical custody of the child. If required by exigent circumstances of the case, the court may authorize law enforcement officers to make a forcible entry at any hour.

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Sec. 152.312. Costs, Fees, and Expenses.

(a) The court shall award the prevailing party, including a state, necessary and reasonable expenses incurred by or on behalf of the party, including costs, communication expenses, attorney's fees, investigative fees, expenses for witnesses, travel expenses, and child care during the course of the proceedings, unless the party from whom fees or expenses are sought establishes that the award would be clearly inappropriate.

(b) The court may not assess fees, costs, or expenses against a state unless authorized by law other than this chapter.

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Sec. 152.313. Recognition and Enforcement. A court of this state shall accord full faith and credit to an order issued by another state and consistent with this chapter which enforces a child custody determination by a court of another state unless the order has been vacated, stayed, or modified by a court having jurisdiction to do so under Subchapter C.

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Sec. 152.314. Appeals. An appeal may be taken from a final order in a proceeding under this subchapter in accordance with expedited appellate procedures in other civil cases. Unless the court enters a temporary emergency order under Section 152.204, the enforcing court may not stay an order enforcing a child custody determination pending appeal.

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Sec. 152.315. Role of Prosecutor or Public Official.

(a) In a case arising under this chapter or involving the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, the prosecutor or other appropriate public official may take any lawful action, including resorting to a proceeding under this subchapter or any other available civil proceeding to locate a child, obtain the return of a child, or enforce a child custody determination if there is:

(1) an existing child custody determination;

(2) a request to do so from a court in a pending child custody proceeding;

(3) a reasonable belief that a criminal statute has been violated; or

(4) a reasonable belief that the child has been wrongfully removed or retained in violation of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

(b) A prosecutor or appropriate public official acting under this section acts on behalf of the court and may not represent any party.

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Sec. 152.316. Role of Law Enforcement. At the request of a prosecutor or other appropriate public official acting under Section 152.315, a law enforcement officer may take any lawful action reasonably necessary to locate a child or a party and assist a prosecutor or appropriate public official with responsibilities under Section 152.315.

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Sec. 152.317. Costs and Expenses. If the respondent is not the prevailing party, the court may assess against the respondent all direct expenses and costs incurred by the prosecutor or other appropriate public official and law enforcement officers under Section 152.315 or 152.316.

Ch. 153. Conservatorship, Possession, and Access

Subch. A. General Provisions

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Sec. 153.001. Public Policy.

(a) The public policy of this state is to:

(1) assure that children will have frequent and continuing contact with parents who have shown the ability to act in the best interest of the child;

(2) provide a safe, stable, and nonviolent environment for the child; and

(3) encourage parents to share in the rights and duties of raising their child after the parents have separated or dissolved their marriage.

(b) A court may not render an order that conditions the right of a conservator to possession of or access to a child on the payment of child support.

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Sec. 153.002. Best Interest of Child. The best interest of the child shall always be the primary consideration of the court in determining the issues of conservatorship and possession of and access to the child.

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Sec. 153.003. No Discrimination Based on Sex or Marital Status. The court shall consider the qualifications of the parties without regard to their marital status or to the sex of the party or the child in determining:

(1) which party to appoint as sole managing conservator;

(2) whether to appoint a party as joint managing conservator; and

(3) the terms and conditions of conservatorship and possession of and access to the child.

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Sec. 153.004. History of Domestic Violence or Sexual Abuse.

(a) In determining whether to appoint a party as a sole or joint managing conservator, the court shall consider evidence of the intentional use of abusive physical force, or evidence of sexual abuse, by a party directed against the party's spouse, a parent of the child, or any person younger than 18 years of age committed within a two–year period preceding the filing of the suit or during the pendency of the suit.

(b) The court may not appoint joint managing conservators if credible evidence is presented of a history or pattern of past or present child neglect, or physical or sexual abuse by one parent directed against the other parent, a spouse, or a child, including a sexual assault in violation of Section 22.011 or 22.021, Penal Code, that results in the other parent becoming pregnant with the child. A history of sexual abuse includes a sexual assault that results in the other parent becoming pregnant with the child, regardless of the prior relationship of the parents. It is a rebuttable presumption that the appointment of a parent as the sole managing conservator of a child or as the conservator who has the exclusive right to determine the primary residence of a child is not in the best interest of the child if credible evidence is presented of a history or pattern of past or present child neglect, or physical or sexual abuse by that parent directed against the other parent, a spouse, or a child.

(c) The court shall consider the commission of family violence or sexual abuse in determining whether to deny, restrict, or limit the possession of a child by a parent who is appointed as a possessory conservator.

(d) The court may not allow a parent to have access to a child for whom it is shown by a preponderance of the evidence that:

(1) there is a history or pattern of committing family violence during the two years preceding the date of the filing of the suit or during the pendency of the suit; or

(2) the parent engaged in conduct that constitutes an offense under Section 21.02, 22.011, 22.021, or 25.02, Penal Code, and that as a direct result of the conduct, the victim of the conduct became pregnant with the parent's child.

(d–1) Notwithstanding Subsection (d), the court may allow a parent to have access to a child if the court:

(1) finds that awarding the parent access to the child would not endanger the child's physical health or emotional welfare and would be in the best interest of the child; and

(2) renders a possession order that is designed to protect the safety and well–being of the child and any other person who has been a victim of family violence committed by the parent and that may include a requirement that:

(A) the periods of access be continuously supervised by an entity or person chosen by the court;

(B) the exchange of possession of the child occur in a protective setting;

(C) the parent abstain from the consumption of alcohol or a controlled substance, as defined by Chapter 481, Health and Safety Code, within 12 hours prior to or during the period of access to the child; or

(D) the parent attend and complete a battering intervention and prevention program as provided by Article 42.141, Code of Criminal Procedure, or, if such a program is not available, complete a course of treatment under Section 153.010.

(e) It is a rebuttable presumption that it is not in the best interest of a child for a parent to have unsupervised visitation with the child if credible evidence is presented of a history or pattern of past or present child neglect or physical or sexual abuse by that parent directed against the other parent, a spouse, or a child.

(f) In determining under this section whether there is credible evidence of a history or pattern of past or present child neglect or physical or sexual abuse by a parent directed against the other parent, a spouse, or a child, the court shall consider whether a protective order was rendered under Chapter 85, Title 4, against the parent during the two–year period preceding the filing of the suit or during the pendency of the suit.

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Sec. 153.005. Appointment of Sole or Joint Managing Conservator.

(a) In a suit, except as provided by Section 153.004, the court:

(1) may appoint a sole managing conservator or may appoint joint managing conservators; and

(2) if the parents are or will be separated, shall appoint at least one managing conservator.

(b) A managing conservator must be a parent, a competent adult, the Department of Family and Protective Services, or a licensed child–placing agency.

(c) In making an appointment authorized by this section, the court shall consider whether, preceding the filing of the suit or during the pendency of the suit:

(1) a party engaged in a history or pattern of family violence, as defined by Section 71.004;

(2) a party engaged in a history or pattern of child abuse or child neglect; or

(3) a final protective order was rendered against a party.

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Sec. 153.006. Appointment of Possessory Conservator.

(a) If a managing conservator is appointed, the court may appoint one or more possessory conservators.

(b) The court shall specify the rights and duties of a person appointed possessory conservator.

(c) The court shall specify and expressly state in the order the times and conditions for possession of or access to the child, unless a party shows good cause why specific orders would not be in the best interest of the child.

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Sec. 153.007. Agreed Parenting Plan.

(a) To promote the amicable settlement of disputes between the parties to a suit, the parties may enter into a written agreed parenting plan containing provisions for conservatorship and possession of the child and for modification of the parenting plan, including variations from the standard possession order.

(b) If the court finds that the agreed parenting plan is in the child's best interest, the court shall render an order in accordance with the parenting plan.

(c) Terms of the agreed parenting plan contained in the order or incorporated by reference regarding conservatorship or support of or access to a child in an order may be enforced by all remedies available for enforcement of a judgment, including contempt, but are not enforceable as a contract.

(d) If the court finds the agreed parenting plan is not in the child's best interest, the court may request the parties to submit a revised parenting plan. If the parties do not submit a revised parenting plan satisfactory to the court, the court may, after notice and hearing, order a parenting plan that the court finds to be in the best interest of the child.

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Sec. 153.0071. Alternate Dispute Resolution Procedures.

(a) On written agreement of the parties, the court may refer a suit affecting the parent–child relationship to arbitration. The agreement must state whether the arbitration is binding or non–binding.

(b) If the parties agree to binding arbitration, the court shall render an order reflecting the arbitrator's award unless the court determines at a non–jury hearing that the award is not in the best interest of the child. The burden of proof at a hearing under this subsection is on the party seeking to avoid rendition of an order based on the arbitrator's award.

(c) On the written agreement of the parties or on the court's own motion, the court may refer a suit affecting the parent–child relationship to mediation.

(d) A mediated settlement agreement is binding on the parties if the agreement:

(1) provides, in a prominently displayed statement that is in boldfaced type or capital letters or underlined, that the agreement is not subject to revocation;

(2) is signed by each party to the agreement; and

(3) is signed by the party's attorney, if any, who is present at the time the agreement is signed.

(e) If a mediated settlement agreement meets the requirements of Subsection (d), a party is entitled to judgment on the mediated settlement agreement notwithstanding Rule 11, Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, or another rule of law.

(e–1) Notwithstanding Subsections (d) and (e), a court may decline to enter a judgment on a mediated settlement agreement if the court finds that:

(1) a party to the agreement was a victim of family violence, and that circumstance impaired the party's ability to make decisions; and

(2) the agreement is not in the child's best interest.

(f) A party may at any time prior to the final mediation order file a written objection to the referral of a suit affecting the parent–child relationship to mediation on the basis of family violence having been committed by another party against the objecting party or a child who is the subject of the suit. After an objection is filed, the suit may not be referred to mediation unless, on the request of a party, a hearing is held and the court finds that a preponderance of the evidence does not support the objection. If the suit is referred to mediation, the court shall order appropriate measures be taken to ensure the physical and emotional safety of the party who filed the objection. The order shall provide that the parties not be required to have face–to–face contact and that the parties be placed in separate rooms during mediation. This subsection does not apply to suits filed under Chapter 262.

(g) The provisions for confidentiality of alternative dispute resolution procedures under Chapter 154, Civil Practice and Remedies Code, apply equally to the work of a parenting coordinator, as defined by Section 153.601, and to the parties and any other person who participates in the parenting coordination. This subsection does not affect the duty of a person to report abuse or neglect under Section 261.101.

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Sec. 153.00715. Determination of Validity and Enforceability of Contract Containing Agreement to Arbitrate.

(a) If a party to a suit affecting the parent–child relationship opposes an application to compel arbitration or makes an application to stay arbitration and asserts that the contract containing the agreement to arbitrate is not valid or enforceable, notwithstanding any provision of the contract to the contrary, the court shall try the issue promptly and may order arbitration only if the court determines that the contract containing the agreement to arbitrate is valid and enforceable against the party seeking to avoid arbitration.

(b) A determination under this section that a contract is valid and enforceable does not affect the court's authority to stay arbitration or refuse to compel arbitration on any other ground provided by law.

(c) This section does not apply to:

(1) a court order;

(2) an agreed parenting plan described by Section 153.007;

(3) a mediated settlement agreement described by Section 153.0071;

(4) a collaborative law agreement described by Section 153.0072; or

(5) any other agreement between the parties that is approved by a court.

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Sec. 153.009. Interview of Child in CHAMBERS.

(a) In a nonjury trial or at a hearing, on the application of a party, the amicus attorney, or the attorney ad litem for the child, the court shall interview in chambers a child 12 years of age or older and may interview in chambers a child under 12 years of age to determine the child's wishes as to conservatorship or as to the person who shall have the exclusive right to determine the child's primary residence. The court may also interview a child in chambers on the court's own motion for a purpose specified by this subsection.

(b) In a nonjury trial or at a hearing, on the application of a party, the amicus attorney, or the attorney ad litem for the child or on the court's own motion, the court may interview the child in chambers to determine the child's wishes as to possession, access, or any other issue in the suit affecting the parent–child relationship.

(c) Interviewing a child does not diminish the discretion of the court in determining the best interests of the child.

(d) In a jury trial, the court may not interview the child in chambers regarding an issue on which a party is entitled to a jury verdict.

(e) In any trial or hearing, the court may permit the attorney for a party, the amicus attorney, the guardian ad litem for the child, or the attorney ad litem for the child to be present at the interview.

(f) On the motion of a party, the amicus attorney, or the attorney ad litem for the child, or on the court's own motion, the court shall cause a record of the interview to be made when the child is 12 years of age or older. A record of the interview shall be part of the record in the case.

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Sec. 153.010. Order for Family Counseling.

(a) If the court finds at the time of a hearing that the parties have a history of conflict in resolving an issue of conservatorship or possession of or access to the child, the court may order a party to:

(1) participate in counseling with a mental health professional who:

(A) has a background in family therapy;

(B) has a mental health license that requires as a minimum a master's degree; and

(C) has training in domestic violence if the court determines that the training is relevant to the type of counseling needed; and

(2) pay the cost of counseling.

(b) If a person possessing the requirements of Subsection (a)(1) is not available in the county in which the court presides, the court may appoint a person the court believes is qualified to conduct the counseling ordered under Subsection (a).

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Sec. 153.011. Security Bond. If the court finds that a person who has a possessory interest in a child may violate the court order relating to the interest, the court may order the party to execute a bond or deposit security. The court shall set the amount and condition the bond or security on compliance with the order.

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Sec. 153.012. Right to Privacy; Deletion of Personal Information in Records. The court may order the custodian of records to delete all references in the records to the place of residence of either party appointed as a conservator of the child before the release of the records to another party appointed as a conservator.

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Sec. 153.013. False Report of Child Abuse.

(a) If a party to a pending suit affecting the parent–child relationship makes a report alleging child abuse by another party to the suit that the reporting party knows lacks a factual foundation, the court shall deem the report to be a knowingly false report.

(b) Evidence of a false report of child abuse is admissible in a suit between the involved parties regarding the terms of conservatorship of a child.

(c) If the court makes a finding under Subsection (a), the court shall impose a civil penalty not to exceed $500.

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Sec. 153.014. Visitation Centers and Visitation Exchange Facilities. A county may establish a visitation center or a visitation exchange facility for the purpose of facilitating the terms of a court order providing for the possession of or access to a child.

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Sec. 153.015. Electronic Communication with Child by Conservator.

(a) In this section, "electronic communication" means any communication facilitated by the use of any wired or wireless technology via the Internet or any other electronic media. The term includes communication facilitated by the use of a telephone, electronic mail, instant messaging, videoconferencing, or webcam.

(b) If a conservator of a child requests the court to order periods of electronic communication with the child under this section, the court may award the conservator reasonable periods of electronic communication with the child to supplement the conservator's periods of possession of the child. In determining whether to award electronic communication, the court shall consider:

(1) whether electronic communication is in the best interest of the child;

(2) whether equipment necessary to facilitate the electronic communication is reasonably available to all parties subject to the order; and

(3) any other factor the court considers appropriate.

(c) If a court awards a conservator periods of electronic communication with a child under this section, each conservator subject to the court's order shall:

(1) provide the other conservator with the e–mail address and other electronic communication access information of the child;

(2) notify the other conservator of any change in the e–mail address or other electronic communication access information not later than 24 hours after the date the change takes effect; and

(3) if necessary equipment is reasonably available, accommodate electronic communication with the child, with the same privacy, respect, and dignity accorded all other forms of access, at a reasonable time and for a reasonable duration subject to any limitation provided by the court in the court's order.

(d) The court may not consider the availability of electronic communication as a factor in determining child support. The availability of electronic communication under this section is not intended as a substitute for physical possession of or access to the child where otherwise appropriate.

(e) In a suit in which the court's order contains provisions related to a finding of family violence in the suit, including supervised visitation, the court may award periods of electronic communication under this section only if:

(1) the award and terms of the award are mutually agreed to by the parties; and

(2) the terms of the award:

(A) are printed in the court's order in boldfaced, capitalized type; and

(B) include any specific restrictions relating to family violence or supervised visitation, as applicable, required by other law to be included in a possession or access order.

Subch. B. Parent Appointed as Conservator: In General

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Sec. 153.071. Court to Specify Rights and Duties of Parent Appointed A Conservator. If both parents are appointed as conservators of the child, the court shall specify the rights and duties of a parent that are to be exercised:

(1) by each parent independently;

(2) by the joint agreement of the parents; and

(3) exclusively by one parent.

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Sec. 153.072. Written Finding Required to Limit Parental Rights and Duties. The court may limit the rights and duties of a parent appointed as a conservator if the court makes a written finding that the limitation is in the best interest of the child.

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Sec. 153.073. Rights of Parent at All Times.

(a) Unless limited by court order, a parent appointed as a conservator of a child has at all times the right:

(1) to receive information from any other conservator of the child concerning the health, education, and welfare of the child;

(2) to confer with the other parent to the extent possible before making a decision concerning the health, education, and welfare of the child;

(3) of access to medical, dental, psychological, and educational records of the child;

(4) to consult with a physician, dentist, or psychologist of the child;

(5) to consult with school officials concerning the child's welfare and educational status, including school activities;

(6) to attend school activities;

(7) to be designated on the child's records as a person to be notified in case of an emergency;

(8) to consent to medical, dental, and surgical treatment during an emergency involving an immediate danger to the health and safety of the child; and

(9) to manage the estate of the child to the extent the estate has been created by the parent or the parent's family.

(b) The court shall specify in the order the rights that a parent retains at all times.

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Sec. 153.074. Rights and Duties During Period of Possession. Unless limited by court order, a parent appointed as a conservator of a child has the following rights and duties during the period that the parent has possession of the child:

(1) the duty of care, control, protection, and reasonable discipline of the child;

(2) the duty to support the child, including providing the child with clothing, food, shelter, and medical and dental care not involving an invasive procedure;

(3) the right to consent for the child to medical and dental care not involving an invasive procedure; and

(4) the right to direct the moral and religious training of the child.

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Sec. 153.075. Duties of Parent Not Appointed Conservator. The court may order a parent not appointed as a managing or a possessory conservator to perform other parental duties, including paying child support.

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Sec. 153.076. Duty to Provide Information.

(a) The court shall order that each conservator of a child has a duty to inform the other conservator of the child in a timely manner of significant information concerning the health, education, and welfare of the child.

(b) The court shall order that each conservator of a child has the duty to inform the other conservator of the child if the conservator resides with for at least 30 days, marries, or intends to marry a person who the conservator knows:

(1) is registered as a sex offender under Chapter 62, Code of Criminal Procedure; or

(2) is currently charged with an offense for which on conviction the person would be required to register under that chapter.

(b–1) The court shall order that each conservator of a child has the duty to inform the other conservator of the child if the conservator:

(1) establishes a residence with a person who the conservator knows is the subject of a final protective order sought by an individual other than the conservator that is in effect on the date the residence with the person is established;

(2) resides with, or allows unsupervised access to a child by, a person who is the subject of a final protective order sought by the conservator after the expiration of the 60–day period following the date the final protective order is issued; or

(3) is the subject of a final protective order issued after the date of the order establishing conservatorship.

(c) The notice required to be made under Subsection (b) must be made as soon as practicable but not later than the 40th day after the date the conservator of the child begins to reside with the person or the 10th day after the date the marriage occurs, as appropriate. The notice must include a description of the offense that is the basis of the person's requirement to register as a sex offender or of the offense with which the person is charged.

(c–1) The notice required to be made under Subsection (b–1) must be made as soon as practicable but not later than:

(1) the 30th day after the date the conservator establishes residence with the person who is the subject of the final protective order, if the notice is required by Subsection (b–1)(1);

(2) the 90th day after the date the final protective order was issued, if the notice is required by Subsection (b–1)(2); or

(3) the 30th day after the date the final protective order was issued, if the notice is required by Subsection (b–1)(3).

(d) A conservator commits an offense if the conservator fails to provide notice in the manner required by Subsections (b) and (c), or Subsections (b–1) and (c–1), as applicable. An offense under this subsection is a Class C misdemeanor.

Subch. C. Parent Appointed as Sole or Joint Managing Conservator

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Sec. 153.131. Presumption that Parent to Be Appointed Managing Conservator.

(a) Subject to the prohibition in Section 153.004, unless the court finds that appointment of the parent or parents would not be in the best interest of the child because the appointment would significantly impair the child's physical health or emotional development, a parent shall be appointed sole managing conservator or both parents shall be appointed as joint managing conservators of the child.

(b) It is a rebuttable presumption that the appointment of the parents of a child as joint managing conservators is in the best interest of the child. A finding of a history of family violence involving the parents of a child removes the presumption under this subsection.

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Sec. 153.132. Rights and Duties of Parent Appointed Sole Managing Conservator. Unless limited by court order, a parent appointed as sole managing conservator of a child has the rights and duties provided by Subchapter B and the following exclusive rights:

(1) the right to designate the primary residence of the child;

(2) the right to consent to medical, dental, and surgical treatment involving invasive procedures;

(3) the right to consent to psychiatric and psychological treatment;

(4) the right to receive and give receipt for periodic payments for the support of the child and to hold or disburse these funds for the benefit of the child;

(5) the right to represent the child in legal action and to make other decisions of substantial legal significance concerning the child;

(6) the right to consent to marriage and to enlistment in the armed forces of the United States;

(7) the right to make decisions concerning the child's education;

(8) the right to the services and earnings of the child; and

(9) except when a guardian of the child's estate or a guardian or attorney ad litem has been appointed for the child, the right to act as an agent of the child in relation to the child's estate if the child's action is required by a state, the United States, or a foreign government.

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Sec. 153.133. Parenting Plan for Joint Managing Conservatorship.

(a) If a written agreed parenting plan is filed with the court, the court shall render an order appointing the parents as joint managing conservators only if the parenting plan:

(1) designates the conservator who has the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of the child and:

(A) establishes, until modified by further order, the geographic area within which the conservator shall maintain the child's primary residence; or

(B) specifies that the conservator may designate the child's primary residence without regard to geographic location;

(2) specifies the rights and duties of each parent regarding the child's physical care, support, and education;

(3) includes provisions to minimize disruption of the child's education, daily routine, and association with friends;

(4) allocates between the parents, independently, jointly, or exclusively, all of the remaining rights and duties of a parent provided by Chapter 151;

(5) is voluntarily and knowingly made by each parent and has not been repudiated by either parent at the time the order is rendered; and

(6) is in the best interest of the child.

(b) The agreed parenting plan may contain an alternative dispute resolution procedure that the parties agree to use before requesting enforcement or modification of the terms and conditions of the joint conservatorship through litigation, except in an emergency.

(c) Notwithstanding Subsection (a)(1), the court shall render an order adopting the provisions of a written agreed parenting plan appointing the parents as joint managing conservators if the parenting plan:

(1) meets all the requirements of Subsections (a)(2) through (6); and

(2) provides that the child's primary residence shall be within a specified geographic area.

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Sec. 153.134. Court–Ordered Joint Conservatorship.

(a) If a written agreed parenting plan is not filed with the court, the court may render an order appointing the parents joint managing conservators only if the appointment is in the best interest of the child, considering the following factors:

(1) whether the physical, psychological, or emotional needs and development of the child will benefit from the appointment of joint managing conservators;

(2) the ability of the parents to give first priority to the welfare of the child and reach shared decisions in the child's best interest;

(3) whether each parent can encourage and accept a positive relationship between the child and the other parent;

(4) whether both parents participated in child rearing before the filing of the suit;

(5) the geographical proximity of the parents' residences;

(6) if the child is 12 years of age or older, the child's preference, if any, regarding the person to have the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of the child; and

(7) any other relevant factor.

(b) In rendering an order appointing joint managing conservators, the court shall:

(1) designate the conservator who has the exclusive right to determine the primary residence of the child and:

(A) establish, until modified by further order, a geographic area within which the conservator shall maintain the child's primary residence; or

(B) specify that the conservator may determine the child's primary residence without regard to geographic location;

(2) specify the rights and duties of each parent regarding the child's physical care, support, and education;

(3) include provisions to minimize disruption of the child's education, daily routine, and association with friends;

(4) allocate between the parents, independently, jointly, or exclusively, all of the remaining rights and duties of a parent as provided by Chapter 151; and

(5) if feasible, recommend that the parties use an alternative dispute resolution method before requesting enforcement or modification of the terms and conditions of the joint conservatorship through litigation, except in an emergency.

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Sec. 153.135. Equal Possession Not Required. Joint managing conservatorship does not require the award of equal or nearly equal periods of physical possession of and access to the child to each of the joint conservators.

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Sec. 153.138. Child Support Order Affecting Joint Conservators. The appointment of joint managing conservators does not impair or limit the authority of the court to order a joint managing conservator to pay child support to another joint managing conservator.

Subch. D. Parent Appointed as Possessory Conservator

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Sec. 153.191. Presumption that Parent to BE Appointed Possessory Conservator. The court shall appoint as a possessory conservator a parent who is not appointed as a sole or joint managing conservator unless it finds that the appointment is not in the best interest of the child and that parental possession or access would endanger the physical or emotional welfare of the child.

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Sec. 153.192. Rights and Duties of Parent Appointed Possessory Conservator.

(a) Unless limited by court order, a parent appointed as possessory conservator of a child has the rights and duties provided by Subchapter B and any other right or duty expressly granted to the possessory conservator in the order.

(b) In ordering the terms and conditions for possession of a child by a parent appointed possessory conservator, the court shall be guided by the guidelines in Subchapter E.

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Sec. 153.193. Minimal Restriction on Parent's Possession or Access. The terms of an order that denies possession of a child to a parent or imposes restrictions or limitations on a parent's right to possession of or access to a child may not exceed those that are required to protect the best interest of the child.

Subch. E. Guidelines for the Possession of A Child by A Parent Named as Possessory Conservator

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Sec. 153.251. Policy and General Application of Guidelines.

(a) The guidelines established in the standard possession order are intended to guide the courts in ordering the terms and conditions for possession of a child by a parent named as a possessory conservator or as the minimum possession for a joint managing conservator.

(b) It is the policy of this state to encourage frequent contact between a child and each parent for periods of possession that optimize the development of a close and continuing relationship between each parent and child.

(c) It is preferable for all children in a family to be together during periods of possession.

(d) The standard possession order is designed to apply to a child three years of age or older.

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Sec. 153.252. Rebuttable Presumption. In a suit, there is a rebuttable presumption that the standard possession order in Subchapter F:

(1) provides reasonable minimum possession of a child for a parent named as a possessory conservator or joint managing conservator; and

(2) is in the best interest of the child.

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Sec. 153.253. Standard Possession Order Inappropriate or Unworkable. The court shall render an order that grants periods of possession of the child as similar as possible to those provided by the standard possession order if the work schedule or other special circumstances of the managing conservator, the possessory conservator, or the child, or the year–round school schedule of the child, make the standard order unworkable or inappropriate.

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Sec. 153.254. Child Less than Three Years of Age.

(a) The court shall render an order appropriate under the circumstances for possession of a child less than three years of age. In rendering the order, the court shall consider evidence of all relevant factors, including:

(1) the caregiving provided to the child before and during the current suit;

(2) the effect on the child that may result from separation from either party;

(3) the availability of the parties as caregivers and the willingness of the parties to personally care for the child;

(4) the physical, medical, behavioral, and developmental needs of the child;

(5) the physical, medical, emotional, economic, and social conditions of the parties;

(6) the impact and influence of individuals, other than the parties, who will be present during periods of possession;

(7) the presence of siblings during periods of possession;

(8) the child's need to develop healthy attachments to both parents;

(9) the child's need for continuity of routine;

(10) the location and proximity of the residences of the parties;

(11) the need for a temporary possession schedule that incrementally shifts to the schedule provided in the prospective order under Subsection (d) based on:

(A) the age of the child; or

(B) minimal or inconsistent contact with the child by a party;

(12) the ability of the parties to share in the responsibilities, rights, and duties of parenting; and

(13) any other evidence of the best interest of the child.

(b) Notwithstanding the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, in rendering an order under Subsection (a), the court shall make findings in support of the order if:

(1) a party files a written request with the court not later than the 10th day after the date of the hearing; or

(2) a party makes an oral request in court during the hearing on the order.

(c) The court shall make and enter the findings required by Subsection (b) not later than the 15th day after the date the party makes the request.

(d) The court shall render a prospective order to take effect on the child's third birthday, which presumptively will be the standard possession order.

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Sec. 153.255. Agreement. The court may render an order for periods of possession of a child that vary from the standard possession order based on the agreement of the parties.

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Sec. 153.256. Factors for Court to Consider. In ordering the terms of possession of a child under an order other than a standard possession order, the court shall be guided by the guidelines established by the standard possession order and may consider:

(1) the age, developmental status, circumstances, needs, and best interest of the child;

(2) the circumstances of the managing conservator and of the parent named as a possessory conservator; and

(3) any other relevant factor.

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Sec. 153.258. Request for Findings when Order Varies from Standard Order. Without regard to Rules 296 through 299, Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, in all cases in which possession of a child by a parent is contested and the possession of the child varies from the standard possession order, on written request made or filed with the court not later than 10 days after the date of the hearing or on oral request made in open court during the hearing, the court shall state in the order the specific reasons for the variance from the standard order.

Subch. F. Standard Possession Order

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Sec. 153.3101. Reference to "School" in Standard Possession Order. In a standard possession order, "school" means the elementary or secondary school in which the child is enrolled or, if the child is not enrolled in an elementary or secondary school, the public school district in which the child primarily resides.

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Sec. 153.311. Mutual Agreement or Specified Terms for Possession. The court shall specify in a standard possession order that the parties may have possession of the child at times mutually agreed to in advance by the parties and, in the absence of mutual agreement, shall have possession of the child under the specified terms set out in the standard possession order.

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Sec. 153.312. Parents Who Reside 100 Miles or Less Apart.

(a) If the possessory conservator resides 100 miles or less from the primary residence of the child, the possessory conservator shall have the right to possession of the child as follows:

(1) on weekends throughout the year beginning at 6 p.m. on the first, third, and fifth Friday of each month and ending at 6 p.m. on the following Sunday; and

(2) on Thursdays of each week during the regular school term beginning at 6 p.m. and ending at 8 p.m., unless the court finds that visitation under this subdivision is not in the best interest of the child.

(b) The following provisions govern possession of the child for vacations and certain specific holidays and supersede conflicting weekend or Thursday periods of possession. The possessory conservator and the managing conservator shall have rights of possession of the child as follows:

(1) the possessory conservator shall have possession in even–numbered years, beginning at 6 p.m. on the day the child is dismissed from school for the school's spring vacation and ending at 6 p.m. on the day before school resumes after that vacation, and the managing conservator shall have possession for the same period in odd–numbered years;

(2) if a possessory conservator:

(A) gives the managing conservator written notice by April 1 of each year specifying an extended period or periods of summer possession, the possessory conservator shall have possession of the child for 30 days beginning not earlier than the day after the child's school is dismissed for the summer vacation and ending not later than seven days before school resumes at the end of the summer vacation, to be exercised in not more than two separate periods of at least seven consecutive days each, with each period of possession beginning and ending at 6 p.m. on each applicable day; or

(B) does not give the managing conservator written notice by April 1 of each year specifying an extended period or periods of summer possession, the possessory conservator shall have possession of the child for 30 consecutive days beginning at 6 p.m. on July 1 and ending at 6 p.m. on July 31;

(3) if the managing conservator gives the possessory conservator written notice by April 15 of each year, the managing conservator shall have possession of the child on any one weekend beginning Friday at 6 p.m. and ending at 6 p.m. on the following Sunday during one period of possession by the possessory conservator under Subdivision (2), provided that the managing conservator picks up the child from the possessory conservator and returns the child to that same place; and

(4) if the managing conservator gives the possessory conservator written notice by April 15 of each year or gives the possessory conservator 14 days' written notice on or after April 16 of each year, the managing conservator may designate one weekend beginning not earlier than the day after the child's school is dismissed for the summer vacation and ending not later than seven days before school resumes at the end of the summer vacation, during which an otherwise scheduled weekend period of possession by the possessory conservator will not take place, provided that the weekend designated does not interfere with the possessory conservator's period or periods of extended summer possession or with Father's Day if the possessory conservator is the father of the child.

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Sec. 153.313. Parents Who Reside Over 100 Miles Apart. If the possessory conservator resides more than 100 miles from the residence of the child, the possessory conservator shall have the right to possession of the child as follows:

(1) either regular weekend possession beginning on the first, third, and fifth Friday as provided under the terms applicable to parents who reside 100 miles or less apart or not more than one weekend per month of the possessory conservator's choice beginning at 6 p.m. on the day school recesses for the weekend and ending at 6 p.m. on the day before school resumes after the weekend, provided that the possessory conservator gives the managing conservator 14 days' written or telephonic notice preceding a designated weekend, and provided that the possessory conservator elects an option for this alternative period of possession by written notice given to the managing conservator within 90 days after the parties begin to reside more than 100 miles apart, as applicable;

(2) each year beginning at 6 p.m. on the day the child is dismissed from school for the school's spring vacation and ending at 6 p.m. on the day before school resumes after that vacation;

(3) if the possessory conservator:

(A) gives the managing conservator written notice by April 1 of each year specifying an extended period or periods of summer possession, the possessory conservator shall have possession of the child for 42 days beginning not earlier than the day after the child's school is dismissed for the summer vacation and ending not later than seven days before school resumes at the end of the summer vacation, to be exercised in not more than two separate periods of at least seven consecutive days each, with each period of possession beginning and ending at 6 p.m. on each applicable day; or

(B) does not give the managing conservator written notice by April 1 of each year specifying an extended period or periods of summer possession, the possessory conservator shall have possession of the child for 42 consecutive days beginning at 6 p.m. on June 15 and ending at 6 p.m. on July 27;

(4) if the managing conservator gives the possessory conservator written notice by April 15 of each year the managing conservator shall have possession of the child on one weekend beginning Friday at 6 p.m. and ending at 6 p.m. on the following Sunday during one period of possession by the possessory conservator under Subdivision (3), provided that if a period of possession by the possessory conservator exceeds 30 days, the managing conservator may have possession of the child under the terms of this subdivision on two nonconsecutive weekends during that time period, and further provided that the managing conservator picks up the child from the possessory conservator and returns the child to that same place; and

(5) if the managing conservator gives the possessory conservator written notice by April 15 of each year, the managing conservator may designate 21 days beginning not earlier than the day after the child's school is dismissed for the summer vacation and ending not later than seven days before school resumes at the end of the summer vacation, to be exercised in not more than two separate periods of at least seven consecutive days each, with each period of possession beginning and ending at 6 p.m. on each applicable day, during which the possessory conservator may not have possession of the child, provided that the period or periods so designated do not interfere with the possessory conservator's period or periods of extended summer possession or with Father's Day if the possessory conservator is the father of the child.

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Sec. 153.314. Holiday Possession Unaffected by Distance Parents Reside Apart. The following provisions govern possession of the child for certain specific holidays and supersede conflicting weekend or Thursday periods of possession without regard to the distance the parents reside apart. The possessory conservator and the managing conservator shall have rights of possession of the child as follows:

(1) the possessory conservator shall have possession of the child in even–numbered years beginning at 6 p.m. on the day the child is dismissed from school for the Christmas school vacation and ending at noon on December 28, and the managing conservator shall have possession for the same period in odd–numbered years;

(2) the possessory conservator shall have possession of the child in odd–numbered years beginning at noon on December 28 and ending at 6 p.m. on the day before school resumes after that vacation, and the managing conservator shall have possession for the same period in even–numbered years;

(3) the possessory conservator shall have possession of the child in odd–numbered years, beginning at 6 p.m. on the day the child is dismissed from school before Thanksgiving and ending at 6 p.m. on the following Sunday, and the managing conservator shall have possession for the same period in even–numbered years;

(4) the parent not otherwise entitled under this standard possession order to present possession of a child on the child's birthday shall have possession of the child beginning at 6 p.m. and ending at 8 p.m. on that day, provided that the parent picks up the child from the residence of the conservator entitled to possession and returns the child to that same place;

(5) if a conservator, the father shall have possession of the child beginning at 6 p.m. on the Friday preceding Father's Day and ending on Father's Day at 6 p.m., provided that, if he is not otherwise entitled under this standard possession order to present possession of the child, he picks up the child from the residence of the conservator entitled to possession and returns the child to that same place; and

(6) if a conservator, the mother shall have possession of the child beginning at 6 p.m. on the Friday preceding Mother's Day and ending on Mother's Day at 6 p.m., provided that, if she is not otherwise entitled under this standard possession order to present possession of the child, she picks up the child from the residence of the conservator entitled to possession and returns the child to that same place.

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Sec. 153.315. Weekend Possession Extended by Holiday.

(a) If a weekend period of possession of the possessory conservator coincides with a student holiday or teacher in–service day that falls on a Monday during the regular school term, as determined by the school in which the child is enrolled, or with a federal, state, or local holiday that falls on a Monday during the summer months in which school is not in session, the weekend possession shall end at 6 p.m. on Monday.

(b) If a weekend period of possession of the possessory conservator coincides with a student holiday or teacher in–service day that falls on a Friday during the regular school term, as determined by the school in which the child is enrolled, or with a federal, state, or local holiday that falls on a Friday during the summer months in which school is not in session, the weekend possession shall begin at 6 p.m. on Thursday.

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Sec. 153.316. General Terms and Conditions. The court shall order the following general terms and conditions of possession of a child to apply without regard to the distance between the residence of a parent and the child:

(1) the managing conservator shall surrender the child to the possessory conservator at the beginning of each period of the possessory conservator's possession at the residence of the managing conservator;

(2) if the possessory conservator elects to begin a period of possession at the time the child's school is regularly dismissed, the managing conservator shall surrender the child to the possessory conservator at the beginning of each period of possession at the school in which the child is enrolled;

(3) the possessory conservator shall be ordered to do one of the following:

(A) the possessory conservator shall surrender the child to the managing conservator at the end of each period of possession at the residence of the possessory conservator; or

(B) the possessory conservator shall return the child to the residence of the managing conservator at the end of each period of possession, except that the order shall provide that the possessory conservator shall surrender the child to the managing conservator at the end of each period of possession at the residence of the possessory conservator if:

(i) at the time the original order or a modification of an order establishing terms and conditions of possession or access the possessory conservator and the managing conservator lived in the same county, the possessory conservator's county of residence remains the same after the rendition of the order, and the managing conservator's county of residence changes, effective on the date of the change of residence by the managing conservator; or

(ii) the possessory conservator and managing conservator lived in the same residence at any time during a six–month period preceding the date on which a suit for dissolution of the marriage was filed and the possessory conservator's county of residence remains the same and the managing conservator's county of residence changes after they no longer live in the same residence, effective on the date the order is rendered;

(4) if the possessory conservator elects to end a period of possession at the time the child's school resumes, the possessory conservator shall surrender the child to the managing conservator at the end of each period of possession at the school in which the child is enrolled;

(5) each conservator shall return with the child the personal effects that the child brought at the beginning of the period of possession;

(6) either parent may designate a competent adult to pick up and return the child, as applicable; a parent or a designated competent adult shall be present when the child is picked up or returned;

(7) a parent shall give notice to the person in possession of the child on each occasion that the parent will be unable to exercise that parent's right of possession for a specified period;

(8) written notice, including notice provided by electronic mail or facsimile, shall be deemed to have been timely made if received or, if applicable, postmarked before or at the time that notice is due; and

(9) if a conservator's time of possession of a child ends at the time school resumes and for any reason the child is not or will not be returned to school, the conservator in possession of the child shall immediately notify the school and the other conservator that the child will not be or has not been returned to school.

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Sec. 153.317. Alternative Beginning and Ending Possession Times.

(a) If elected by a conservator, the court shall alter the standard possession order under Sections 153.312, 153.314, and 153.315 to provide for one or more of the following alternative beginning and ending possession times for the described periods of possession, unless the court finds that the election is not in the best interest of the child:

(1) for weekend periods of possession under Section 153.312(a)(1) during the regular school term:

(A) beginning at the time the child's school is regularly dismissed;

(B) ending at the time the child's school resumes after the weekend; or

(C) beginning at the time described by Paragraph (A) and ending at the time described by Paragraph (B);

(2) for Thursday periods of possession under Section 153.312(a)(2):

(A) beginning at the time the child's school is regularly dismissed;

(B) ending at the time the child's school resumes on Friday; or

(C) beginning at the time described by Paragraph (A) and ending at the time described by Paragraph (B);

(3) for spring vacation periods of possession under Section 153.312(b)(1), beginning at the time the child's school is dismissed for those vacations;

(4) for Christmas school vacation periods of possession under Section 153.314(1), beginning at the time the child's school is dismissed for the vacation;

(5) for Thanksgiving holiday periods of possession under Section 153.314(3), beginning at the time the child's school is dismissed for the holiday;

(6) for Father's Day periods of possession under Section 153.314(5), ending at 8 a.m. on the Monday after Father's Day weekend;

(7) for Mother's Day periods of possession under Section 153.314(6):

(A) beginning at the time the child's school is regularly dismissed on the Friday preceding Mother's Day;

(B) ending at the time the child's school resumes after Mother's Day; or

(C) beginning at the time described by Paragraph (A) and ending at the time described by Paragraph (B); or

(8) for weekend periods of possession that are extended under Section 153.315(b) by a student holiday or teacher in–service day that falls on a Friday, beginning at the time the child's school is regularly dismissed on Thursday.

(b) A conservator must make an election under Subsection (a) before or at the time of the rendition of a possession order. The election may be made:

(1) in a written document filed with the court; or

(2) through an oral statement made in open court on the record.

Subch. G. Appointment of Nonparent as Conservator

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Sec. 153.371. Rights and Duties of Nonparent Appointed as Sole Managing Conservator. Unless limited by court order or other provisions of this chapter, a nonparent, a licensed child–placing agency, or the Department of Family and Protective Services appointed as a managing conservator of the child has the following rights and duties:

(1) the right to have physical possession and to direct the moral and religious training of the child;

(2) the duty of care, control, protection, and reasonable discipline of the child;

(3) the duty to provide the child with clothing, food, shelter, education, and medical, psychological, and dental care;

(4) the right to consent for the child to medical, psychiatric, psychological, dental, and surgical treatment and to have access to the child's medical records;

(5) the right to receive and give receipt for payments for the support of the child and to hold or disburse funds for the benefit of the child;

(6) the right to the services and earnings of the child;

(7) the right to consent to marriage and to enlistment in the armed forces of the United States;

(8) the right to represent the child in legal action and to make other decisions of substantial legal significance concerning the child;

(9) except when a guardian of the child's estate or a guardian or attorney ad litem has been appointed for the child, the right to act as an agent of the child in relation to the child's estate if the child's action is required by a state, the United States, or a foreign government;

(10) the right to designate the primary residence of the child and to make decisions regarding the child's education; and

(11) if the parent–child relationship has been terminated with respect to the parents, or only living parent, or if there is no living parent, the right to consent to the adoption of the child and to make any other decision concerning the child that a parent could make.

[Contents]

Sec. 153.372. Nonparent Appointed as Joint Managing Conservator.

(a) A nonparent, the Department of Family and Protective Services, or a licensed child–placing agency appointed as a joint managing conservator may serve in that capacity with either another nonparent or with a parent of the child.

(b) The procedural and substantive standards regarding an agreed or court–ordered joint managing conservatorship provided by Subchapter C apply to a nonparent joint managing conservator.

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Sec. 153.3721. Access to Certain Records by Nonparent Joint Managing Conservator. Unless limited by court order or other provisions of this chapter, a nonparent joint managing conservator has the right of access to the medical records of the child, without regard to whether the right is specified in the order.

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Sec. 153.373. Voluntary Surrender of Possession Rebuts Parental Presumption. The presumption that a parent should be appointed or retained as managing conservator of the child is rebutted if the court finds that:

(1) the parent has voluntarily relinquished actual care, control, and possession of the child to a nonparent, a licensed child–placing agency, or the Department of Family and Protective Services for a period of one year or more, a portion of which was within 90 days preceding the date of intervention in or filing of the suit; and

(2) the appointment of the nonparent, agency, or Department of Family and Protective Services as managing conservator is in the best interest of the child.

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Sec. 153.374. Designation of Managing Conservator in Affidavit of Relinqhishment.

(a) A parent may designate a competent person, the Department of Family and Protective Services, or a licensed child–placing agency to serve as managing conservator of the child in an unrevoked or irrevocable affidavit of relinquishment of parental rights executed as provided by Chapter 161.

(b) The person, Department of Family and Protective Services, or agency designated to serve as managing conservator shall be appointed managing conservator unless the court finds that the appointment would not be in the best interest of the child.

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Sec. 153.375. Annual Report by Nonparent Managing Conservator.

(a) A nonparent appointed as a managing conservator of a child shall each 12 months after the appointment file with the court a report of facts concerning the child's welfare, including the child's whereabouts and physical condition.

(b) The report may not be admitted in evidence in a subsequent suit.

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Sec. 153.376. Rights and Duties of Nonparent Possessory Conservator.

(a) Unless limited by court order or other provisions of this chapter, a nonparent, a licensed child–placing agency, or the Department of Family and Protective Services appointed as a possessory conservator has the following rights and duties during the period of possession:

(1) the duty of care, control, protection, and reasonable discipline of the child;

(2) the duty to provide the child with clothing, food, and shelter; and

(3) the right to consent to medical, dental, and surgical treatment during an emergency involving an immediate danger to the health and safety of the child.

(b) A nonparent possessory conservator has any other right or duty specified in the order.

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Sec. 153.377. Access to Child's Records. A nonparent possessory conservator has the right of access to medical, dental, psychological, and educational records of the child to the same extent as the managing conservator, without regard to whether the right is specified in the order.

Subch. H. Rights of Grandparent, Aunt, or Uncle

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Sec. 153.431. Appointment of Grandparent, Aunt, or Uncle as Managing Conservator. If both of the parents of a child are deceased, the court may consider appointment of a parent, sister, or brother of a deceased parent as a managing conservator of the child, but that consideration does not alter or diminish the discretionary power of the court.

[Contents]

Sec. 153.432. Suit for Possession or Access by Grandparent.

(a) A biological or adoptive grandparent may request possession of or access to a grandchild by filing:

(1) an original suit; or

(2) a suit for modification as provided by Chapter 156.

(b) A grandparent may request possession of or access to a grandchild in a suit filed for the sole purpose of requesting the relief, without regard to whether the appointment of a managing conservator is an issue in the suit.

(c) In a suit described by Subsection (a), the person filing the suit must execute and attach an affidavit on knowledge or belief that contains, along with supporting facts, the allegation that denial of possession of or access to the child by the petitioner would significantly impair the child's physical health or emotional well–being. The court shall deny the relief sought and dismiss the suit unless the court determines that the facts stated in the affidavit, if true, would be sufficient to support the relief authorized under Section 153.433.

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Sec. 153.433. Possession of or Access to Grandchild.

(a) The court may order reasonable possession of or access to a grandchild by a grandparent if:

(1) at the time the relief is requested, at least one biological or adoptive parent of the child has not had that parent's parental rights terminated;

(2) the grandparent requesting possession of or access to the child overcomes the presumption that a parent acts in the best interest of the parent's child by proving by a preponderance of the evidence that denial of possession of or access to the child would significantly impair the child's physical health or emotional well–being; and

(3) the grandparent requesting possession of or access to the child is a parent of a parent of the child and that parent of the child:

(A) has been incarcerated in jail or prison during the three–month period preceding the filing of the petition;

(B) has been found by a court to be incompetent;

(C) is dead; or

(D) does not have actual or court–ordered possession of or access to the child.

(b) An order granting possession of or access to a child by a grandparent that is rendered over a parent's objections must state, with specificity that:

(1) at the time the relief was requested, at least one biological or adoptive parent of the child had not had that parent's parental rights terminated;

(2) the grandparent requesting possession of or access to the child has overcome the presumption that a parent acts in the best interest of the parent's child by proving by a preponderance of the evidence that the denial of possession of or access to the child would significantly impair the child's physical health or emotional well–being; and

(3) the grandparent requesting possession of or access to the child is a parent of a parent of the child and that parent of the child:

(A) has been incarcerated in jail or prison during the three–month period preceding the filing of the petition;

(B) has been found by a court to be incompetent;

(C) is dead; or

(D) does not have actual or court–ordered possession of or access to the child.

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Sec. 153.434. Limitation on Right to Request Possession or Access. A biological or adoptive grandparent may not request possession of or access to a grandchild if:

(1) each of the biological parents of the grandchild has:

(A) died;

(B) had the person's parental rights terminated; or

(C) executed an affidavit of waiver of interest in child or an affidavit of relinquishment of parental rights under Chapter 161 and the affidavit designates the Department of Family and Protective Services, a licensed child–placing agency, or a person other than the child's stepparent as the managing conservator of the child; and

(2) the grandchild has been adopted, or is the subject of a pending suit for adoption, by a person other than the child's stepparent.

Subch. I. Prevention of International Parental Child Abduction

[Contents]

Sec. 153.501. Necessity of Measures to Prevent International Parental Child Abduction.

(a) In a suit, if credible evidence is presented to the court indicating a potential risk of the international abduction of a child by a parent of the child, the court, on its own motion or at the request of a party to the suit, shall determine under this section whether it is necessary for the court to take one or more of the measures described by Section 153.503 to protect the child from the risk of abduction by the parent.

(b) In determining whether to take any of the measures described by Section 153.503, the court shall consider:

(1) the public policies of this state described by Section 153.001(a) and the consideration of the best interest of the child under Section 153.002;

(2) the risk of international abduction of the child by a parent of the child based on the court's evaluation of the risk factors described by Section 153.502;

(3) any obstacles to locating, recovering, and returning the child if the child is abducted to a foreign country; and

(4) the potential physical or psychological harm to the child if the child is abducted to a foreign country.

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Sec. 153.502. Abduction Risk Factors.

(a) To determine whether there is a risk of the international abduction of a child by a parent of the child, the court shall consider evidence that the parent:

(1) has taken, enticed away, kept, withheld, or concealed a child in violation of another person's right of possession of or access to the child, unless the parent presents evidence that the parent believed in good faith that the parent's conduct was necessary to avoid imminent harm to the child or the parent;

(2) has previously threatened to take, entice away, keep, withhold, or conceal a child in violation of another person's right of possession of or access to the child;

(3) lacks financial reason to stay in the United States, including evidence that the parent is financially independent, is able to work outside of the United States, or is unemployed;

(4) has recently engaged in planning activities that could facilitate the removal of the child from the United States by the parent, including:

(A) quitting a job;

(B) selling a primary residence;

(C) terminating a lease;

(D) closing bank accounts;

(E) liquidating other assets;

(F) hiding or destroying documents;

(G) applying for a passport or visa or obtaining other travel documents for the parent or the child; or

(H) applying to obtain the child's birth certificate or school or medical records;

(5) has a history of domestic violence that the court is required to consider under Section 153.004; or

(6) has a criminal history or a history of violating court orders.

(a–1) In considering evidence of planning activities under Subsection (a)(4), the court also shall consider any evidence that the parent was engaging in those activities as a part of a safety plan to flee from family violence.

(b) If the court finds that there is credible evidence of a risk of abduction of the child by a parent of the child based on the court's consideration of the factors in Subsection (a), the court shall also consider evidence regarding the following factors to evaluate the risk of international abduction of the child by a parent:

(1) whether the parent has strong familial, emotional, or cultural ties to another country, particularly a country that is not a signatory to or compliant with the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction; and

(2) whether the parent lacks strong ties to the United States, regardless of whether the parent is a citizen or permanent resident of the United States.

(c) If the court finds that there is credible evidence of a risk of abduction of the child by a parent of the child based on the court's consideration of the factors in Subsection (a), the court may also consider evidence regarding the following factors to evaluate the risk of international abduction of the child by a parent:

(1) whether the parent is undergoing a change in status with the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service that would adversely affect that parent's ability to legally remain in the United States;

(2) whether the parent's application for United States citizenship has been denied by the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service;

(3) whether the parent has forged or presented misleading or false evidence to obtain a visa, a passport, a social security card, or any other identification card or has made any misrepresentation to the United States government; or

(4) whether the foreign country to which the parent has ties:

(A) presents obstacles to the recovery and return of a child who is abducted to the country from the United States;

(B) has any legal mechanisms for immediately and effectively enforcing an order regarding the possession of or access to the child issued by this state;

(C) has local laws or practices that would:

(i) enable the parent to prevent the child's other parent from contacting the child without due cause;

(ii) restrict the child's other parent from freely traveling to or exiting from the country because of that parent's gender, nationality, or religion; or

(iii) restrict the child's ability to legally leave the country after the child reaches the age of majority because of the child's gender, nationality, or religion;

(D) is included by the United States Department of State on a list of state sponsors of terrorism;

(E) is a country for which the United States Department of State has issued a travel warning to United States citizens regarding travel to the country;

(F) has an embassy of the United States in the country;

(G) is engaged in any active military action or war, including a civil war;

(H) is a party to and compliant with the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction according to the most recent report on compliance issued by the United States Department of State;

(I) provides for the extradition of a parental abductor and the return of the child to the United States; or

(J) poses a risk that the child's physical health or safety would be endangered in the country because of specific circumstances relating to the child or because of human rights violations committed against children, including arranged marriages, lack of freedom of religion, child labor, lack of child abuse laws, female genital mutilation, and any form of slavery.

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Sec. 153.503. Abduction Prevention Measures. If the court finds that it is necessary under Section 153.501 to take measures to protect a child from international abduction by a parent of the child, the court may take any of the following actions:

(1) appoint a person other than the parent of the child who presents a risk of abducting the child as the sole managing conservator of the child;

(2) require supervised visitation of the parent by a visitation center or independent organization until the court finds under Section 153.501 that supervised visitation is no longer necessary;

(3) enjoin the parent or any person acting on the parent's behalf from:

(A) disrupting or removing the child from the school or child–care facility in which the child is enrolled; or

(B) approaching the child at any location other than a site designated for supervised visitation;

(4) order passport and travel controls, including controls that:

(A) prohibit the parent and any person acting on the parent's behalf from removing the child from this state or the United States;

(B) require the parent to surrender any passport issued in the child's name, including any passport issued in the name of both the parent and the child; and

(C) prohibit the parent from applying on behalf of the child for a new or replacement passport or international travel visa;

(5) require the parent to provide:

(A) to the United States Department of State's Office of Children's Issues and the relevant foreign consulate or embassy:

(i) written notice of the court–ordered passport and travel restrictions for the child; and

(ii) a properly authenticated copy of the court order detailing the restrictions and documentation of the parent's agreement to the restrictions; and

(B) to the court proof of receipt of the written notice required by Paragraph (A)(i) by the United States Department of State's Office of Children's Issues and the relevant foreign consulate or embassy;

(6) order the parent to execute a bond or deposit security in an amount sufficient to offset the cost of recovering the child if the child is abducted by the parent to a foreign country;

(7) authorize the appropriate law enforcement agencies to take measures to prevent the abduction of the child by the parent; or

(8) include in the court's order provisions:

(A) identifying the United States as the country of habitual residence of the child;

(B) defining the basis for the court's exercise of jurisdiction; and

(C) stating that a party's violation of the order may subject the party to a civil penalty or criminal penalty or to both civil and criminal penalties.

Subch. J. Rights of Siblings

[Contents]

Sec. 153.551. Suit for Access.

(a) The sibling of a child who is separated from the child because of an action taken by the Department of Family and Protective Services may request access to the child by filing:

(1) an original suit; or

(2) a suit for modification as provided by Chapter 156.

(b) A sibling described by Subsection (a) may request access to the child in a suit filed for the sole purpose of requesting the relief, without regard to whether the appointment of a managing conservator is an issue in the suit.

(c) The court shall order reasonable access to the child by the child's sibling described by Subsection (a) if the court finds that access is in the best interest of the child.

Subch. K. Parenting Plan, Parenting Coordinator, and Parenting Facilitator

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Sec. 153.601. Definitions. In this subchapter:

(1) "Dispute resolution process" means:

(A) a process of alternative dispute resolution conducted in accordance with Section 153.0071 of this chapter and Chapter 154, Civil Practice and Remedies Code; or

(B) any other method of voluntary dispute resolution.

(2) "High–conflict case" means a suit affecting the parent–child relationship in which the court finds that the parties have demonstrated an unusual degree of:

(A) repetitiously resorting to the adjudicative process;

(B) anger and distrust; and

(C) difficulty in communicating about and cooperating in the care of their children.

(3) "Parenting coordinator" means an impartial third party:

(A) who, regardless of the title by which the person is designated by the court, performs any function described by Section 153.606 in a suit; and

(B) who:

(i) is appointed under this subchapter by the court on its own motion or on a motion or agreement of the parties to assist parties in resolving parenting issues through confidential procedures; and

(ii) is not appointed under another statute or a rule of civil procedure.

(3–a) "Parenting facilitator" means an impartial third party:

(A) who, regardless of the title by which the person is designated by the court, performs any function described by Section 153.6061 in a suit; and

(B) who:

(i) is appointed under this subchapter by the court on its own motion or on a motion or agreement of the parties to assist parties in resolving parenting issues through procedures that are not confidential; and

(ii) is not appointed under another statute or a rule of civil procedure.

(4) "Parenting plan" means the provisions of a final court order that:

(A) set out rights and duties of a parent or a person acting as a parent in relation to the child;

(B) provide for periods of possession of and access to the child, which may be the terms set out in the standard possession order under Subchapter F and any amendments to the standard possession order agreed to by the parties or found by the court to be in the best interest of the child;

(C) provide for child support; and

(D) optimize the development of a close and continuing relationship between each parent and the child.

[Contents]

Sec. 153.602. Parenting Plan Not Required in Temporary Order. A temporary order in a suit affecting the parent–child relationship rendered in accordance with Section 105.001 is not required to include a temporary parenting plan. The court may not require the submission of a temporary parenting plan in any case or by local rule or practice.

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Sec. 153.603. Requirement of Parenting Plan in Final Order.

(a) Except as provided by Subsection (b), a final order in a suit affecting the parent–child relationship must include a parenting plan.

(b) The following orders are not required to include a parenting plan:

(1) an order that only modifies child support;

(2) an order that only terminates parental rights; or

(3) a final order described by Section 155.001(b).

(c) If the parties have not reached agreement on a final parenting plan on or before the 30th day before the date set for trial on the merits, a party may file with the court and serve a proposed parenting plan.

(d) This section does not preclude the parties from requesting the appointment of a parenting coordinator to resolve parental conflicts.

[Contents]

Sec. 153.6031. Exception to Dispute Resolution Process Requirement. A requirement in a parenting plan that a party initiate or participate in a dispute resolution process before filing a court action does not apply to an action:

(1) to modify the parenting plan in an emergency;

(2) to modify child support;

(3) alleging that the child's present circumstances will significantly impair the child's physical health or significantly impair the child's emotional development;

(4) to enforce; or

(5) in which the party shows that enforcement of the requirement is precluded or limited by Section 153.0071.

[Contents]

Sec. 153.605. Appointment of Parenting Coordinator.

(a) In a suit affecting the parent–child relationship, the court may, on its own motion or on a motion or agreement of the parties, appoint a parenting coordinator or assign a domestic relations office under Chapter 203 to appoint an employee or other person to serve as parenting coordinator.

(b) The court may not appoint a parenting coordinator unless, after notice and hearing, the court makes a specific finding that:

(1) the case is a high–conflict case or there is good cause shown for the appointment of a parenting coordinator and the appointment is in the best interest of any minor child in the suit; and

(2) the person appointed has the minimum qualifications required by Section 153.610, as documented by the person, unless those requirements have been waived by the court with the agreement of the parties in accordance with Section 153.610(c).

(c) Notwithstanding any other provision of this subchapter, a party may at any time file a written objection to the appointment of a parenting coordinator on the basis of family violence having been committed by another party against the objecting party or a child who is the subject of the suit. After an objection is filed, a parenting coordinator may not be appointed unless, on the request of a party, a hearing is held and the court finds that a preponderance of the evidence does not support the objection. If a parenting coordinator is appointed, the court shall order appropriate measures be taken to ensure the physical and emotional safety of the party who filed the objection. The order may provide that the parties not be required to have face–to–face contact and that the parties be placed in separate rooms during the parenting coordination.

(d) An individual appointed as a parenting coordinator may not serve in any nonconfidential capacity in the same case, including serving as an amicus attorney, guardian ad litem, child custody evaluator, or adoption evaluator under Chapter 107, as a friend of the court under Chapter 202, or as a parenting facilitator under this subchapter.

[Contents]

Sec. 153.6051. Appointment of Parenting Facilitator.

(a) In a suit affecting the parent–child relationship, the court may, on its own motion or on a motion or agreement of the parties, appoint a parenting facilitator or assign a domestic relations office under Chapter 203 to appoint an employee or other person as a parenting facilitator.

(b) The court may not appoint a parenting facilitator unless, after notice and hearing, the court makes a specific finding that:

(1) the case is a high–conflict case or there is good cause shown for the appointment of a parenting facilitator and the appointment is in the best interest of any minor child in the suit; and

(2) the person appointed has the minimum qualifications required by Section 153.6101, as documented by the person.

(c) Notwithstanding any other provision of this subchapter, a party may at any time file a written objection to the appointment of a parenting facilitator on the basis of family violence having been committed by another party against the objecting party or a child who is the subject of the suit. After an objection is filed, a parenting facilitator may not be appointed unless, on the request of a party, a hearing is held and the court finds that a preponderance of the evidence does not support the objection. If a parenting facilitator is appointed, the court shall order appropriate measures be taken to ensure the physical and emotional safety of the party who filed the objection. The order may provide that the parties not be required to have face–to–face contact and that the parties be placed in separate rooms during the parenting facilitation.

[Contents]

Sec. 153.606. Duties of Parenting Coordinator.

(a) The court shall specify the duties of a parenting coordinator in the order appointing the parenting coordinator. The duties of the parenting coordinator are limited to matters that will aid the parties in:

(1) identifying disputed issues;

(2) reducing misunderstandings;

(3) clarifying priorities;

(4) exploring possibilities for problem solving;

(5) developing methods of collaboration in parenting;

(6) understanding parenting plans and reaching agreements about parenting issues to be included in a parenting plan;

(7) complying with the court's order regarding conservatorship or possession of and access to the child;

(8) implementing parenting plans;

(9) obtaining training regarding problem solving, conflict management, and parenting skills; and

(10) settling disputes regarding parenting issues and reaching a proposed joint resolution or statement of intent regarding those disputes.

(b) The appointment of a parenting coordinator does not divest the court of:

(1) its exclusive jurisdiction to determine issues of conservatorship, support, and possession of and access to the child; and

(2) the authority to exercise management and control of the suit.

(c) The parenting coordinator may not modify any order, judgment, or decree.

(d) Meetings between the parenting coordinator and the parties may be informal and are not required to follow any specific procedures unless otherwise provided by this subchapter.

(e) [Repealed]

(f) A parenting coordinator appointed under this subchapter shall comply with the Ethical Guidelines for Mediators as adopted by the Supreme Court of Texas (Misc. Docket No. 05–9107, June 13, 2005). On request by the court, the parties, or the parties' attorneys, the parenting coordinator shall sign a statement of agreement to comply with those guidelines and submit the statement to the court on acceptance of the appointment. A failure to comply with the guidelines is grounds for removal of the parenting coordinator.

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Sec. 153.6061. Duties of Parenting Facilitator.

(a) The court shall specify the duties of a parenting facilitator in the order appointing the parenting facilitator. The duties of the parenting facilitator are limited to those matters described with regard to a parenting coordinator under Section 153.606(a), except that the parenting facilitator may also monitor compliance with court orders.

(b) A parenting facilitator appointed under this subchapter shall comply with the standard of care applicable to the professional license held by the parenting facilitator in performing the parenting facilitator's duties.

(c) The appointment of a parenting facilitator does not divest the court of:

(1) the exclusive jurisdiction to determine issues of conservatorship, support, and possession of and access to the child; and

(2) the authority to exercise management and control of the suit.

(d) The parenting facilitator may not modify any order, judgment, or decree.

(e) Meetings between the parenting facilitator and the parties may be informal and are not required to follow any specific procedures unless otherwise provided by this subchapter or the standards of practice of the professional license held by the parenting facilitator.

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Sec. 153.607. Presumption of Good Faith; Removal of Parenting Coordinator.

(a) It is a rebuttable presumption that a parenting coordinator is acting in good faith if the parenting coordinator's services have been conducted as provided by this subchapter and the Ethical Guidelines for Mediators described by Section 153.606(f).

(a–1) Except as otherwise provided by this section, the court may remove the parenting coordinator in the court's discretion.

(b) The court shall remove the parenting coordinator:

(1) on the request and agreement of all parties;

(2) on the request of the parenting coordinator;

(3) on the motion of a party, if good cause is shown; or

(4) if the parenting coordinator ceases to satisfy the minimum qualifications required by Section 153.610.

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Sec. 153.6071. Presumption of Good Faith; Removal of Parenting Facilitator.

(a) It is a rebuttable presumption that a parenting facilitator is acting in good faith if the parenting facilitator's services have been conducted as provided by this subchapter and the standard of care applicable to the professional license held by the parenting facilitator.

(b) Except as otherwise provided by this section, the court may remove the parenting facilitator in the court's discretion.

(c) The court shall remove the parenting facilitator:

(1) on the request and agreement of all parties;

(2) on the request of the parenting facilitator;

(3) on the motion of a party, if good cause is shown; or

(4) if the parenting facilitator ceases to satisfy the minimum qualifications required by Section 153.6101.

[Contents]

Sec. 153.608. Report of Parenting Coordinator. A parenting coordinator shall submit a written report to the court and to the parties as often as ordered by the court. The report must be limited to a statement of whether the parenting coordination should continue.

[Contents]

Sec. 153.6081. Report of Parenting Facilitator. A parenting facilitator shall submit a written report to the court and to the parties as ordered by the court. The report may include a recommendation described by Section 153.6082(e) and any other information required by the court, except that the report may not include recommendations regarding the conservatorship of or the possession of or access to the child who is the subject of the suit.

[Contents]

Sec. 153.6082. Report of Joint Proposal or Statement of Intent; Agreements and Recommendations.

(a) If the parties have been ordered by the court to attempt to settle parenting issues with the assistance of a parenting coordinator or parenting facilitator and to attempt to reach a proposed joint resolution or statement of intent regarding the dispute, the parenting coordinator or parenting facilitator, as applicable, shall submit a written report describing the parties' joint proposal or statement to the parties, any attorneys for the parties, and any attorney for the child who is the subject of the suit.

(b) The proposed joint resolution or statement of intent is not an agreement unless the resolution or statement is:

(1) prepared by the parties' attorneys, if any, in a form that meets the applicable requirements of:

(A) Rule 11, Texas Rules of Civil Procedure;

(B) a mediated settlement agreement described by Section 153.0071;

(C) a collaborative law agreement described by Section 153.0072;

(D) a settlement agreement described by Section 154.071, Civil Practice and Remedies Code; or

(E) a proposed court order; and

(2) incorporated into an order signed by the court.

(c) A parenting coordinator or parenting facilitator may not draft a document listed in Subsection (b)(1).

(d) The actions of a parenting coordinator or parenting facilitator under this section do not constitute the practice of law.

(e) If the parties have been ordered by the court to attempt to settle parenting issues with the assistance of a parenting facilitator and are unable to settle those issues, the parenting facilitator may make recommendations, other than recommendations regarding the conservatorship of or possession of or access to the child, to the parties and attorneys to implement or clarify provisions of an existing court order that are consistent with the substantive intent of the court order and in the best interest of the child who is the subject of the suit. A recommendation authorized by this subsection does not affect the terms of an existing court order.

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Sec. 153.6083. Communications and Recordkeeping of Parenting Facilitator.

(a) Notwithstanding any rule, standard of care, or privilege applicable to the professional license held by a parenting facilitator, a communication made by a participant in parenting facilitation is subject to disclosure and may be offered in any judicial or administrative proceeding, if otherwise admissible under the rules of evidence. The parenting facilitator may be required to testify in any proceeding relating to or arising from the duties of the parenting facilitator, including as to the basis for any recommendation made to the parties that arises from the duties of the parenting facilitator.

(b) A parenting facilitator shall keep a detailed record regarding meetings and contacts with the parties, attorneys, or other persons involved in the suit.

(c) A person who participates in parenting facilitation is not a patient as defined by Section 611.001, Health and Safety Code, and no record created as part of the parenting facilitation that arises from the parenting facilitator's duties is confidential.

(d) On request, records of parenting facilitation shall be made available by the parenting facilitator to an attorney for a party, an attorney for a child who is the subject of the suit, and a party who does not have an attorney.

(e) A parenting facilitator shall keep parenting facilitation records from the suit until the seventh anniversary of the date the facilitator's services are terminated, unless a different retention period is established by a rule adopted by the licensing authority that issues the professional license held by the parenting facilitator.

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Sec. 153.609. Compensation of Parenting Coordinator.

(a) A court may not appoint a parenting coordinator, other than a domestic relations office or a comparable county agency appointed under Subsection (c) or a volunteer appointed under Subsection (d), unless, after notice and hearing, the court finds that the parties have the means to pay the fees of the parenting coordinator.

(b) Any fees of a parenting coordinator appointed under Subsection (a) shall be allocated between the parties as determined by the court.

(c) Public funds may not be used to pay the fees of a parenting coordinator. Notwithstanding this prohibition, a court may appoint the domestic relations office or a comparable county agency to act as a parenting coordinator if personnel are available to serve that function.

(d) If due to hardship the parties are unable to pay the fees of a parenting coordinator, and a domestic relations office or a comparable county agency is not available under Subsection (c), the court, if feasible, may appoint a person who meets the minimum qualifications prescribed by Section 153.610, including an employee of the court, to act as a parenting coordinator on a volunteer basis and without compensation.

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Sec. 153.6091. Compensation of Parenting Facilitator. Section 153.609 applies to a parenting facilitator in the same manner as provided for a parenting coordinator, except that a person appointed in accordance with Section 153.609(d) to act as a parenting facilitator must meet the minimum qualifications prescribed by Section 153.6101.

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Sec. 153.610. Qualifications of Parenting Coordinator.

(a) The court shall determine the required qualifications of a parenting coordinator, provided that a parenting coordinator must have experience working in a field relating to families, have practical experience with high–conflict cases or litigation between parents, and:

(1) hold at least:

(A) a bachelor's degree in counseling, education, family studies, psychology, or social work; or

(B) a graduate degree in a mental health profession, with an emphasis in family and children's issues; or

(2) be licensed in good standing as an attorney in this state.

(b) In addition to the qualifications prescribed by Subsection (a), a parenting coordinator must complete at least:

(1) eight hours of family violence dynamics training provided by a family violence service provider;

(2) 40 classroom hours of training in dispute resolution techniques in a course conducted by an alternative dispute resolution system or other dispute resolution organization approved by the court; and

(3) 24 classroom hours of training in the fields of family dynamics, child development, family law and the law governing parenting coordination, and parenting coordination styles and procedures.

(c) In appropriate circumstances, a court may, with the agreement of the parties, appoint a person as parenting coordinator who does not satisfy the requirements of Subsection (a) or Subsection (b)(2) or (3) if the court finds that the person has sufficient legal or other professional training or experience in dispute resolution processes to serve in that capacity.

(d) The actions of a parenting coordinator who is not an attorney do not constitute the practice of law.

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Sec. 153.6101. Qualifications of Parenting Facilitator.

(a) The court shall determine whether the qualifications of a proposed parenting facilitator satisfy the requirements of this section. On request by a party, an attorney for a party, or any attorney for a child who is the subject of the suit, a person under consideration for appointment as a parenting facilitator in the suit shall provide proof that the person satisfies the minimum qualifications required by this section.

(b) A parenting facilitator must:

(1) hold a license to practice in this state as a social worker, licensed professional counselor, licensed marriage and family therapist, psychologist, or attorney; and

(2) have completed at least:

(A) eight hours of family violence dynamics training provided by a family violence service provider;

(B) 40 classroom hours of training in dispute resolution techniques in a course conducted by an alternative dispute resolution system or other dispute resolution organization approved by the court;

(C) 24 classroom hours of training in the fields of family dynamics, child development, and family law; and

(D) 16 hours of training in the laws governing parenting coordination and parenting facilitation and the multiple styles and procedures used in different models of service.

(c) The actions of a parenting facilitator who is not an attorney do not constitute the practice of law.

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Sec. 153.6102. Parenting Facilitator; Conflicts of Interest and Bias.

(a) A person who has a conflict of interest with, or has previous knowledge of, a party or a child who is the subject of a suit must, before being appointed as parenting facilitator in a suit:

(1) disclose the conflict or previous knowledge to the court, each attorney for a party, any attorney for a child, and any party who does not have an attorney; and

(2) decline appointment in the suit unless, after the disclosure, the parties and the child's attorney, if any, agree in writing to the person's appointment as parenting facilitator.

(b) A parenting facilitator who, after being appointed in a suit, discovers that the parenting facilitator has a conflict of interest with, or has previous knowledge of, a party or a child who is the subject of the suit shall:

(1) immediately disclose the conflict or previous knowledge to the court, each attorney for a party, any attorney for a child, and any party who does not have an attorney; and

(2) withdraw from the suit unless, after the disclosure, the parties and the child's attorney, if any, agree in writing to the person's continuation as parenting facilitator.

(c) A parenting facilitator, before accepting appointment in a suit, must disclose to the court, each attorney for a party, any attorney for a child who is the subject of the suit, and any party who does not have an attorney:

(1) a pecuniary relationship with an attorney, party, or child in the suit;

(2) a relationship of confidence or trust with an attorney, party, or child in the suit; and

(3) other information regarding any relationship with an attorney, party, or child in the suit that might reasonably affect the ability of the person to act impartially during the person's service as parenting facilitator.

(d) A person who makes a disclosure required by Subsection (c) shall decline appointment as parenting facilitator unless, after the disclosure, the parties and the child's attorney, if any, agree in writing to the person's service as parenting facilitator in the suit.

(e) A parenting facilitator may not serve in any other professional capacity at any other time with any person who is a party to, or the subject of, the suit in which the person serves as parenting facilitator, or with any member of the family of a party or subject. A person who, before appointment as a parenting facilitator in a suit, served in any other professional capacity with a person who is a party to, or subject of, the suit, or with any member of the family of a party or subject, may not serve as parenting facilitator in a suit involving any family member who is a party to or subject of the suit. This subsection does not apply to a person whose only other service in a professional capacity with a family or any member of a family that is a party to or the subject of a suit to which this section applies is as a teacher of coparenting skills in a class conducted in a group setting. For purposes of this subsection, "family" has the meaning assigned by Section 71.003.

(f) A parenting facilitator shall promptly and simultaneously disclose to each party's attorney, any attorney for a child who is a subject of the suit, and any party who does not have an attorney the existence and substance of any communication between the parenting facilitator and another person, including a party, a party's attorney, a child who is the subject of the suit, and any attorney for a child who is the subject of the suit, if the communication occurred outside of a parenting facilitator session and involved the substance of parenting facilitation.

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Sec. 153.611. Exception for Certain Title IV–D Proceedings. Notwithstanding any other provision of this subchapter, this subchapter does not apply to a proceeding in a Title IV–D case relating to the determination of parentage or establishment, modification, or enforcement of a child support or medical support obligation.

Subch. L. Military Duty

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Sec. 153.701. Definitions. In this subchapter:

(1) "Designated person" means the person ordered by the court to temporarily exercise a conservator's rights, duties, and periods of possession and access with regard to a child during the conservator's military deployment, military mobilization, or temporary military duty.

(2) "Military deployment" means the temporary transfer of a service member of the armed forces of this state or the United States serving in an active–duty status to another location in support of combat or some other military operation.

(3) "Military mobilization" means the call–up of a National Guard or Reserve service member of the armed forces of this state or the United States to extended active duty status. The term does not include National Guard or Reserve annual training.

(4) "Temporary military duty" means the transfer of a service member of the armed forces of this state or the United States from one military base to a different location, usually another base, for a limited time for training or to assist in the performance of a noncombat mission.

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Sec. 153.702. Temporary Orders.

(a) If a conservator is ordered to military deployment, military mobilization, or temporary military duty that involves moving a substantial distance from the conservator's residence so as to materially affect the conservator's ability to exercise the conservator's rights and duties in relation to a child, either conservator may file for an order under this subchapter without the necessity of showing a material and substantial change of circumstances other than the military deployment, military mobilization, or temporary military duty.

(b) The court may render a temporary order in a proceeding under this subchapter regarding:

(1) possession of or access to the child; or

(2) child support.

(c) A temporary order rendered by the court under this subchapter may grant rights to and impose duties on a designated person regarding the child, except that if the designated person is a nonparent, the court may not require the designated person to pay child support.

(d) After a conservator's military deployment, military mobilization, or temporary military duty is concluded, and the conservator returns to the conservator's usual residence, the temporary orders under this section terminate and the rights of all affected parties are governed by the terms of any court order applicable when the conservator is not ordered to military deployment, military mobilization, or temporary military duty.

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Sec. 153.703. Appointing Designated Person for Conservator with Exclusive Right to Designate Primary Residence of Child.

(a) If the conservator with the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of the child is ordered to military deployment, military mobilization, or temporary military duty, the court may render a temporary order to appoint a designated person to exercise the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of the child during the military deployment, military mobilization, or temporary military duty in the following order of preference:

(1) the conservator who does not have the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of the child;

(2) if appointing the conservator described by Subdivision (1) is not in the child's best interest, a designated person chosen by the conservator with the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of the child; or

(3) if appointing the conservator described by Subdivision

(1) or the person chosen under Subdivision

(2) is not in the child's best interest, another person chosen by the court.

(b) A nonparent appointed as a designated person in a temporary order rendered under this section has the rights and duties of a nonparent appointed as sole managing conservator under Section 153.371.

(c) The court may limit or expand the rights of a nonparent named as a designated person in a temporary order rendered under this section as appropriate to the best interest of the child.

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Sec. 153.704. Appointing Designated Person to Exercise Visitation for Conservator with Exclusive Right to Designate Primary Residence of Child in Certain Circumstances.

(a) If the court appoints the conservator without the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of the child under Section 153.703(a)(1), the court may award visitation with the child to a designated person chosen by the conservator with the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of the child.

(b) The periods of visitation shall be the same as the visitation to which the conservator without the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of the child was entitled under the court order in effect immediately before the date the temporary order is rendered.

(c) The temporary order for visitation must provide that:

(1) the designated person under this section has the right to possession of the child for the periods and in the manner in which the conservator without the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of the child is entitled under the court order in effect immediately before the date the temporary order is rendered;

(2) the child's other conservator and the designated person under this section are subject to the requirements of Section 153.316, with the designated person considered for purposes of that section to be the possessory conservator;

(3) the designated person under this section has the rights and duties of a nonparent possessory conservator under Section 153.376(a) during the period that the person has possession of the child; and

(4) the designated person under this section is subject to any provision in a court order restricting or prohibiting access to the child by any specified individual.

(d) The court may limit or expand the rights of a nonparent designated person named in a temporary order rendered under this section as appropriate to the best interest of the child.

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Sec. 153.705. Appointing Designated Person to Exercise Visitation for Conservator Without Exclusive Right to Designate Primary Residence of Child.

(a) If the conservator without the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of the child is ordered to military deployment, military mobilization, or temporary military duty, the court may award visitation with the child to a designated person chosen by the conservator, if the visitation is in the best interest of the child.

(b) The temporary order for visitation must provide that:

(1) the designated person under this section has the right to possession of the child for the periods and in the manner in which the conservator described by Subsection (a) would be entitled if not ordered to military deployment, military mobilization, or temporary military duty;

(2) the child's other conservator and the designated person under this section are subject to the requirements of Section 153.316, with the designated person considered for purposes of that section to be the possessory conservator;

(3) the designated person under this section has the rights and duties of a nonparent possessory conservator under Section 153.376(a) during the period that the designated person has possession of the child; and

(4) the designated person under this section is subject to any provision in a court order restricting or prohibiting access to the child by any specified individual.

(c) The court may limit or expand the rights of a nonparent designated person named in a temporary order rendered under this section as appropriate to the best interest of the child.

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Sec. 153.707. Expedited Hearing.

(a) On a motion by the conservator who has been ordered to military deployment, military mobilization, or temporary military duty, the court shall, for good cause shown, hold an expedited hearing if the court finds that the conservator's military duties have a material effect on the conservator's ability to appear in person at a regularly scheduled hearing.

(b) A hearing under this section shall, if possible, take precedence over other suits affecting the parent–child relationship not involving a conservator who has been ordered to military deployment, military mobilization, or temporary military duty.

(c) On a motion by any party, the court shall, after reasonable advance notice and for good cause shown, allow a party to present testimony and evidence by electronic means, including by teleconference or through the Internet.

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Sec. 153.708. Enforcement. Temporary orders rendered under this subchapter may be enforced by or against the designated person to the same extent that an order would be enforceable against the conservator who has been ordered to military deployment, military mobilization, or temporary military duty.

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Sec. 153.709. Additional Periods of Possession or Access.

(a) Not later than the 90th day after the date a conservator without the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of the child who is a member of the armed services concludes the conservator's military deployment, military mobilization, or temporary military duty, the conservator may petition the court to:

(1) compute the periods of possession of or access to the child to which the conservator would have otherwise been entitled during the conservator's deployment; and

(2) award the conservator additional periods of possession of or access to the child to compensate for the periods described by Subdivision (1).

(b) If the conservator described by Subsection (a) petitions the court under Subsection (a), the court:

(1) shall compute the periods of possession or access to the child described by Subsection (a)(1); and

(2) may award to the conservator additional periods of possession of or access to the child for a length of time and under terms the court considers reasonable, if the court determines that:

(A) the conservator was on military deployment, military mobilization, or temporary military duty in a location where access to the child was not reasonably possible; and

(B) the award of additional periods of possession of or access to the child is in the best interest of the child.

(c) In making the determination under Subsection (b)(2), the court:

(1) shall consider:

(A) the periods of possession of or access to the child to which the conservator would otherwise have been entitled during the conservator's military deployment, military mobilization, or temporary military duty, as computed under Subsection (b)(1);

(B) whether the court named a designated person under Section 153.705 to exercise limited possession of the child during the conservator's deployment; and

(C) any other factor the court considers appropriate; and

(2) is not required to award additional periods of possession of or access to the child that equals the possession or access to which the conservator would have been entitled during the conservator's military deployment, military mobilization, or temporary military duty, as computed under Subsection (b)(1).

(d) After the conservator described by Subsection (a) has exercised all additional periods of possession or access awarded under this section, the rights of all affected parties are governed by the terms of the court order applicable when the conservator is not ordered to military deployment, military mobilization, or temporary military duty.

Ch. 154. Child Support

Subch. A. Court–Ordered Child Support

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Sec. 154.001. Support of Child.

(a) The court may order either or both parents to support a child in the manner specified by the order:

(1) until the child is 18 years of age or until graduation from high school, whichever occurs later;

(2) until the child is emancipated through marriage, through removal of the disabilities of minority by court order, or by other operation of law;

(3) until the death of the child; or

(4) if the child is disabled as defined in this chapter, for an indefinite period.

(a–1) The court may order each person who is financially able and whose parental rights have been terminated with respect to either a child in substitute care for whom the department has been appointed managing conservator or a child who was conceived as a direct result of conduct that constitutes an offense under Section 21.02, 22.011, 22.021, or 25.02, Penal Code, to support the child in the manner specified by the order:

(1) until the earliest of:

(A) the child's adoption;

(B) the child's 18th birthday or graduation from high school, whichever occurs later;

(C) removal of the child's disabilities of minority by court order, marriage, or other operation of law; or

(D) the child's death; or

(2) if the child is disabled as defined in this chapter, for an indefinite period.

(b) The court may order either or both parents to make periodic payments for the support of a child in a proceeding in which the Department of Protective and Regulatory Services is named temporary managing conservator. In a proceeding in which the Department of Protective and Regulatory Services is named permanent managing conservator of a child whose parents' rights have not been terminated, the court shall order each parent that is financially able to make periodic payments for the support of the child.

(c) In a Title IV–D case, if neither parent has physical possession or conservatorship of the child, the court may render an order providing that a nonparent or agency having physical possession may receive, hold, or disburse child support payments for the benefit of the child.

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Sec. 154.002. Child Support Through High School Graduation.

(a) The court may render an original support order, or modify an existing order, providing child support past the 18th birthday of the child to be paid only if the child is:

(1) enrolled:

(A) under Chapter 25, Education Code, in an accredited secondary school in a program leading toward a high school diploma;

(B) under Section 130.008, Education Code, in courses for joint high school and junior college credit; or

(C) on a full–time basis in a private secondary school in a program leading toward a high school diploma; and

(2) complying with:

(A) the minimum attendance requirements of Subchapter C, Chapter 25, Education Code; or

(B) the minimum attendance requirements imposed by the school in which the child is enrolled, if the child is enrolled in a private secondary school.

(b) The request for a support order through high school graduation may be filed before or after the child's 18th birthday.

(c) The order for periodic support may provide that payments continue through the end of the month in which the child graduates.

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Sec. 154.003. Manner of Payment. The court may order that child support be paid by:

(1) periodic payments;

(2) a lump–sum payment;

(3) an annuity purchase;

(4) the setting aside of property to be administered for the support of the child as specified in the order; or

(5) any combination of periodic payments, lump–sum payments, annuity purchases, or setting aside of property.

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Sec. 154.004. Place of Payment.

(a) The court shall order the payment of child support to the state disbursement unit as provided by Chapter 234.

(b) In a Title IV–D case, the court or the Title IV–D agency shall order that income withheld for child support be paid to the state disbursement unit of this state or, if appropriate, to the state disbursement unit of another state.

(c) This section does not apply to a child support order that:

(1) was initially rendered by a court before January 1, 1994; and

(2) is not being enforced by the Title IV–D agency.

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Sec. 154.005. Payments of Support Obligation by Trust.

(a) The court may order the trustees of a spendthrift or other trust to make disbursements for the support of a child to the extent the trustees are required to make payments to a beneficiary who is required to make child support payments as provided by this chapter.

(b) If disbursement of the assets of the trust is discretionary, the court may order child support payments from the income of the trust but not from the principal.

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Sec. 154.006. Termination of Duty of Support.

(a) Unless otherwise agreed in writing or expressly provided in the order or as provided by Subsection (b), the child support order terminates on:

(1) the marriage of the child;

(2) the removal of the child's disabilities for general purposes;

(3) the death of the child;

(4) a finding by a court that the child:

(A) is 18 years of age or older; and

(B) has failed to comply with the enrollment or attendance requirements described by Section 154.002(a);

(5) the issuance under Section 161.005(h) of an order terminating the parent–child relationship between the obligor and the child based on the results of genetic testing that exclude the obligor as the child's genetic father; or

(6) if the child enlists in the armed forces of the United States, the date on which the child begins active service as defined by 10 U.S.C. Section 101.

(b) Unless a nonparent or agency has been appointed conservator of the child under Chapter 153, the order for current child support, and any provision relating to conservatorship, possession, or access terminates on the marriage or remarriage of the obligor and obligee to each other.

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Sec. 154.007. Order to Withhold Child Support from Income.

(a) In a proceeding in which periodic payments of child support are ordered, modified, or enforced, the court or Title IV–D agency shall order that income be withheld from the disposable earnings of the obligor as provided by Chapter 158.

(b) If the court does not order income withholding, an order for support must contain a provision for income withholding to ensure that withholding may be effected if a delinquency occurs.

(c) A child support order must be construed to contain a withholding provision even if the provision has been omitted from the written order.

(d) If the order was rendered or last modified before January 1, 1987, the order is presumed to contain a provision for income withholding procedures to take effect in the event a delinquency occurs without further amendment to the order or future action by the court.

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Sec. 154.008. Provision for Medical Support. The court shall order medical support for the child as provided by Subchapters B and D.

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Sec. 154.009. Retroactive Child Support.

(a) The court may order a parent to pay retroactive child support if the parent:

(1) has not previously been ordered to pay support for the child; and

(2) was not a party to a suit in which support was ordered.

(b) In ordering retroactive child support, the court shall apply the child support guidelines provided by this chapter.

(c) Unless the Title IV–D agency is a party to an agreement concerning support or purporting to settle past, present, or future support obligations by prepayment or otherwise, an agreement between the parties does not reduce or terminate retroactive support that the agency may request.

(d) Notwithstanding Subsection (a), the court may order a parent subject to a previous child support order to pay retroactive child support if:

(1) the previous child support order terminated as a result of the marriage or remarriage of the child's parents;

(2) the child's parents separated after the marriage or remarriage; and

(3) a new child support order is sought after the date of the separation.

(e) In rendering an order under Subsection (d), the court may order retroactive child support back to the date of the separation of the child's parents.

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Sec. 154.010. No Discrimination Based on Marital Status of Parents or Sex. The amount of support ordered for the benefit of a child shall be determined without regard to:

(1) the sex of the obligor, obligee, or child; or

(2) the marital status of the parents of the child.

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Sec. 154.011. Support Not Conditioned on Possession or Access. A court may not render an order that conditions the payment of child support on whether a managing conservator allows a possessory conservator to have possession of or access to a child.

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Sec. 154.012. Support Paid in Excess of Support Order.

(a) If an obligor is not in arrears and the obligor's child support obligation has terminated, the obligee shall return to the obligor a child support payment made by the obligor that exceeds the amount of support ordered, regardless of whether the payment was made before, on, or after the date the child support obligation terminated.

(b) An obligor may file a suit to recover a child support payment under Subsection (a). If the court finds that the obligee failed to return a child support payment under Subsection (a), the court shall order the obligee to pay to the obligor attorney's fees and all court costs in addition to the amount of support paid after the date the child support order terminated. For good cause shown, the court may waive the requirement that the obligee pay attorney's fees and costs if the court states the reasons supporting that finding.

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Sec. 154.013. Continuation of Duty to Pay Support After Death of Obligee.

(a) A child support obligation does not terminate on the death of the obligee but continues as an obligation to the child named in the support order, as required by this section.

(b) Notwithstanding any provision of the Probate Code, a child support payment held by the Title IV–D agency, a local registry, or the state disbursement unit or any uncashed check or warrant representing a child support payment made before, on, or after the date of death of the obligee shall be paid proportionately for the benefit of each surviving child named in the support order and not to the estate of the obligee. The payment is free of any creditor's claim against the deceased obligee's estate and may be disbursed as provided by Subsection (c).

(c) On the death of the obligee, current child support owed by the obligor for the benefit of the child or any amount described by Subsection (b) shall be paid to:

(1) a person, other than a parent, who is appointed as managing conservator of the child;

(2) a person, including the obligor, who has assumed actual care, control, and possession of the child, if a managing conservator or guardian of the child has not been appointed;

(3) the county clerk, as provided by Section 887, Texas Probate Code, in the name of and for the account of the child for whom the support is owed;

(4) a guardian of the child appointed under Chapter XIII, Texas Probate Code, as provided by that code; or

(5) the surviving child, if the child is an adult or has otherwise had the disabilities of minority removed.

(d) On presentation of the obligee's death certificate, the court shall render an order directing payment of child support paid but not disbursed to be made as provided by Subsection (c). A copy of the order shall be provided to:

(1) the obligor;

(2) as appropriate:

(A) the person having actual care, control, and possession of the child;

(B) the county clerk; or

(C) the managing conservator or guardian of the child, if one has been appointed;

(3) the local registry or state disbursement unit and, if appropriate, the Title IV–D agency; and

(4) the child named in the support order, if the child is an adult or has otherwise had the disabilities of minority removed.

(e) The order under Subsection (d) must contain:

(1) a statement that the obligee is deceased and that child support amounts otherwise payable to the obligee shall be paid for the benefit of a surviving child named in the support order as provided by Subsection (c);

(2) the name and age of each child named in the support order; and

(3) the name and mailing address of, as appropriate:

(A) the person having actual care, control, and possession of the child;

(B) the county clerk; or

(C) the managing conservator or guardian of the child, if one has been appointed.

(f) On receipt of the order required under this section, the local registry, state disbursement unit, or Title IV–D agency shall disburse payments as required by the order.

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Sec. 154.014. Payments in Excess of Court–Ordered Amount.

(a) If a child support agency or local child support registry receives from an obligor who is not in arrears a child support payment in an amount that exceeds the court–ordered amount, the agency or registry, to the extent possible, shall give effect to any expressed intent of the obligor for the application of the amount that exceeds the court–ordered amount.

(b) If the obligor does not express an intent for the application of the amount paid in excess of the court–ordered amount, the agency or registry shall:

(1) credit the excess amount to the obligor's future child support obligation; and

(2) promptly disburse the excess amount to the obligee.

(c) This section does not apply to an obligee who is a recipient of public assistance under Chapter 31, Human Resources Code.

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Sec. 154.015. Acceleration of Unpaid Child Support Obligation.

(a) In this section, "estate" has the meaning assigned by Section 3, Texas Probate Code.

(b) If the child support obligor dies before the child support obligation terminates, the remaining unpaid balance of the child support obligation becomes payable on the date the obligor dies.

(c) For purposes of this section, the court of continuing jurisdiction shall determine the amount of the unpaid child support obligation for each child of the deceased obligor. In determining the amount of the unpaid child support obligation, the court shall consider all relevant factors, including:

(1) the present value of the total amount of monthly periodic child support payments that would become due between the month in which the obligor dies and the month in which the child turns 18 years of age, based on the amount of the periodic monthly child support payments under the child support order in effect on the date of the obligor's death;

(2) the present value of the total amount of health insurance premiums payable for the benefit of the child from the month in which the obligor dies until the month in which the child turns 18 years of age, based on the cost of health insurance for the child ordered to be paid on the date of the obligor's death;

(3) in the case of a disabled child under 18 years of age or an adult disabled child, an amount to be determined by the court under Section 154.306;

(4) the nature and amount of any benefit to which the child would be entitled as a result of the obligor's death, including life insurance proceeds, annuity payments, trust distributions, social security death benefits, and retirement survivor benefits; and

(5) any other financial resource available for the support of the child.

(d) If, after considering all relevant factors, the court finds that the child support obligation has been satisfied, the court shall render an order terminating the child support obligation. If the court finds that the child support obligation is not satisfied, the court shall render a judgment in favor of the obligee, for the benefit of the child, in the amount of the unpaid child support obligation determined under Subsection (c). The order must designate the obligee as constructive trustee, for the benefit of the child, of any money received in satisfaction of the judgment.

(e) The obligee has a claim, on behalf of the child, against the deceased obligor's estate for the unpaid child support obligation determined under Subsection (c). The obligee may present the claim in the manner provided by the Texas Probate Code.

(f) If money paid to the obligee for the benefit of the child exceeds the amount of the unpaid child support obligation remaining at the time of the obligor’s death, the obligee shall hold the excess amount as constructive trustee for the benefit of the deceased obligor’s estate until the obligee delivers the excess amount to the legal representative of the deceased obligor’s estate.

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Sec. 154.016. Provision of Support in Event of Death of Parent.

(a) The court may order a child support obligor to obtain and maintain a life insurance policy, including a decreasing term life insurance policy, that will establish an insurance–funded trust or an annuity payable to the obligee for the benefit of the child that will satisfy the support obligation under the child support order in the event of the obligor's death.

(b) In determining the nature and extent of the obligation to provide for the support of the child in the event of the death of the obligor, the court shall consider all relevant factors, including:

(1) the present value of the total amount of monthly periodic child support payments from the date the child support order is rendered until the month in which the child turns 18 years of age, based on the amount of the periodic monthly child support payment under the child support order;

(2) the present value of the total amount of health insurance premiums payable for the benefit of the child from the date the child support order is rendered until the month in which the child turns 18 years of age, based on the cost of health insurance for the child ordered to be paid; and

(3) in the case of a disabled child under 18 years of age or an adult disabled child, an amount to be determined by the court under Section 154.306.

(c) The court may, on its own motion or on a motion of the obligee, require the child support obligor to provide proof satisfactory to the court verifying compliance with the order rendered under this section.

Subch. B. Computing Net Resources Available for Payment of Child Support

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Sec. 154.061. Computing Net Monthly Income.

(a) Whenever feasible, gross income should first be computed on an annual basis and then should be recalculated to determine average monthly gross income.

(b) The Title IV–D agency shall annually promulgate tax charts to compute net monthly income, subtracting from gross income social security taxes and federal income tax withholding for a single person claiming one personal exemption and the standard deduction.

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Sec. 154.062. Net Resources.

(a) The court shall calculate net resources for the purpose of determining child support liability as provided by this section.

(b) Resources include:

(1) 100 percent of all wage and salary income and other compensation for personal services (including commissions, overtime pay, tips, and bonuses);

(2) interest, dividends, and royalty income;

(3) self–employment income;

(4) net rental income (defined as rent after deducting operating expenses and mortgage payments, but not including noncash items such as depreciation); and

(5) all other income actually being received, including severance pay, retirement benefits, pensions, trust income, annuities, capital gains, social security benefits other than supplemental security income, United States Department of Veterans Affairs disability benefits other than non–service–connected disability pension benefits, as defined by 38 U.S.C. Section 101(17), unemployment benefits, disability and workers' compensation benefits, interest income from notes regardless of the source, gifts and prizes, spousal maintenance, and alimony.

(c) Resources do not include:

(1) return of principal or capital;

(2) accounts receivable;

(3) benefits paid in accordance with the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program or another federal public assistance program; or

(4) payments for foster care of a child.

(d) The court shall deduct the following items from resources to determine the net resources available for child support:

(1) social security taxes;

(2) federal income tax based on the tax rate for a single person claiming one personal exemption and the standard deduction;

(3) state income tax;

(4) union dues;

(5) expenses for the cost of health insurance or cash medical support for the obligor's child ordered by the court under Section 154.182; and

(6) if the obligor does not pay social security taxes, nondiscretionary retirement plan contributions.

(e) In calculating the amount of the deduction for health care coverage for a child under Subsection (d)(5), if the obligor has other minor dependents covered under the same health insurance plan, the court shall divide the total cost to the obligor for the insurance by the total number of minor dependents, including the child, covered under the plan.

(f) For purposes of Subsection (d)(6), a nondiscretionary retirement plan is a plan to which an employee is required to contribute as a condition of employment.

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Sec. 154.063. Party to Furnish Information. The court shall require a party to:

(1) furnish information sufficient to accurately identify that party's net resources and ability to pay child support; and

(2) produce copies of income tax returns for the past two years, a financial statement, and current pay stubs.

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Sec. 154.064. Medical Support for Child Presumptively Provided by Obligor. The guidelines for support of a child are based on the assumption that the court will order the obligor to provide medical support for the child in addition to the amount of child support calculated in accordance with those guidelines.

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Sec. 154.065. Self–Employment Income.

(a) Income from self–employment, whether positive or negative, includes benefits allocated to an individual from a business or undertaking in the form of a proprietorship, partnership, joint venture, close corporation, agency, or independent contractor, less ordinary and necessary expenses required to produce that income.

(b) In its discretion, the court may exclude from self–employment income amounts allowable under federal income tax law as depreciation, tax credits, or any other business expenses shown by the evidence to be inappropriate in making the determination of income available for the purpose of calculating child support.

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Sec. 154.066. Intentional Unemployment or Underemployment.

(a) If the actual income of the obligor is significantly less than what the obligor could earn because of intentional unemployment or underemployment, the court may apply the support guidelines to the earning potential of the obligor.

(b) In determining whether an obligor is intentionally unemployed or underemployed, the court may consider evidence that the obligor is a veteran, as defined by 38 U.S.C. Section 101(2), who is seeking or has been awarded:

(1) United States Department of Veterans Affairs disability benefits, as defined by 38 U.S.C. Section 101(16); or

(2) non–service–connected disability pension benefits, as defined by 38 U.S.C. Section 101(17).

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Sec. 154.067. Deemed Income.

(a) When appropriate, in order to determine the net resources available for child support, the court may assign a reasonable amount of deemed income attributable to assets that do not currently produce income. The court shall also consider whether certain property that is not producing income can be liquidated without an unreasonable financial sacrifice because of cyclical or other market conditions. If there is no effective market for the property, the carrying costs of such an investment, including property taxes and note payments, shall be offset against the income attributed to the property.

(b) The court may assign a reasonable amount of deemed income to income–producing assets that a party has voluntarily transferred or on which earnings have intentionally been reduced.

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Sec. 154.068. Wage and Salary Presumption.

(a) In the absence of evidence of a party's resources, as defined by Section 154.062(b), the court shall presume that the party has income equal to the federal minimum wage for a 40–hour week to which the support guidelines may be applied.

(b) The presumption required by Subsection (a) does not apply if the court finds that the party is subject to an order of confinement that exceeds 90 days and is incarcerated in a local, state, or federal jail or prison at the time the court makes the determination regarding the party's income.

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Sec. 154.069. Net Resources of Spouse.

(a) The court may not add any portion of the net resources of a spouse to the net resources of an obligor or obligee in order to calculate the amount of child support to be ordered.

(b) The court may not subtract the needs of a spouse, or of a dependent of a spouse, from the net resources of the obligor or obligee.

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Sec. 154.070. Child Support Received by Obligor. In a situation involving multiple households due child support, child support received by an obligor shall be added to the obligor's net resources to compute the net resources before determining the child support credit or applying the percentages in the multiple household table in this chapter.

Subch. C. Child Support Guidelines

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Sec. 154.121. Guidelines for the Support of A Child. The child support guidelines in this subchapter are intended to guide the court in determining an equitable amount of child support.

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Sec. 154.122. Application of Guidelines Rebuttably Presumed in Best Interest of Child.

(a) The amount of a periodic child support payment established by the child support guidelines in effect in this state at the time of the hearing is presumed to be reasonable, and an order of support conforming to the guidelines is presumed to be in the best interest of the child.

(b) A court may determine that the application of the guidelines would be unjust or inappropriate under the circumstances.

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Sec. 154.123. Additional Factors for Court to Consider.

(a) The court may order periodic child support payments in an amount other than that established by the guidelines if the evidence rebuts the presumption that application of the guidelines is in the best interest of the child and justifies a variance from the guidelines.

(b) In determining whether application of the guidelines would be unjust or inappropriate under the circumstances, the court shall consider evidence of all relevant factors, including:

(1) the age and needs of the child;

(2) the ability of the parents to contribute to the support of the child;

(3) any financial resources available for the support of the child;

(4) the amount of time of possession of and access to a child;

(5) the amount of the obligee's net resources, including the earning potential of the obligee if the actual income of the obligee is significantly less than what the obligee could earn because the obligee is intentionally unemployed or underemployed and including an increase or decrease in the income of the obligee or income that may be attributed to the property and assets of the obligee;

(6) child care expenses incurred by either party in order to maintain gainful employment;

(7) whether either party has the managing conservatorship or actual physical custody of another child;

(8) the amount of alimony or spousal maintenance actually and currently being paid or received by a party;

(9) the expenses for a son or daughter for education beyond secondary school;

(10) whether the obligor or obligee has an automobile, housing, or other benefits furnished by his or her employer, another person, or a business entity;

(11) the amount of other deductions from the wage or salary income and from other compensation for personal services of the parties;

(12) provision for health care insurance and payment of uninsured medical expenses;

(13) special or extraordinary educational, health care, or other expenses of the parties or of the child;

(14) the cost of travel in order to exercise possession of and access to a child;

(15) positive or negative cash flow from any real and personal property and assets, including a business and investments;

(16) debts or debt service assumed by either party; and

(17) any other reason consistent with the best interest of the child, taking into consideration the circumstances of the parents.

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Sec. 154.124. Agreement Concerning Support.

(a) To promote the amicable settlement of disputes between the parties to a suit, the parties may enter into a written agreement containing provisions for support of the child and for modification of the agreement, including variations from the child support guidelines provided by Subchapter C.

(b) If the court finds that the agreement is in the child's best interest, the court shall render an order in accordance with the agreement.

(c) Terms of the agreement pertaining to child support in the order may be enforced by all remedies available for enforcement of a judgment, including contempt, but are not enforceable as a contract.

(d) If the court finds the agreement is not in the child's best interest, the court may request the parties to submit a revised agreement or the court may render an order for the support of the child.

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Sec. 154.125. Application of Guidelines to Net Resources.

(a) The guidelines for the support of a child in this section are specifically designed to apply to situations in which the obligor's monthly net resources are not greater than $7,500 or the adjusted amount determined under Subsection (a–1), whichever is greater.

(a–1) The dollar amount prescribed by Subsection (a) is adjusted every six years as necessary to reflect inflation. The Title IV–D agency shall compute the adjusted amount, to take effect beginning September 1 of the year of the adjustment, based on the percentage change in the consumer price index during the 72–month period preceding March 1 of the year of the adjustment, as rounded to the nearest $50 increment. The Title IV–D agency shall publish the adjusted amount in the Texas Register before September 1 of the year in which the adjustment takes effect. For purposes of this subsection, "consumer price index" has the meaning assigned by Section 341.201, Finance Code.

(b) If the obligor's monthly net resources are not greater than the amount provided by Subsection (a), the court shall presumptively apply the following schedule in rendering the child support order

CHILD SUPPORT GUIDELINES BASED ON THE MONTHLY NET RESOURCES OF THE OBLIGOR

Left column is number of children.

1 20% of Obligor's Net Resources
2 25% of Obligor's Net Resources
3 30% of Obligor's Net Resources
4 35% of Obligor's Net Resources
5 40% of Obligor's Net Resources
6+ Not less than the amount for 5 children

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Sec. 154.126. Application of Guidelines to Additional Net Resources.

(a) If the obligor's net resources exceed the amount provided by Section 154.125(a), the court shall presumptively apply the percentage guidelines to the portion of the obligor's net resources that does not exceed that amount. Without further reference to the percentage recommended by these guidelines, the court may order additional amounts of child support as appropriate, depending on the income of the parties and the proven needs of the child.

(b) The proper calculation of a child support order that exceeds the presumptive amount established for the portion of the obligor's net resources provided by Section 154.125(a) requires that the entire amount of the presumptive award be subtracted from the proven total needs of the child. After the presumptive award is subtracted, the court shall allocate between the parties the responsibility to meet the additional needs of the child according to the circumstances of the parties. However, in no event may the obligor be required to pay more child support than the greater of the presumptive amount or the amount equal to 100 percent of the proven needs of the child.

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Sec. 154.127. Partial Termination of Support Obligation.

(a) A child support order for more than one child shall provide that, on the termination of support for a child, the level of support for the remaining child or children is in accordance with the child support guidelines.

(b) A child support order is in compliance with the requirement imposed by Subsection (a) if the order contains a provision that specifies:

(1) the events, including a child reaching the age of 18 years or otherwise having the disabilities of minority removed, that have the effect of terminating the obligor's obligation to pay child support for that child; and

(2) the reduced total amount that the obligor is required to pay each month after the occurrence of an event described by Subdivision (1).

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Sec. 154.128. Computing Support for Children in More than One Household.

(a) In applying the child support guidelines for an obligor who has children in more than one household, the court shall apply the percentage guidelines in this subchapter by making the following computation:

(1) determine the amount of child support that would be ordered if all children whom the obligor has the legal duty to support lived in one household by applying the schedule in this subchapter;

(2) compute a child support credit for the obligor's children who are not before the court by dividing the amount determined under Subdivision (1) by the total number of children whom the obligor is obligated to support and multiplying that number by the number of the obligor's children who are not before the court;

(3) determine the adjusted net resources of the obligor by subtracting the child support credit computed under Subdivision

(2) from the net resources of the obligor; and

(4) determine the child support amount for the children before the court by applying the percentage guidelines for one household for the number of children of the obligor before the court to the obligor's adjusted net resources.

(b) For the purpose of determining a child support credit, the total number of an obligor's children includes the children before the court for the establishment or modification of a support order and any other children, including children residing with the obligor, whom the obligor has the legal duty of support.

(c) The child support credit with respect to children for whom the obligor is obligated by an order to pay support is computed, regardless of whether the obligor is delinquent in child support payments, without regard to the amount of the order.

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Sec. 154.129. Alternative Method of Computing Support for Children in More than One Household. In lieu of performing the computation under the preceding section, the court may determine the child support amount for the children before the court by applying the percentages in the table below to the obligor's net resources:

MULTIPLE FAMILY ADJUSTED GUIDELINES

Left column is "Number of other children for whom the obligor has a duty of support."

Top column is "Number of children before the court."

1 2 3 4 5 6 7
0 20.00 25.00 30.00 35.00 40.00 40.00 40.00
1 17.50 22.50 27.38 32.20 37.33 37.71 38.00
2 16.00 20.63 25.20 30.33 35.43 36.00 36.44
3 14.75 19.00 24.00 29.00 34.00 34.67 35.20
4 13.60 18.33 23.14 28.00 32.89 33.60 34.18
5 13.33 17.86 22.50 27.22 32.00 32.73 33.33
6 13.14 17.50 22.00 26.60 31.27 32.00 32.62
7 13.00 17.22 21.60 26.09 30.67 31.38 32.00

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Sec. 154.130. Findings in Child Support Order.

(a) Without regard to Rules 296 through 299, Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, in rendering an order of child support, the court shall make the findings required by Subsection (b) if:

(1) a party files a written request with the court not later than 10 days after the date of the hearing;

(2) a party makes an oral request in open court during the hearing; or

(3) the amount of child support ordered by the court varies from the amount computed by applying the percentage guidelines under Section 154.125 or 154.129, as applicable.

(a–1) If findings under this section are required as a result of the request by a party under Subsection (a)(1) or (2), the court shall make and enter the findings not later than the 15th day after the date of the party's request.

(b) If findings are required by this section, the court shall state whether the application of the guidelines would be unjust or inappropriate and shall state the following in the child support order:

"(1) the net resources of the obligor per month are $______;

"(2) the net resources of the obligee per month are $______;

"(3) the percentage applied to the obligor's net resources for child support is ______%; and

"(4) if applicable, the specific reasons that the amount of child support per month ordered by the court varies from the amount computed by applying the percentage guidelines under Section 154.125 or 154.129, as applicable."

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Sec. 154.131. Retroactive Child Support.

(a) The child support guidelines are intended to guide the court in determining the amount of retroactive child support, if any, to be ordered.

(b) In ordering retroactive child support, the court shall consider the net resources of the obligor during the relevant time period and whether:

(1) the mother of the child had made any previous attempts to notify the obligor of his paternity or probable paternity;

(2) the obligor had knowledge of his paternity or probable paternity;

(3) the order of retroactive child support will impose an undue financial hardship on the obligor or the obligor's family; and

(4) the obligor has provided actual support or other necessaries before the filing of the action.

(c) It is presumed that a court order limiting the amount of retroactive child support to an amount that does not exceed the total amount of support that would have been due for the four years preceding the date the petition seeking support was filed is reasonable and in the best interest of the child.

(d) The presumption created under this section may be rebutted by evidence that the obligor:

(1) knew or should have known that the obligor was the father of the child for whom support is sought; and

(2) sought to avoid the establishment of a support obligation to the child.

(e) An order under this section limiting the amount of retroactive support does not constitute a variance from the guidelines requiring the court to make specific findings under Section 154.130.

(f) Notwithstanding any other provision of this subtitle, the court retains jurisdiction to render an order for retroactive child support in a suit if a petition requesting retroactive child support is filed not later than the fourth anniversary of the date of the child's 18th birthday.

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Sec. 154.132. Application of Guidelines to Children of Certain Disabled Obligors. In applying the child support guidelines for an obligor who has a disability and who is required to pay support for a child who receives benefits as a result of the obligor's disability, the court shall apply the guidelines by determining the amount of child support that would be ordered under the child support guidelines and subtracting from that total the amount of benefits or the value of the benefits paid to or for the child as a result of the obligor's disability.

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Sec. 154.133. Application of Guidelines to Children of Obligors Receiving Social Security. In applying the child support guidelines for an obligor who is receiving social security old age benefits and who is required to pay support for a child who receives benefits as a result of the obligor's receipt of social security old age benefits, the court shall apply the guidelines by determining the amount of child support that would be ordered under the child support guidelines and subtracting from that total the amount of benefits or the value of the benefits paid to or for the child as a result of the obligor's receipt of social security old age benefits.

Subch. D. Medical Support for Child

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Sec. 154.181. Medical Support Order.

(a) The court shall render an order for the medical support of the child as provided by this section and Section 154.182 in:

(1) a proceeding in which periodic payments of child support are ordered under this chapter or modified under Chapter 156;

(2) any other suit affecting the parent–child relationship in which the court determines that medical support of the child must be established, modified, or clarified; or

(3) a proceeding under Chapter 159.

(b) Before a hearing on temporary orders or a final order, if no hearing on temporary orders is held, the court shall require the parties to the proceedings to disclose in a pleading or other statement:

(1) if private health insurance is in effect for the child, the identity of the insurance company providing the coverage, the policy number, which parent is responsible for payment of any insurance premium for the coverage, whether the coverage is provided through a parent's employment, and the cost of the premium; or

(2) if private health insurance is not in effect for the child, whether:

(A) the child is receiving medical assistance under Chapter 32, Human Resources Code;

(B) the child is receiving health benefits coverage under the state child health plan under Chapter 62, Health and Safety Code, and the cost of any premium; and

(C) either parent has access to private health insurance at reasonable cost to the obligor.

(c) In rendering temporary orders, the court shall, except for good cause shown, order that any health insurance coverage in effect for the child continue in effect pending the rendition of a final order, except that the court may not require the continuation of any health insurance that is not available to the parent at reasonable cost to the obligor. If there is no health insurance coverage in effect for the child or if the insurance in effect is not available at a reasonable cost to the obligor, the court shall, except for good cause shown, order health care coverage for the child as provided under Section 154.182.

(d) On rendering a final order the court shall:

(1) make specific findings with respect to the manner in which health care coverage is to be provided for the child, in accordance with the priorities identified under Section 154.182; and

(2) except for good cause shown or on agreement of the parties, require the parent ordered to provide health care coverage for the child as provided under Section 154.182 to produce evidence to the court's satisfaction that the parent has applied for or secured health insurance or has otherwise taken necessary action to provide for health care coverage for the child, as ordered by the court.

(e) In this section, "reasonable cost" means the cost of health insurance coverage for a child that does not exceed nine percent of the obligor's annual resources, as described by Section 154.062(b), if the obligor is responsible under a medical support order for the cost of health insurance coverage for only one child. If the obligor is responsible under a medical support order for the cost of health insurance coverage for more than one child, "reasonable cost" means the total cost of health insurance coverage for all children for which the obligor is responsible under a medical support order that does not exceed nine percent of the obligor's annual resources, as described by Section 154.062(b).

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Sec. 154.182. Health Care Coverage for Child.

(a) The court shall consider the cost, accessibility, and quality of health insurance coverage available to the parties and shall give priority to health insurance coverage available through the employment of one of the parties if the coverage is available at a reasonable cost to the obligor.

(b) In determining the manner in which health care coverage for the child is to be ordered, the court shall render its order in accordance with the following priorities, unless a party shows good cause why a particular order would not be in the best interest of the child:

(1) if health insurance is available for the child through a parent's employment or membership in a union, trade association, or other organization at reasonable cost, the court shall order that parent to include the child in the parent's health insurance;

(2) if health insurance is not available for the child under Subdivision (1) but is available to a parent at reasonable cost from another source, including the program under Section 154.1826 to provide health insurance in Title IV–D cases, the court may order that parent to provide health insurance for the child; or

(3) if health insurance coverage is not available for the child under Subdivision (1) or (2), the court shall order the obligor to pay the obligee, in addition to any amount ordered under the guidelines for child support, an amount, not to exceed nine percent of the obligor's annual resources, as described by Section 154.062(b), as cash medical support for the child.

(b–1) If the parent ordered to provide health insurance under Subsection (b)(1) or (2) is the obligee, the court shall order the obligor to pay the obligee, as additional child support, an amount equal to the actual cost of health insurance for the child, but not to exceed a reasonable cost to the obligor. In calculating the actual cost of health insurance for the child, if the obligee has other minor dependents covered under the same health insurance plan, the court shall divide the total cost to the obligee for the insurance by the total number of minor dependents, including the child covered under the plan.

(b–2) If the court finds that neither parent has access to private health insurance at a reasonable cost to the obligor, the court shall order the parent awarded the exclusive right to designate the child's primary residence or, to the extent permitted by law, the other parent to apply immediately on behalf of the child for participation in a government medical assistance program or health plan. If the child participates in a government medical assistance program or health plan, the court shall order cash medical support under Subsection (b)(3).

(b–3) An order requiring the payment of cash medical support under Subsection (b)(3) must allow the obligor to discontinue payment of the cash medical support if:

(1) health insurance for the child becomes available to the obligor at a reasonable cost; and

(2) the obligor:

(A) enrolls the child in the insurance plan; and

(B) provides the obligee and, in a Title IV–D case, the Title IV–D agency, the information required under Section 154.185.

(c) In this section:

(1) "Accessibility" means the extent to which health insurance coverage for a child provides for the availability of medical care within a reasonable traveling distance and time from the child's primary residence, as determined by the court.

(2) "Reasonable cost" has the meaning assigned by Section 154.181(e).

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Sec. 154.1826. Health Care Program for Certain Children in Title IV–D Cases.

(a) In this section:

(1) "Health benefit plan issuer" means an insurer, health maintenance organization, or other entity authorized to provide health benefits coverage under the laws of this state.

(2) "Health care provider" means a physician or other person who is licensed, certified, or otherwise authorized to provide a health care service in this state.

(3) "Program" means the child health care program developed under this section.

(4) "Reasonable cost" has the meaning assigned by Section 154.181(e).

(5) "Third–party administrator" means a person who is not a health benefit plan issuer or agent of a health benefit plan issuer and who provides administrative services for the program, including processing enrollment of eligible children in the program and processing premium payments on behalf of the program.

(b) In consultation with the Texas Department of Insurance, the Health and Human Services Commission, and representatives of the insurance industry in this state, the Title IV–D agency shall develop and implement a statewide program to address the health care needs of children in Title IV–D cases for whom health insurance is not available to either parent at reasonable cost under Section 154.182(b)(1) or under Section 154.182(b)(2) from a source other than the program.

(c) The director of the Title IV–D agency may establish an advisory committee to consult with the director regarding the implementation and operation of the program. If the director establishes an advisory committee, the director may appoint any of the following persons to the advisory committee:

(1) representatives of appropriate public and private entities, including state agencies concerned with health care management;

(2) members of the judiciary;

(3) members of the legislature; and

(4) representatives of the insurance industry.

(d) The principal objective of the program is to provide basic health care services, including office visits with health care providers, hospitalization, and diagnostic and emergency services, to eligible children in Title IV–D cases at reasonable cost to the parents obligated by court order to provide medical support for the children.

(e) The Title IV–D agency may use available private resources, including gifts and grants, in administering the program.

(f) The Title IV–D agency shall adopt rules as necessary to implement the program. The Title IV–D agency shall consult with the Texas Department of Insurance and the Health and Human Services Commission in establishing policies and procedures for the administration of the program and in determining appropriate benefits to be provided under the program.

(g) A health benefit plan issuer that participates in the program may not deny health care coverage under the program to eligible children because of preexisting conditions or chronic illnesses. A child who is determined to be eligible for coverage under the program continues to be eligible until the termination of the parent's duty to pay child support as specified by Section 154.006. Enrollment of a child in the program does not preclude the subsequent enrollment of the child in another health care plan that becomes available to the child's parent at reasonable cost, including a health care plan available through the parent's employment or the state child health plan under Chapter 62, Health and Safety Code.

(h) The Title IV–D agency shall contract with an independent third–party administrator to provide necessary administrative services for operation of the program.

(i) A person acting as a third–party administrator under Subsection (h) is not considered an administrator for purposes of Chapter 4151, Insurance Code.

(j) The Title IV–D agency shall solicit applications for participation in the program from health benefit plan issuers that meet requirements specified by the agency. Each health benefit plan issuer that participates in the program must hold a certificate of authority issued by the Texas Department of Insurance.

(k) The Title IV–D agency shall promptly notify the courts of this state when the program has been implemented and is available to provide for the health care needs of children described by Subsection (b). The notification must specify a date beginning on which children may be enrolled in the program.

(l) On or after the date specified in the notification required by Subsection (k), a court that orders health care coverage for a child in a Title IV–D case shall order that the child be enrolled in the program authorized by this section unless other health insurance is available for the child at reasonable cost, including the state child health plan under Chapter 62, Health and Safety Code.

(m) Payment of premium costs for the enrollment of a child in the program may be enforced by the Title IV–D agency against the obligor by any means available for the enforcement of a child support obligation, including income withholding under Chapter 158.

(n) The program is not subject to any provision of the Insurance Code or other law that requires coverage or the offer of coverage of a health care service or benefit.

(o) Any health information obtained by the program, or by a third–party administrator providing program services, that is subject to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (42 U.S.C. Section 1320d et seq.) or Chapter 181, Health and Safety Code, is confidential and not open to public inspection. Any personally identifiable financial information or supporting documentation of a parent whose child is enrolled in the program that is obtained by the program, or by a third–party administrator providing program services, is confidential and not open to public inspection.

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Sec. 154.1827. Administrative Adjustment of Medical Support Order.

(a) In each Title IV–D case in which a medical support order requires that a child be enrolled in a health care program under Section 154.1826, the Title IV–D agency may administratively adjust the order as necessary on an annual basis to reflect changes in the amount of premium costs associated with the child's enrollment.

(b) The Title IV–D agency shall provide notice of the administrative adjustment to the obligor and the clerk of the court that rendered the order.

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Sec. 154.183. Medical Support Additional Support Duty of Obligor.

(a) An amount that an obligor is ordered to pay as medical support for the child under this chapter, including the costs of health insurance coverage or cash medical support under Section 154.182:

(1) is in addition to the amount that the obligor is required to pay for child support under the guidelines for child support;

(2) is a child support obligation; and

(3) may be enforced by any means available for the enforcement of child support, including withholding from earnings under Chapter 158.

(b) If the court finds and states in the child support order that the obligee will maintain health insurance coverage for the child at the obligee's expense, the court shall increase the amount of child support to be paid by the obligor in an amount not exceeding the actual cost to the obligee for maintaining health insurance coverage, as provided under Section 154.182(b–1).

(c) As additional child support, the court shall allocate between the parties, according to their circumstances:

(1) the reasonable and necessary health care expenses, including vision and dental expenses, of the child that are not reimbursed by health insurance or are not otherwise covered by the amount of cash medical support ordered under Section 154.182(b)(3); and

(2) amounts paid by either party as deductibles or copayments in obtaining health care services for the child covered under a health insurance policy.

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Sec. 154.184. Effect of Order.

(a) Receipt of a medical support order requiring that health insurance be provided for a child shall be considered a change in the family circumstances of the employee or member, for health insurance purposes, equivalent to the birth or adoption of a child.

(b) If the employee or member is eligible for dependent health coverage, the employer shall automatically enroll the child for the first 31 days after the receipt of the order or notice of the medical support order under Section 154.186 on the same terms and conditions as apply to any other dependent child.

(c) The employer shall notify the insurer of the automatic enrollment.

(d) During the 31–day period, the employer and insurer shall complete all necessary forms and procedures to make the enrollment permanent or shall report in accordance with this subchapter the reasons the coverage cannot be made permanent.

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Sec. 154.185. Parent to Furnish Information.

(a) The court shall order a parent providing health insurance to furnish to either the obligee, obligor, or child support agency the following information not later than the 30th day after the date the notice of rendition of the order is received:

(1) the social security number of the parent;

(2) the name and address of the parent's employer;

(3) whether the employer is self–insured or has health insurance available;

(4) proof that health insurance has been provided for the child;

(5) if the employer has health insurance available, the name of the health insurance carrier, the number of the policy, a copy of the policy and schedule of benefits, a health insurance membership card, claim forms, and any other information necessary to submit a claim; and

(6) if the employer is self–insured, a copy of the schedule of benefits, a membership card, claim forms, and any other information necessary to submit a claim.

(b) The court shall also order a parent providing health insurance to furnish the obligor, obligee, or child support agency with additional information regarding health insurance coverage not later than the 15th day after the date the information is received by the parent.

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Sec. 154.186. Notice to Employer Concerning Medical Support.

(a) The obligee, obligor, or a child support agency of this state or another state may send to the employer a copy of the order requiring an employee to provide health insurance coverage for a child or may include notice of the medical support order in an order or writ of withholding sent to the employer in accordance with Chapter 158.

(b) In an appropriate Title IV–D case, the Title IV–D agency of this state or another state shall send to the employer the national medical support notice required under Part D, Title IV of the federal Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. Section 651 et seq.), as amended. The notice may be used in any other suit in which an obligor is ordered to provide health insurance coverage for a child.

(c) The Title IV–D agency by rule shall establish procedures consistent with federal law for use of the national medical support notice and may prescribe forms for the efficient use of the notice. The agency shall provide the notice and forms, on request, to obligees, obligors, domestic relations offices, friends of the court, and attorneys.

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Sec. 154.187. Duties of Employer.

(a) An order or notice under this subchapter to an employer directing that health insurance coverage be provided to a child of an employee or member is binding on a current or subsequent employer on receipt without regard to the date the order was rendered. If the employee or member is eligible for dependent health coverage for the child, the employer shall immediately enroll the child in a health insurance plan regardless of whether the employee is enrolled in the plan. If dependent coverage is not available to the employee or member through the employer's health insurance plan or enrollment cannot be made permanent or if the employer is not responsible or otherwise liable for providing such coverage, the employer shall provide notice to the sender in accordance with Subsection (c).

(b) If additional premiums are incurred as a result of adding the child to the health insurance plan, the employer shall deduct the health insurance premium from the earnings of the employee in accordance with Chapter 158 and apply the amount withheld to payment of the insurance premium.

(c) An employer who has received an order or notice under this subchapter shall provide to the sender, not later than the 40th day after the date the employer receives the order or notice, a statement that the child:

(1) has been enrolled in the employer's health insurance plan or is already enrolled in another health insurance plan in accordance with a previous child support or medical support order to which the employee is subject; or

(2) cannot be enrolled or cannot be enrolled permanently in the employer's health insurance plan and provide the reason why coverage or permanent coverage cannot be provided.

(d) If the employee ceases employment or if the health insurance coverage lapses, the employer shall provide to the sender, not later than the 15th day after the date of the termination of employment or the lapse of the coverage, notice of the termination or lapse and of the availability of any conversion privileges.

(e) On request, the employer shall release to the sender information concerning the available health insurance coverage, including the name of the health insurance carrier, the policy number, a copy of the policy and schedule of benefits, a health insurance membership card, and claim forms.

(f) In this section, "sender" means the person sending the order or notice under Section 154.186.

(g) An employer who fails to enroll a child, fails to withhold or remit premiums or cash medical support, or discriminates in hiring or employment on the basis of a medical support order or notice under this subchapter shall be subject to the penalties and fines in Subchapter C, Chapter 158.

(h) An employer who receives a national medical support notice under Section 154.186 shall comply with the requirements of the notice.

(i) The notices required by Subsections (c) and (d) must be provided to the sender by first class mail, unless the sender is the Title IV–D agency. Notices to the Title IV–D agency may be provided electronically or via first class mail.

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Sec. 154.188. Failure to Provide or Pay for Required Health Insurance. A parent ordered to provide health insurance or to pay the other parent additional child support for the cost of health insurance who fails to do so is liable for:

(1) necessary medical expenses of the child, without regard to whether the expenses would have been paid if health insurance had been provided; and

(2) the cost of health insurance premiums or contributions, if any, paid on behalf of the child.

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Sec. 154.189. Notice of Termination or Lapse of Insurance Coverage.

(a) An obligor ordered to provide health insurance coverage for a child must notify the obligee and any child support agency enforcing a support obligation against the obligor of the:

(1) termination or lapse of health insurance coverage for the child not later than the 15th day after the date of a termination or lapse; and

(2) availability of additional health insurance to the obligor for the child after a termination or lapse of coverage not later than the 15th day after the date the insurance becomes available.

(b) If termination of coverage results from a change of employers, the obligor, the obligee, or the child support agency may send the new employer a copy of the order requiring the employee to provide health insurance for a child or notice of the medical support order as provided by this subchapter.

[Contents]

Sec. 154.190. Reenrolling Child for Insurance Coverage. After health insurance has been terminated or has lapsed, an obligor ordered to provide health insurance coverage for the child must enroll the child in a health insurance plan at the next available enrollment period.

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Sec. 154.191. Remedy Not Exclusive.

(a) This subchapter does not limit the rights of the obligor, obligee, local domestic relations office, or Title IV–D agency to enforce, modify, or clarify the medical support order.

(b) This subchapter does not limit the authority of the court to render or modify a medical support order to provide for payment of uninsured health expenses, health care costs, or health insurance premiums in a manner consistent with this subchapter.

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Sec. 154.192. Cancellation or Elimination of Insurance Coverage for Child.

(a) Unless the employee or member ceases to be eligible for dependent coverage, or the employer has eliminated dependent health coverage for all of the employer's employees or members, the employer may not cancel or eliminate coverage of a child enrolled under this subchapter until the employer is provided satisfactory written evidence that:

(1) the court order or administrative order requiring the coverage is no longer in effect; or

(2) the child is enrolled in comparable health insurance coverage or will be enrolled in comparable coverage that will take effect not later than the effective date of the cancellation or elimination of the employer's coverage.

(b) [None]

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Sec. 154.193. Medical Support Order Not Qualified.

(a) If a plan administrator or other person acting in an equivalent position determines that a medical support order issued under this subchapter does not qualify for enforcement under federal law, the tribunal may, on its own motion or the motion of a party, render an order that qualifies for enforcement under federal law.

(b) The procedure for filing a motion for enforcement of a final order applies to a motion under this section. Service of citation is not required, and a person is not entitled to a jury in a proceeding under this section.

(c) The employer or plan administrator is not a necessary party to a proceeding under this section.

Subch. E. Local Child Support Registry

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Sec. 154.241. Local Registry.

(a) A local registry shall receive a court–ordered child support payment or a payment otherwise authorized by law and shall forward the payment, as appropriate, to the Title IV–D agency, local domestic relations office, or obligee within two working days after the date the local registry receives the payment.

(b) A local registry may not require an obligor, obligee, or other party or entity to furnish a certified copy of a court order as a condition of processing child support payments and shall accept as sufficient authority to process the payments a photocopy, facsimile copy, or conformed copy of the court's order.

(c) A local registry shall include with each payment it forwards to the Title IV–D agency the date it received the payment and the withholding date furnished by the employer.

(d) A local registry shall accept child support payments made by personal check, money order, or cashier's check. A local registry may refuse payment by personal check if a pattern of abuse regarding the use of personal checks has been established. Abuse includes checks drawn on insufficient funds, abusive or offensive language written on the check, intentional mutilation of the instrument, or other actions that delay or disrupt the registry's operation.

(e) Subject to Section 154.004, at the request of an obligee, a local registry shall redirect and forward a child support payment to an address and in care of a person or entity designated by the obligee. A local registry may require that the obligee's request be in writing or be made on a form provided by the local registry for that purpose, but may not charge a fee for receiving the request or redirecting the payments as requested.

(f) A local registry may accept child support payments made by credit card, debit card, or automatic teller machine card.

(g) Notwithstanding any other law, a private entity may perform the duties and functions of a local registry under this section either under a contract with a county commissioners court or domestic relations office executed under Section 204.002 or under an appointment by a court.

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Sec. 154.242. Payment or Transfer of Child Support Payments by Electronic Funds Transfer.

(a) A child support payment may be made by electronic funds transfer to:

(1) the Title IV–D agency;

(2) a local registry if the registry agrees to accept electronic payment; or

(3) the state disbursement unit.

(b) A local registry may transmit child support payments to the Title IV–D agency by electronic funds transfer. Unless support payments are required to be made to the state disbursement unit, an obligor may make payments, with the approval of the court entering the order, directly to the bank account of the obligee by electronic transfer and provide verification of the deposit to the local registry. A local registry in a county that makes deposits into personal bank accounts by electronic funds transfer as of April 1, 1995, may transmit a child support payment to an obligee by electronic funds transfer if the obligee maintains a bank account and provides the local registry with the necessary bank account information to complete electronic payment.

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Sec. 154.243. Production of Child Support Payment Record. The Title IV–D agency, a local registry, or the state disbursement unit may comply with a subpoena or other order directing the production of a child support payment record by sending a certified copy of the record or an affidavit regarding the payment record to the court that directed production of the record.

Subch. F. Support for A Minor or Adult Disabled Child

[Contents]

Sec. 154.301. Definitions. In this subchapter:

(1) "Adult child" means a child 18 years of age or older.

(2) "Child" means a son or daughter of any age.

[Contents]

Sec. 154.302. Court–Ordered Support for Disabled Child.

(a) The court may order either or both parents to provide for the support of a child for an indefinite period and may determine the rights and duties of the parents if the court finds that:

(1) the child, whether institutionalized or not, requires substantial care and personal supervision because of a mental or physical disability and will not be capable of self–support; and

(2) the disability exists, or the cause of the disability is known to exist, on or before the 18th birthday of the child.

(b) A court that orders support under this section shall designate a parent of the child or another person having physical custody or guardianship of the child under a court order to receive the support for the child. The court may designate a child who is 18 years of age or older to receive the support directly.

[Contents]

Sec. 154.303. Standing to Sue.

(a) A suit provided by this subchapter may be filed only by:

(1) a parent of the child or another person having physical custody or guardianship of the child under a court order; or

(2) the child if the child:

(A) is 18 years of age or older;

(B) does not have a mental disability; and

(C) is determined by the court to be capable of managing the child's financial affairs.

(b) The parent, the child, if the child is 18 years of age or older, or other person may not transfer or assign the cause of action to any person, including a governmental or private entity or agency, except for an assignment made to the Title IV–D agency under Section 231.104 or in the provision of child support enforcement services under Section 159.307.

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Sec. 154.304. General Procedure. Except as otherwise provided by this subchapter, the substantive and procedural rights and remedies in a suit affecting the parent–child relationship relating to the establishment, modification, or enforcement of a child support order apply to a suit filed and an order rendered under this subchapter.

[Contents]

Sec. 154.305. Specific Procedures.

(a) A suit under this subchapter may be filed:

(1) regardless of the age of the child; and

(2) as an independent cause of action or joined with any other claim or remedy provided by this code.

(b) If no court has continuing, exclusive jurisdiction of the child, an action under this subchapter may be filed as an original suit affecting the parent–child relationship.

(c) If there is a court of continuing, exclusive jurisdiction, an action under this subchapter may be filed as a suit for modification as provided by Chapter 156.

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Sec. 154.306. Amount of Support After Age 18. In determining the amount of support to be paid after a child's 18th birthday, the specific terms and conditions of that support, and the rights and duties of both parents with respect to the support of the child, the court shall determine and give special consideration to:

(1) any existing or future needs of the adult child directly related to the adult child's mental or physical disability and the substantial care and personal supervision directly required by or related to that disability;

(2) whether the parent pays for or will pay for the care or supervision of the adult child or provides or will provide substantial care or personal supervision of the adult child;

(3) the financial resources available to both parents for the support, care, and supervision of the adult child; and

(4) any other financial resources or other resources or programs available for the support, care, and supervision of the adult child.

[Contents]

Sec. 154.307. Modification and Enforcement. An order provided by this subchapter may contain provisions governing the rights and duties of both parents with respect to the support of the child and may be modified or enforced in the same manner as any other order provided by this title.

[Contents]

Sec. 154.308. Remedy Not Exclusive.

(a) This subchapter does not affect a parent's:

(1) cause of action for the support of a disabled child under any other law; or

(2) ability to contract for the support of a disabled child.

(b) This subchapter does not affect the substantive or procedural rights or remedies of a person other than a parent, including a governmental or private entity or agency, with respect to the support of a disabled child under any other law.

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Sec. 154.309. Possession of or Access to Adult Disabled Child.

(a) A court may render an order for the possession of or access to an adult disabled child that is appropriate under the circumstances.

(b) Possession of or access to an adult disabled child is enforceable in the manner provided by Chapter 157. An adult disabled child may refuse possession or access if the adult disabled child is mentally competent.

(c) A court that obtains continuing, exclusive jurisdiction of a suit affecting the parent–child relationship involving a disabled person who is a child retains continuing, exclusive jurisdiction of subsequent proceedings involving the person, including proceedings after the person is an adult. Notwithstanding this subsection and any other law, a probate court may exercise jurisdiction in a guardianship proceeding for the person after the person is an adult.

Ch. 155. Continuing, Exclusive Jurisdiction; Transfer

Subch. A. Continuing, Exclusive Jurisdiction

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Sec. 155.001. Acquiring Continuing, Exclusive Jurisdiction.

(a) Except as otherwise provided by this section, a court acquires continuing, exclusive jurisdiction over the matters provided for by this title in connection with a child on the rendition of a final order.

(b) The following final orders do not create continuing, exclusive jurisdiction in a court:

(1) a voluntary or involuntary dismissal of a suit affecting the parent–child relationship;

(2) in a suit to determine parentage, a final order finding that an alleged or presumed father is not the father of the child, except that the jurisdiction of the court is not affected if the child was subject to the jurisdiction of the court or some other court in a suit affecting the parent–child relationship before the commencement of the suit to adjudicate parentage; and

(3) a final order of adoption, after which a subsequent suit affecting the child must be commenced as though the child had not been the subject of a suit for adoption or any other suit affecting the parent–child relationship before the adoption.

(c) If a court of this state has acquired continuing, exclusive jurisdiction, no other court of this state has jurisdiction of a suit with regard to that child except as provided by this chapter, Section 103.001(b), or Chapter 262.

(d) Unless a final order has been rendered by a court of continuing, exclusive jurisdiction, a subsequent suit shall be commenced as an original proceeding.

[Contents]

Sec. 155.002. Retaining Continuing, Exclusive Jurisdiction. Except as otherwise provided by this subchapter, a court with continuing, exclusive jurisdiction retains jurisdiction of the parties and matters provided by this title.

[Contents]

Sec. 155.003. Exercise of Continuing, Exclusive Jurisdiction.

(a) Except as otherwise provided by this section, a court with continuing, exclusive jurisdiction may exercise its jurisdiction to modify its order regarding managing conservatorship, possessory conservatorship, possession of and access to the child, and support of the child.

(b) A court of this state may not exercise its continuing, exclusive jurisdiction to modify managing conservatorship if:

(1) the child's home state is other than this state; or

(2) modification is precluded by Chapter 152.

(c) A court of this state may not exercise its continuing, exclusive jurisdiction to modify possessory conservatorship or possession of or access to a child if:

(1) the child's home state is other than this state and all parties have established and continue to maintain their principal residence outside this state; or

(2) each individual party has filed written consent with the tribunal of this state for a tribunal of another state to modify the order and assume continuing, exclusive jurisdiction of the suit.

(d) A court of this state may not exercise its continuing, exclusive jurisdiction to modify its child support order if modification is precluded by Chapter 159.

[Contents]

Sec. 155.004. Loss of Continuing, Exclusive Jurisdiction.

(a) A court of this state loses its continuing, exclusive jurisdiction to modify its order if:

(1) an order of adoption is rendered after the court acquires continuing, exclusive jurisdiction of the suit;

(2) the parents of the child have remarried each other after the dissolution of a previous marriage between them and file a suit for the dissolution of their subsequent marriage combined with a suit affecting the parent–child relationship as if there had not been a prior court with continuing, exclusive jurisdiction over the child; or

(3) another court assumed jurisdiction over a suit and rendered a final order based on incorrect information received from the vital statistics unit that there was no court of continuing, exclusive jurisdiction.

(b) This section does not affect the power of the court to enforce its order for a violation that occurred before the time continuing, exclusive jurisdiction was lost under this section.

[Contents]

Sec. 155.005. Jurisdiction Pending Transfer.

(a) During the transfer of a suit from a court with continuing, exclusive jurisdiction, the transferring court retains jurisdiction to render temporary orders.

(b) The jurisdiction of the transferring court terminates on the docketing of the case in the transferee court.

Subch. B. Identification of Court of Continuing, Exclusive Jurisdiction

[Contents]

Sec. 155.101. Request for Identification of Court of Continuing, Exclusive Jurisdiction.

(a) The petitioner or the court shall request from the vital statistics unit identification of the court that last had continuing, exclusive jurisdiction of the child in a suit unless:

(1) the petition alleges that no court has continuing, exclusive jurisdiction of the child and the issue is not disputed by the pleadings; or

(2) the petition alleges that the court in which the suit or petition to modify has been filed has acquired and retains continuing, exclusive jurisdiction of the child as the result of a prior proceeding and the issue is not disputed by the pleadings.

(b) The vital statistics unit shall, on the written request of the court, an attorney, or a party:

(1) identify the court that last had continuing, exclusive jurisdiction of the child in a suit and give the docket number of the suit; or

(2) state that the child has not been the subject of a suit.

(c) The child shall be identified in the request by name, birthdate, and place of birth.

(d) The vital statistics unit shall transmit the information not later than the 10th day after the date on which the request is received.

[Contents]

Sec. 155.102. Dismissal. If a court in which a suit is filed determines that another court has continuing, exclusive jurisdiction of the child, the court in which the suit is filed shall dismiss the suit without prejudice.

[Contents]

Sec. 155.103. Reliance on Vital Statistics Unit Information.

(a) A court shall have jurisdiction over a suit if it has been, correctly or incorrectly, informed by the vital statistics unit that the child has not been the subject of a suit and the petition states that no other court has continuing, exclusive jurisdiction over the child.

(b) If the vital statistics unit notifies the court that the unit has furnished incorrect information regarding the existence of another court with continuing, exclusive jurisdiction before the rendition of a final order, the provisions of this chapter apply.

[Contents]

Sec. 155.104. Voidable Order.

(a) If a request for information from the vital statistics unit relating to the identity of the court having continuing, exclusive jurisdiction of the child has been made under this subchapter, a final order, except an order of dismissal, may not be rendered until the information is filed with the court.

(b) If a final order is rendered in the absence of the filing of the information from the vital statistics unit, the order is voidable on a showing that a court other than the court that rendered the order had continuing, exclusive jurisdiction.

Subch. C. Transfer of Continuing, Exclusive Jurisdiction

[Contents]

Sec. 155.201. Mandatory Transfer.

(a) On the filing of a motion showing that a suit for dissolution of the marriage of the child's parents has been filed in another court and requesting a transfer to that court, the court having continuing, exclusive jurisdiction of a suit affecting the parent–child relationship shall, within the time required by Section 155.204, transfer the proceedings to the court in which the dissolution of the marriage is pending. The motion must comply with the requirements of Section 155.204(a).

(b) If a suit to modify or a motion to enforce an order is filed in the court having continuing, exclusive jurisdiction of a suit, on the timely motion of a party the court shall, within the time required by Section 155.204, transfer the proceeding to another county in this state if the child has resided in the other county for six months or longer.

(c) If a suit to modify or a motion to enforce an order is pending at the time a subsequent suit to modify or motion to enforce is filed, the court may transfer the proceeding as provided by Subsection (b) only if the court could have transferred the proceeding at the time the first motion or suit was filed.

[Contents]

Sec. 155.202. Discretionary Transfer.

(a) If the basis of a motion to transfer a proceeding under this subchapter is that the child resides in another county, the court may deny the motion if it is shown that the child has resided in that county for less than six months at the time the proceeding is commenced.

(b) For the convenience of the parties and witnesses and in the interest of justice, the court, on the timely motion of a party, may transfer the proceeding to a proper court in another county in the state.

[Contents]

Sec. 155.203. Determining County of Child's Residence. In computing the time during which the child has resided in a county, the court may not require that the period of residence be continuous and uninterrupted but shall look to the child's principal residence during the six–month period preceding the commencement of the suit.

[Contents]

Sec. 155.204. Procedure for Transfer.

(a) A motion to transfer under Section 155.201(a) may be filed at any time. The motion must contain a certification that all other parties, including the attorney general, if applicable, have been informed of the filing of the motion.

(b) Except as provided by Subsection (a) or Section 262.203, a motion to transfer by a petitioner or movant is timely if it is made at the time the initial pleadings are filed. A motion to transfer by another party is timely if it is made on or before the first Monday after the 20th day after the date of service of citation or notice of the suit or before the commencement of the hearing, whichever is sooner.

(c) If a timely motion to transfer has been filed and no controverting affidavit is filed within the period allowed for its filing, the proceeding shall, not later than the 21st day after the final date of the period allowed for the filing of a controverting affidavit, be transferred without a hearing to the proper court.

(d) On or before the first Monday after the 20th day after the date of notice of a motion to transfer is served, a party desiring to contest the motion must file a controverting affidavit denying that grounds for the transfer exist.

(e) If a controverting affidavit contesting the motion to transfer is filed, each party is entitled to notice not less than 10 days before the date of the hearing on the motion to transfer.

(f) Only evidence pertaining to the transfer may be taken at the hearing.

(g) If the court finds after the hearing on the motion to transfer that grounds for the transfer exist, the proceeding shall be transferred to the proper court not later than the 21st day after the date the hearing is concluded.

(h) An order transferring or refusing to transfer the proceeding is not subject to interlocutory appeal.

(i) If a transfer order has been signed by a court exercising jurisdiction under Chapter 262, a party may file the transfer order with the clerk of the court of continuing, exclusive jurisdiction. On receipt and without a hearing, the clerk of the court of continuing, exclusive jurisdiction shall transfer the files as provided by this subchapter.

[Contents]

Sec. 155.205. Transfer of Child Support Registry.

(a) On rendition of an order transferring continuing, exclusive jurisdiction to another court, the transferring court shall also order that all future payments of child support be made to the local registry of the transferee court or, if payments have previously been directed to the state disbursement unit, to the state disbursement unit.

(b) The transferring court's local registry or the state disbursement unit shall continue to receive, record, and forward child support payments to the payee until it receives notice that the transferred case has been docketed by the transferee court.

(c) After receiving notice of docketing from the transferee court, the transferring court's local registry shall send a certified copy of the child support payment record to the clerk of the transferee court and shall forward any payments received to the transferee court's local registry or to the state disbursement unit, as appropriate.

[Contents]

Sec. 155.206. Effect of Transfer.

(a) A court to which a transfer is made becomes the court of continuing, exclusive jurisdiction and all proceedings in the suit are continued as if it were brought there originally.

(b) A judgment or order transferred has the same effect and shall be enforced as if originally rendered in the transferee court.

(c) The transferee court shall enforce a judgment or order of the transferring court by contempt or by any other means by which the transferring court could have enforced its judgment or order. The transferee court shall have the power to punish disobedience of the transferring court's order, whether occurring before or after the transfer, by contempt.

(d) After the transfer, the transferring court does not retain jurisdiction of the child who is the subject of the suit, nor does it have jurisdiction to enforce its order for a violation occurring before or after the transfer of jurisdiction.

[Contents]

Sec. 155.207. Transfer of Court Files.

(a) Not later than the 10th working day after the date an order of transfer is signed, the clerk of the court transferring a proceeding shall send to the proper court in the county to which transfer is being made:

(1) the pleadings in the pending proceeding and any other document specifically requested by a party;

(2) certified copies of all entries in the minutes;

(3) a certified copy of each final order; and

(4) a certified copy of the order of transfer signed by the transferring court.

(b) The clerk of the transferring court shall keep a copy of the transferred pleadings and other requested documents. If the transferring court retains jurisdiction of another child who was the subject of the suit, the clerk shall send a copy of the pleadings and other requested documents to the court to which the transfer is made and shall keep the original pleadings and other requested documents.

(c) On receipt of the pleadings, documents, and orders from the transferring court, the clerk of the transferee court shall docket the suit and shall notify the judge of the transferee court, all parties, the clerk of the transferring court, and, if appropriate, the transferring court's local registry that the suit has been docketed.

(d) The clerk of the transferring court shall send a certified copy of the order directing payments to the transferee court, to any party or employer affected by that order, and, if appropriate, to the local registry of the transferee court.

Subch. D. Transfer of Proceedings Within the State when Party or Child Resides Outside the State

[Contents]

Sec. 155.301. Authority to Transfer.

(a) A court of this state with continuing, exclusive jurisdiction over a child custody proceeding under Chapter 152 or a child support proceeding under Chapter 159 shall transfer the proceeding to the county of residence of the resident party if one party is a resident of this state and all other parties including the child or all of the children affected by the proceeding reside outside this state.

(b) If one or more of the parties affected by the proceedings reside outside the state and if more than one party or one or more children affected by the proceeding reside in this state in different counties, the court shall transfer the proceeding according to the following priorities:

(1) to the court of continuing, exclusive jurisdiction, if any;

(2) to the county of residence of the child, if applicable, provided that:

(A) Subdivision (1) is inapplicable; or

(B) the court of continuing, exclusive jurisdiction finds that neither a party nor a child affected by the proceeding resides in the county of the court of continuing, exclusive jurisdiction; or

(3) if Subdivisions (1) and (2) are inapplicable, to the county most appropriate to serve the convenience of the resident parties, the witnesses, and the interest of justice.

(c) Except as otherwise provided by this subsection, if a transfer of continuing, exclusive jurisdiction is sought under this section, the procedures for determining and effecting a transfer of proceedings provided by this chapter apply. If the parties submit to the court an agreed order for transfer, the court shall sign the order without the need for other pleadings.

Ch. 156. Modification

Subch. A. General Provisions

[Contents]

Sec. 156.001. Orders Subject to Modification. A court with continuing, exclusive jurisdiction may modify an order that provides for the conservatorship, support, or possession of and access to a child.

[Contents]

Sec. 156.002. Who Can File.

(a) A party affected by an order may file a suit for modification in the court with continuing, exclusive jurisdiction.

(b) A person or entity who, at the time of filing, has standing to sue under Chapter 102 may file a suit for modification in the court with continuing, exclusive jurisdiction.

(c) The sibling of a child who is separated from the child because of the actions of the Department of Family and Protective Services may file a suit for modification requesting access to the child in the court with continuing, exclusive jurisdiction.

[Contents]

Sec. 156.003. Notice. A party whose rights and duties may be affected by a suit for modification is entitled to receive notice by service of citation.

[Contents]

Sec. 156.004. Procedure. The Texas Rules of Civil Procedure applicable to the filing of an original lawsuit apply to a suit for modification under this chapter.

[Contents]

Sec. 156.005. Frivolous Filing of Suit for Modification. If the court finds that a suit for modification is filed frivolously or is designed to harass a party, the court shall tax attorney's fees as costs against the offending party.

[Contents]

Sec. 156.006. Temporary Orders.

(a) Except as provided by Subsection (b), the court may render a temporary order in a suit for modification.

(b) While a suit for modification is pending, the court may not render a temporary order that has the effect of changing the designation of the person who has the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of the child under the final order unless the temporary order is in the best interest of the child and:

(1) the order is necessary because the child's present circumstances would significantly impair the child's physical health or emotional development;

(2) the person designated in the final order has voluntarily relinquished the primary care and possession of the child for more than six months; or

(3) the child is 12 years of age or older and has expressed to the court in chambers as provided by Section 153.009 the name of the person who is the child's preference to have the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of the child.

(b–1) A person who files a motion for a temporary order authorized by Subsection (b)(1) shall execute and attach to the motion an affidavit on the person's personal knowledge or the person's belief based on representations made to the person by a person with personal knowledge that contains facts that support the allegation that the child's present circumstances would significantly impair the child's physical health or emotional development. The court shall deny the relief sought and decline to schedule a hearing on the motion unless the court determines, on the basis of the affidavit, that facts adequate to support the allegation are stated in the affidavit. If the court determines that the facts stated are adequate to support the allegation, the court shall set a time and place for the hearing.

(c) Subsection (b)(2) does not apply to a conservator who has the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of the child and who has temporarily relinquished the primary care and possession of the child to another person during the conservator's military deployment, military mobilization, or temporary military duty, as those terms are defined by Section 153.701.

Subch. B. Modification of Conservatorship, Possession and Access, or Determination of Residence

[Contents]

Sec. 156.101. Grounds for Modification of Order Establishing Conservatorship or Possession and Access.

(a) The court may modify an order that provides for the appointment of a conservator of a child, that provides the terms and conditions of conservatorship, or that provides for the possession of or access to a child if modification would be in the best interest of the child and:

(1) the circumstances of the child, a conservator, or other party affected by the order have materially and substantially changed since the earlier of:

(A) the date of the rendition of the order; or

(B) the date of the signing of a mediated or collaborative law settlement agreement on which the order is based;

(2) the child is at least 12 years of age and has expressed to the court in chambers as provided by Section 153.009 the name of the person who is the child's preference to have the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of the child; or

(3) the conservator who has the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of the child has voluntarily relinquished the primary care and possession of the child to another person for at least six months.

(b) Subsection (a)(3) does not apply to a conservator who has the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of the child and who has temporarily relinquished the primary care and possession of the child to another person during the conservator's military deployment, military mobilization, or temporary military duty, as those terms are defined by Section 153.701.

[Contents]

Sec. 156.102. Modification of Exclusive Right to Determine Primary Residence of Child Within One Year of Order.

(a) If a suit seeking to modify the designation of the person having the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of a child is filed not later than one year after the earlier of the date of the rendition of the order or the date of the signing of a mediated or collaborative law settlement agreement on which the order is based, the person filing the suit shall execute and attach an affidavit as provided by Subsection (b).

(b) The affidavit must contain, along with supporting facts, at least one of the following allegations:

(1) that the child's present environment may endanger the child's physical health or significantly impair the child's emotional development;

(2) that the person who has the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of the child is the person seeking or consenting to the modification and the modification is in the best interest of the child; or

(3) that the person who has the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of the child has voluntarily relinquished the primary care and possession of the child for at least six months and the modification is in the best interest of the child.

(c) The court shall deny the relief sought and refuse to schedule a hearing for modification under this section unless the court determines, on the basis of the affidavit, that facts adequate to support an allegation listed in Subsection (b) are stated in the affidavit. If the court determines that the facts stated are adequate to support an allegation, the court shall set a time and place for the hearing.

(d) Subsection (b)(3) does not apply to a person who has the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of the child and who has temporarily relinquished the primary care and possession of the child to another person during the conservator's military deployment, military mobilization, or temporary military duty, as those terms are defined by Section 153.701.

[Contents]

Sec. 156.103. Increased Expenses Because of Change of Residence.

(a) If a change of residence results in increased expenses for a party having possession of or access to a child, the court may render appropriate orders to allocate those increased expenses on a fair and equitable basis, taking into account the cause of the increased expenses and the best interest of the child.

(b) The payment of increased expenses by the party whose residence is changed is rebuttably presumed to be in the best interest of the child.

(c) The court may render an order without regard to whether another change in the terms and conditions for the possession of or access to the child is made.

[Contents]

Sec. 156.104. Modification of Order on Conviction for Child Abuse; Penalty.

(a) Except as provided by Section 156.1045, the conviction of a conservator for an offense under Section 21.02, Penal Code, or the conviction of a conservator or an order deferring adjudication with regard to the conservator, for an offense involving the abuse of a child under Section 21.11, 22.011, or 22.021, Penal Code, is a material and substantial change of circumstances sufficient to justify a temporary order and modification of an existing court order or portion of a decree that provides for the appointment of a conservator or that sets the terms and conditions of conservatorship or for the possession of or access to a child.

(b) A person commits an offense if the person files a suit to modify an order or portion of a decree based on the grounds permitted under Subsection (a) and the person knows that the person against whom the motion is filed has not been convicted of an offense, or received deferred adjudication for an offense, under Section 21.02, 21.11, 22.011, or 22.021, Penal Code. An offense under this subsection is a Class B misdemeanor.

[Contents]

Sec. 156.1045. Modification of Order on Conviction for Family Violence.

(a) The conviction or an order deferring adjudication of a person who is a possessory conservator or a sole or joint managing conservator for an offense involving family violence is a material and substantial change of circumstances sufficient to justify a temporary order and modification of an existing court order or portion of a decree that provides for the appointment of a conservator or that sets the terms and conditions of conservatorship or for the possession of or access to a child to conform the order to the requirements of Section 153.004(d).

(b) A person commits an offense if the person files a suit to modify an order or portion of a decree based on the grounds permitted under Subsection (a) and the person knows that the person against whom the motion is filed has not been convicted of an offense, or received deferred adjudication for an offense, involving family violence. An offense under this subsection is a Class B misdemeanor.

[Contents]

Sec. 156.105. Modification of Order Based on Military Duty. The military duty of a conservator who is ordered to military deployment, military mobilization, or temporary military duty, as those terms are defined by Section 153.701, does not by itself constitute a material and substantial change of circumstances sufficient to justify a modification of an existing court order or portion of a decree that sets the terms and conditions for the possession of or access to a child except that the court may render a temporary order under Subchapter L, Chapter 153.

Subch. C. [Repealed]

[Contents]

Subch. D. [Repealed]

[Contents]

Subch. E. Modification of Child Support

[Contents]

Sec. 156.401. Grounds for Modification of Child Support.

(a) Except as provided by Subsection (a–1), (a–2), or (b), the court may modify an order that provides for the support of a child, including an order for health care coverage under Section 154.182, if:

(1) the circumstances of the child or a person affected by the order have materially and substantially changed since the earlier of:

(A) the date of the order's rendition; or

(B) the date of the signing of a mediated or collaborative law settlement agreement on which the order is based; or

(2) it has been three years since the order was rendered or last modified and the monthly amount of the child support award under the order differs by either 20 percent or $100 from the amount that would be awarded in accordance with the child support guidelines.

(a–1) If the parties agree to an order under which the amount of child support differs from the amount that would be awarded in accordance with the child support guidelines, the court may modify the order only if the circumstances of the child or a person affected by the order have materially and substantially changed since the date of the order's rendition.

(a–2) A court or administrative order for child support in a Title IV–D case may be modified at any time, and without a showing of material and substantial change in the circumstances of the child or a person affected by the order, to provide for medical support of the child if the order does not provide health care coverage as required under Section 154.182.

(b) A support order may be modified with regard to the amount of support ordered only as to obligations accruing after the earlier of:

(1) the date of service of citation; or

(2) an appearance in the suit to modify.

(c) An order of joint conservatorship, in and of itself, does not constitute grounds for modifying a support order.

(d) Release of a child support obligor from incarceration is a material and substantial change in circumstances for purposes of this section if the obligor's child support obligation was abated, reduced, or suspended during the period of the obligor's incarceration.

[Contents]

Sec. 156.402. Effect of Guidelines.

(a) The court may consider the child support guidelines for single and multiple families under Chapter 154 to determine whether there has been a material or substantial change of circumstances under this chapter that warrants a modification of an existing child support order if the modification is in the best interest of the child.

(b) If the amount of support contained in the order does not substantially conform with the guidelines for single and multiple families under Chapter 154, the court may modify the order to substantially conform with the guidelines if the modification is in the best interest of the child. A court may consider other relevant evidence in addition to the factors listed in the guidelines.

[Contents]

Sec. 156.403. Voluntary Additional Support. A history of support voluntarily provided in excess of the court order does not constitute cause to increase the amount of an existing child support order.

[Contents]

Sec. 156.404. Net Resources of New Spouse.

(a) The court may not add any portion of the net resources of a new spouse to the net resources of an obligor or obligee in order to calculate the amount of child support to be ordered in a suit for modification.

(b) The court may not subtract the needs of a new spouse, or of a dependent of a new spouse, from the net resources of the obligor or obligee in a suit for modification.

[Contents]

Sec. 156.405. Change in Lifestyle. An increase in the needs, standard of living, or lifestyle of the obligee since the rendition of the existing order does not warrant an increase in the obligor's child support obligation.

[Contents]

Sec. 156.406. Use of Guidelines for Children in More than One Household. In applying the child support guidelines in a suit under this subchapter, if the obligor has the duty to support children in more than one household, the court shall apply the percentage guidelines for multiple families under Chapter 154.

[Contents]

Sec. 156.407. Assignment of Child Support Right. A notice of assignment filed under Chapter 231 does not constitute a modification of an order to pay child support.

[Contents]

Sec. 156.408. Modification of Support Order Rendered by Another State.

(a) Unless both parties and the child reside in this state, a court of this state may modify an order of child support rendered by an appropriate tribunal of another state only as provided by Chapter 159.

(b) If both parties and the child reside in this state, a court of this state may modify an order of child support rendered by an appropriate tribunal of another state after registration of the order as provided by Chapter 159.

[Contents]

Sec. 156.409. Change in Physical Possession.

(a) The court shall, on the motion of a party or a person having physical possession of the child, modify an order providing for the support of the child to provide that the person having physical possession of the child for at least six months shall have the right to receive and give receipt for payments of support for the child and to hold or disburse money for the benefit of the child if the sole managing conservator of the child or the joint managing conservator who has the exclusive right to determine the primary residence of the child has:

(1) voluntarily relinquished the primary care and possession of the child;

(2) been incarcerated or sentenced to be incarcerated for at least 90 days; or

(3) relinquished the primary care and possession of the child in a proceeding under Title 3 or Chapter 262.

(a–1) If the court modifies a support order under this section, the court shall order the obligor to pay the person or entity having physical possession of the child any unpaid child support that is not subject to offset or reimbursement under Section 157.008 and that accrues after the date the sole or joint managing conservator:

(1) relinquishes possession and control of the child, whether voluntarily or in a proceeding under Title 3 or Chapter 262; or

(2) is incarcerated.

(a–2) This section does not affect the ability of the court to render a temporary order for the payment of child support that is in the best interest of the child.

(a–3) An order under this section that modifies a support order because of the incarceration of the sole or joint managing conservator of a child must provide that on the conservator's release from incarceration the conservator may file an affidavit with the court stating that the conservator has been released from incarceration, that there has not been a modification of the conservatorship of the child during the incarceration, and that the conservator has resumed physical possession of the child. A copy of the affidavit shall be delivered to the obligor and any other party, including the Title IV–D agency if appropriate. On receipt of the affidavit, the court on its own motion shall order the obligor to make support payments to the conservator.

(b) Notice of a motion for modification under this section may be served in the manner for serving a notice under Section 157.065.

Ch. 157. Enforcement

Subch. A. Pleadings and Defenses

[Contents]

Sec. 157.001. Motion for Enforcement.

(a) A motion for enforcement as provided in this chapter may be filed to enforce any provision of a temporary or final order rendered in a suit.

(b) The court may enforce by contempt any provision of a temporary or final order.

(c) The court may enforce a temporary or final order for child support as provided in this chapter or Chapter 158.

(d) A motion for enforcement shall be filed in the court of continuing, exclusive jurisdiction.

(e) For purposes of this section, "temporary order" includes a temporary restraining order, standing order, injunction, and any other temporary order rendered by a court.

[Contents]

Sec. 157.002. Contents of Motion.

(a) A motion for enforcement must, in ordinary and concise language:

(1) identify the provision of the order allegedly violated and sought to be enforced;

(2) state the manner of the respondent's alleged noncompliance;

(3) state the relief requested by the movant; and

(4) contain the signature of the movant or the movant's attorney.

(b) A motion for enforcement of child support:

(1) must include the amount owed as provided in the order, the amount paid, and the amount of arrearages;

(2) if contempt is requested, must include the portion of the order allegedly violated and, for each date of alleged contempt, the amount due and the amount paid, if any;

(3) may include as an attachment a copy of a record of child support payments maintained by the Title IV–D registry or a local registry; and

(4) if the obligor owes arrearages for a child receiving assistance under Part A of Title IV of the federal Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. Section 601 et seq.), may include a request that:

(A) the obligor pay the arrearages in accordance with a plan approved by the court; or

(B) if the obligor is already subject to a plan and is not incapacitated, the obligor participate in work activities, as defined under 42 U.S.C. Section 607(d), that the court determines appropriate.

(c) A motion for enforcement of the terms and conditions of conservatorship or possession of or access to a child must include the date, place, and, if applicable, the time of each occasion of the respondent's failure to comply with the order.

(d) The movant is not required to plead that the underlying order is enforceable by contempt to obtain other appropriate enforcement remedies.

(e) The movant may allege repeated past violations of the order and that future violations of a similar nature may occur before the date of the hearing.

[Contents]

Sec. 157.003. Joinder of Claims and Remedies; No Election of Remedies.

(a) A party requesting enforcement may join in the same proceeding any claim and remedy provided for in this chapter, other provisions of this title, or other rules of law.

(b) A motion for enforcement does not constitute an election of remedies that limits or precludes:

(1) the use of any other civil or criminal proceeding to enforce a final order; or

(2) a suit for damages under Chapter 42.

[Contents]

Sec. 157.004. Time Limitations; Enforcement of Possession. The court retains jurisdiction to render a contempt order for failure to comply with the order of possession and access if the motion for enforcement is filed not later than the sixth month after the date:

(1) the child becomes an adult; or

(2) on which the right of possession and access terminates under the order or by operation of law.

[Contents]

Sec. 157.005. Time Limitations; Enforcement of Child Support.

(a) The court retains jurisdiction to render a contempt order for failure to comply with the child support order if the motion for enforcement is filed not later than the second anniversary of the date:

(1) the child becomes an adult; or

(2) on which the child support obligation terminates under the order or by operation of law.

(b) The court retains jurisdiction to confirm the total amount of child support arrearages and render a cumulative money judgment for past–due child support, as provided by Section 157.263, if a motion for enforcement requesting a cumulative money judgment is filed not later than the 10th anniversary after the date:

(1) the child becomes an adult; or

(2) on which the child support obligation terminates under the child support order or by operation of law.

[Contents]

Sec. 157.006. Affirmative Defense to Motion for Enforcement.

(a) The issue of the existence of an affirmative defense to a motion for enforcement does not arise unless evidence is admitted supporting the defense.

(b) The respondent must prove the affirmative defense by a preponderance of the evidence.

[Contents]

Sec. 157.007. Affirmative Defense to Motion for Enforcement of Possession or Access.

(a) The respondent may plead as an affirmative defense to contempt for failure to comply with an order for possession or access to a child that the movant voluntarily relinquished actual possession and control of the child.

(b) The voluntary relinquishment must have been for the time encompassed by the court–ordered periods during which the respondent is alleged to have interfered.

[Contents]

Sec. 157.008. Affirmative Defense to Motion for Enforcement of Child Support.

(a) An obligor may plead as an affirmative defense in whole or in part to a motion for enforcement of child support that the obligee voluntarily relinquished to the obligor actual possession and control of a child.

(b) The voluntary relinquishment must have been for a time period in excess of any court–ordered periods of possession of and access to the child and actual support must have been supplied by the obligor.

(c) An obligor may plead as an affirmative defense to an allegation of contempt or of the violation of a condition of community service requiring payment of child support that the obligor:

(1) lacked the ability to provide support in the amount ordered;

(2) lacked property that could be sold, mortgaged, or otherwise pledged to raise the funds needed;

(3) attempted unsuccessfully to borrow the funds needed; and

(4) knew of no source from which the money could have been borrowed or legally obtained.

(d) An obligor who has provided actual support to the child during a time subject to an affirmative defense under this section may request reimbursement for that support as a counterclaim or offset against the claim of the obligee.

(e) An action against the obligee for support supplied to a child is limited to the amount of periodic payments previously ordered by the court.

[Contents]

Sec. 157.009. Credit for Payment of Disability Benefits. In addition to any other credit or offset available to an obligor under this title, if a child for whom the obligor owes child support receives a lump–sum payment as a result of the obligor's disability and that payment is made to the obligee as the representative payee of the child, the obligor is entitled to a credit. The credit under this section is equal to the amount of the lump–sum payment and shall be applied to any child support arrearage and interest owed by the obligor on behalf of that child at the time the payment is made.

Subch. B. Procedure

[Contents]

Sec. 157.061. Setting Hearing.

(a) On filing a motion for enforcement requesting contempt, the court shall set the date, time, and place of the hearing and order the respondent to personally appear and respond to the motion.

(b) If the motion for enforcement does not request contempt, the court shall set the motion for hearing on the request of a party.

(c) The court shall give preference to a motion for enforcement of child support in setting a hearing date and may not delay the hearing because a suit for modification of the order requested to be enforced has been or may be filed.

[Contents]

Sec. 157.062. Notice of Hearing.

(a) The notice of hearing must include the date, time, and place of the hearing.

(b) The notice of hearing need not repeat the allegations contained in the motion for enforcement.

(c) Notice of hearing on a motion for enforcement of a final order providing for child support or possession of or access to a child, any provision of a final order rendered against a party who has already appeared in a suit under this title, or any provision of a temporary order shall be given to the respondent by personal service of a copy of the motion and notice not later than the 10th day before the date of the hearing. For purposes of this subsection, "temporary order" includes a temporary restraining order, standing order, injunction, and any other temporary order rendered by a court.

(d) If a motion for enforcement of a final order, other than a final order rendered against a party who has already appeared in a suit under this title, is joined with another claim:

(1) the hearing may not be held before 10 a.m. on the first Monday after the 20th day after the date of service; and

(2) the provisions of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure applicable to the filing of an original lawsuit apply.

[Contents]

Sec. 157.063. Appearance. A party makes a general appearance for all purposes in an enforcement proceeding if:

(1) the party appears at the hearing or is present when the case is called; and

(2) the party does not object to the court's jurisdiction or the form or manner of the notice of hearing.

[Contents]

Sec. 157.064. Special Exception.

(a) If a respondent specially excepts to the motion for enforcement or moves to strike, the court shall rule on the exception or the motion to strike before it hears the motion for enforcement.

(b) If an exception is sustained, the court shall give the movant an opportunity to replead and continue the hearing to a designated date and time without the requirement of additional service.

[Contents]

Sec. 157.065. Notice of Hearing, First Class Mail.

(a) If a party has been ordered under Chapter 105 to provide the court and the state case registry with the party's current mailing address, notice of a hearing on a motion for enforcement of a final order or on a request for a court order implementing a postjudgment remedy for the collection of child support may be served by mailing a copy of the notice to the respondent, together with a copy of the motion or request, by first class mail to the last mailing address of the respondent on file with the court and the registry.

(b) The notice may be sent by the clerk of the court, the attorney for the movant or party requesting a court order, or any person entitled to the address information as provided in Chapter 105.

(c) A person who sends the notice shall file of record a certificate of service showing the date of mailing and the name of the person who sent the notice.

[Contents]

Sec. 157.066. Failure to Appear. If a respondent who has been personally served with notice to appear at a hearing does not appear at the designated time, place, and date to respond to a motion for enforcement of an existing court order, regardless of whether the motion is joined with other claims or remedies, the court may not hold the respondent in contempt but may, on proper proof, grant a default judgment for the relief sought and issue a capias for the arrest of the respondent.

Subch. C. Failure to Appear; Bond or Security

[Contents]

Sec. 157.101. Bond or Security for Release of Respondent.

(a) When the court orders the issuance of a capias as provided in this chapter, the court shall also set an appearance bond or security, payable to the obligee or to a person designated by the court, in a reasonable amount.

(b) An appearance bond or security in the amount of $1,000 or a cash bond in the amount of $250 is presumed to be reasonable. Evidence that the respondent has attempted to evade service of process, has previously been found guilty of contempt, or has accrued arrearages over $1,000 is sufficient to rebut the presumption. If the presumption is rebutted, the court shall set a reasonable bond.

[Contents]

Sec. 157.102. Capias or Warrant; Duty of Law Enforcement Officials. Law enforcement officials shall treat a capias or arrest warrant ordered under this chapter in the same manner as an arrest warrant for a criminal offense and shall enter the capias or warrant in the computer records for outstanding warrants maintained by the local police, sheriff, and Department of Public Safety. The capias or warrant shall be forwarded to and disseminated by the Texas Crime Information Center and the National Crime Information Center.

[Contents]

Sec. 157.103. Capias Fees.

(a) The fee for issuing a capias as provided in this chapter is the same as the fee for issuance of a writ of attachment.

(b) The fee for serving a capias is the same as the fee for service of a writ in civil cases generally.

[Contents]

Sec. 157.104. Conditional Release. If the respondent is taken into custody and released on bond, the court shall condition the bond on the respondent's promise to appear in court for a hearing as required by the court without the necessity of further personal service of notice on the respondent.

[Contents]

Sec. 157.105. Release Hearing.

(a) If the respondent is taken into custody and not released on bond, the respondent shall be brought before the court that issued the capias on or before the third working day after the arrest. The court shall determine whether the respondent's appearance in court at a designated time and place can be assured by a method other than by posting the bond or security previously established.

(b) If the respondent is released without posting bond or security, the court shall set a hearing on the alleged contempt at a designated date, time, and place and give the respondent notice of hearing in open court. No other notice to the respondent is required.

(c) If the court is not satisfied that the respondent's appearance in court can be assured and the respondent remains in custody, a hearing on the alleged contempt shall be held as soon as practicable, but not later than the seventh day after the date that the respondent was taken into custody, unless the respondent and the respondent's attorney waive the accelerated hearing.

[Contents]

Sec. 157.106. Cash Bond as Support.

(a) If the respondent has posted a cash bond and is found to be in arrears in the payment of court–ordered child support, the court shall order that the proceeds of the cash bond be paid to the child support obligee or to a person designated by the court, not to exceed the amount of child support arrearages determined to exist.

(b) This section applies without regard to whether the respondent appears at the hearing.

[Contents]

Sec. 157.107. Appearance Bond or Security Other than Cash Bond as Support.

(a) If the respondent fails to appear at the hearing as directed, the court shall order that the appearance bond or security be forfeited and that the proceeds of any judgment on the bond or security, not to exceed the amount of child support arrearages determined to exist, be paid to the obligee or to a person designated by the court.

(b) The obligee may file suit on the bond.

[Contents]

Sec. 157.108. Cash Bond as Property of Respondent. A court shall treat a cash bond posted for the benefit of the respondent as the property of the respondent. A person who posts the cash bond does not have recourse in relation to an order regarding the bond other than against the respondent.

[Contents]

Sec. 157.109. Security for Compliance with Order.

(a) The court may order the respondent to execute a bond or post security if the court finds that the respondent:

(1) has on two or more occasions denied possession of or access to a child who is the subject of the order; or

(2) is employed by an employer not subject to the jurisdiction of the court or for whom income withholding is unworkable or inappropriate.

(b) The court shall set the amount of the bond or security and condition the bond or security on compliance with the court order permitting possession or access or the payment of past–due or future child support.

(c) The court shall order the bond or security payable through the registry of the court:

(1) to the obligee or other person or entity entitled to receive child support payments designated by the court if enforcement of child support is requested; or

(2) to the person who is entitled to possession or access if enforcement of possession or access is requested.

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Sec. 157.110. Forfeiture of Security for Failure to Comply with Order.

(a) On the motion of a person or entity for whose benefit a bond has been executed or security deposited, the court may forfeit all or part of the bond or security deposit on a finding that the person who furnished the bond or security:

(1) has violated the court order for possession of and access to a child; or

(2) failed to make child support payments.

(b) The court shall order the registry to pay the funds from a forfeited bond or security deposit to the obligee or person or entity entitled to receive child support payments in an amount that does not exceed the child support arrearages or, in the case of possession of or access to a child, to the person entitled to possession or access.

(c) The court may order that all or part of the forfeited amount be applied to pay attorney's fees and costs incurred by the person or entity bringing the motion for contempt or motion for forfeiture.

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Sec. 157.111. Forfeiture Not Defense to Contempt. The forfeiture of bond or security is not a defense in a contempt proceeding.

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Sec. 157.112. Joinder of Forfeiture and Contempt Proceedings. A motion for enforcement requesting contempt may be joined with a forfeiture proceeding.

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Sec. 157.113. Application of Bond Pending Writ. If the obligor requests to execute a bond or to post security pending a hearing by an appellate court on a writ, the bond or security on forfeiture shall be payable to the obligee.

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Sec. 157.114. Failure to Appear. The court may order a capias to be issued for the arrest of the respondent if:

(1) the motion for enforcement requests contempt;

(2) the respondent was personally served; and

(3) the respondent fails to appear.

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Sec. 157.115. Deafult Judgment.

(a) The court may render a default order for the relief requested if the respondent:

(1) has been personally served, has filed an answer, or has entered an appearance; and

(2) does not appear at the designated time, place, and date to respond to the motion.

(b) If the respondent fails to appear, the court may not hold the respondent in contempt but may order a capias to be issued.

Subch. D. Hearing and Enforcement Order

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Sec. 157.161. Record.

(a) Except as provided by Subsection (b), a record of the hearing in a motion for enforcement shall be made by a court reporter or as provided by Chapter 201.

(b) A record is not required if:

(1) the parties agree to an order; or

(2) the motion does not request incarceration and the parties waive the requirement of a record at the time of hearing, either in writing or in open court, and the court approves waiver.

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Sec. 157.162. Proof.

(a) The movant is not required to prove that the underlying order is enforceable by contempt to obtain other appropriate enforcement remedies.

(b) A finding that the respondent is not in contempt does not preclude the court from awarding the petitioner court costs and reasonable attorney's fees or ordering any other enforcement remedy, including rendering a money judgment, posting a bond or other security, or withholding income.

(c) The movant may attach to the motion a copy of a payment record. The movant may subsequently update that payment record at the hearing. If a payment record was attached to the motion as authorized by this subsection, the payment record, as updated if applicable, is admissible to prove:

(1) the dates and in what amounts payments were made;

(2) the amount of any accrued interest;

(3) the cumulative arrearage over time; and

(4) the cumulative arrearage as of the final date of the record.

(c–1) A respondent may offer evidence controverting the contents of a payment record under Subsection (c).

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Sec. 157.163. Appointment of Attorney.

(a) In a motion for enforcement or motion to revoke community service, the court must first determine whether incarceration of the respondent is a possible result of the proceedings.

(b) If the court determines that incarceration is a possible result of the proceedings, the court shall inform a respondent not represented by an attorney of the right to be represented by an attorney and, if the respondent is indigent, of the right to the appointment of an attorney.

(c) If the court determines that the respondent will not be incarcerated as a result of the proceedings, the court may require a respondent who is indigent to proceed without an attorney.

(d) If the respondent claims indigency and requests the appointment of an attorney, the court shall require the respondent to file an affidavit of indigency. The court may hear evidence to determine the issue of indigency.

(e) Except as provided by Subsection (c), the court shall appoint an attorney to represent the respondent if the court determines that the respondent is indigent.

(f) If the respondent is not in custody, an appointed attorney is entitled to not less than 10 days from the date of the attorney's appointment to respond to the movant's pleadings and prepare for the hearing.

(g) If the respondent is in custody, an appointed attorney is entitled to not less than five days from the date the respondent was taken into custody to respond to the movant's pleadings and prepare for the hearing.

(h) The court may shorten or extend the time for preparation if the respondent and the respondent's attorney sign a waiver of the time limit.

(i) The scope of the court appointment of an attorney to represent the respondent is limited to the allegation of contempt or of violation of community supervision contained in the motion for enforcement or motion to revoke community supervision.

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Sec. 157.164. Payment of Appointed Attorney.

(a) An attorney appointed to represent an indigent respondent is entitled to a reasonable fee for services within the scope of the appointment in the amount set by the court.

(b) The fee shall be paid from the general funds of the county according to the schedule for the compensation of counsel appointed to defend criminal defendants as provided in the Code of Criminal Procedure.

(c) For purposes of this section, a proceeding in a court of appeals or the Supreme Court of Texas is considered the equivalent of a bona fide appeal to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

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Sec. 157.165. Probation of Contempt Order. The court may place the respondent on community supervision and suspend commitment if the court finds that the respondent is in contempt of court for failure or refusal to obey an order rendered as provided in this title.

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Sec. 157.166. Contents of Enforcement Order.

(a) An enforcement order must include:

(1) in ordinary and concise language the provisions of the order for which enforcement was requested;

(2) the acts or omissions that are the subject of the order;

(3) the manner of the respondent's noncompliance; and

(4) the relief granted by the court.

(b) If the order imposes incarceration or a fine for criminal contempt, an enforcement order must contain findings identifying, setting out, or incorporating by reference the provisions of the order for which enforcement was requested and the date of each occasion when the respondent's failure to comply with the order was found to constitute criminal contempt.

(c) If the enforcement order imposes incarceration for civil contempt, the order must state the specific conditions on which the respondent may be released from confinement.

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Sec. 157.167. Respondent to Pay Attorney's Fees and Costs.

(a) If the court finds that the respondent has failed to make child support payments, the court shall order the respondent to pay the movant's reasonable attorney's fees and all court costs in addition to the arrearages. Fees and costs ordered under this subsection may be enforced by any means available for the enforcement of child support, including contempt.

(b) If the court finds that the respondent has failed to comply with the terms of an order providing for the possession of or access to a child, the court shall order the respondent to pay the movant's reasonable attorney's fees and all court costs in addition to any other remedy. If the court finds that the enforcement of the order with which the respondent failed to comply was necessary to ensure the child's physical or emotional health or welfare, the fees and costs ordered under this subsection may be enforced by any means available for the enforcement of child support, including contempt, but not including income withholding.

(c) Except as provided by Subsection (d), for good cause shown, the court may waive the requirement that the respondent pay attorney's fees and costs if the court states the reasons supporting that finding.

(d) If the court finds that the respondent is in contempt of court for failure or refusal to pay child support and that the respondent owes $20,000 or more in child support arrearages, the court may not waive the requirement that the respondent pay attorney's fees and costs unless the court also finds that the respondent:

(1) is involuntarily unemployed or is disabled; and

(2) lacks the financial resources to pay the attorney's fees and costs.

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Sec. 157.168. Additional Periods of Possession or Access.

(a) A court may order additional periods of possession of or access to a child to compensate for the denial of court–ordered possession or access. The additional periods of possession or access:

(1) must be of the same type and duration of the possession or access that was denied;

(2) may include weekend, holiday, and summer possession or access; and

(3) must occur on or before the second anniversary of the date the court finds that court–ordered possession or access has been denied.

(b) The person denied possession or access is entitled to decide the time of the additional possession or access, subject to the provisions of Subsection (a)(1).

Subch. E. Community Supervision

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Sec. 157.211. Conditions of Community Supervision. If the court places the respondent on community supervision and suspends commitment, the terms and conditions of community supervision may include the requirement that the respondent:

(1) report to the community supervision officer as directed;

(2) permit the community supervision officer to visit the respondent at the respondent's home or elsewhere;

(3) obtain counseling on financial planning, budget management, conflict resolution, parenting skills, alcohol or drug abuse, or other matters causing the respondent to fail to obey the order;

(4) pay required child support and any child support arrearages;

(5) pay court costs and attorney's fees ordered by the court;

(6) seek employment assistance services offered by the Texas Workforce Commission under Section 302.0035, Labor Code, if appropriate; and

(7) participate in mediation or other services to alleviate conditions that prevent the respondent from obeying the court's order.

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Sec. 157.212. Term of Community Supervision. The initial period of community supervision may not exceed 10 years. The court may continue the community supervision beyond 10 years until the earlier of:

(1) the second anniversary of the date on which the community supervision first exceeded 10 years; or

(2) the date on which all child support, including arrearages and interest, has been paid.

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Sec. 157.213. Community Supervision Fees.

(a) The court may require the respondent to pay a fee to the court in an amount equal to that required of a criminal defendant subject to community supervision.

(b) The court may make payment of the fee a condition of granting or continuing community supervision.

(c) The court shall deposit the fees received under this subchapter as follows:

(1) if the community supervision officer is employed by a community supervision and corrections department, in the special fund of the county treasury provided by the Code of Criminal Procedure to be used for community supervision; or

(2) if the community supervision officer is employed by a domestic relations office, in one of the following funds, as determined by the office's administering entity:

(A) the general fund for the county in which the domestic relations office is located; or

(B) the office fund established by the administering entity for the domestic relations office.

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Sec. 157.214. Motion to Revoke Community Supervision. A prosecuting attorney, the Title IV–D agency, a domestic relations office, or a party affected by the order may file a verified motion alleging specifically that certain conduct of the respondent constitutes a violation of the terms and conditions of community supervision.

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Sec. 157.215. Arrest for Alleged Violation of Community Supervision.

(a) If the motion to revoke community supervision alleges a prima facie case that the respondent has violated a term or condition of community supervision, the court may order the respondent's arrest by warrant.

(b) The respondent shall be brought promptly before the court ordering the arrest.

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Sec. 157.216. Hearing on Motion to Revoke Community Supervision.

(a) The court shall hold a hearing without a jury not later than the third working day after the date the respondent is arrested under Section 157.215. If the court is unavailable for a hearing on that date, the hearing shall be held not later than the third working day after the date the court becomes available.

(b) The hearing under this section may not be held later than the seventh working day after the date the respondent is arrested.

(c) After the hearing, the court may continue, modify, or revoke the community supervision.

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Sec. 157.217. Discharge from Community Supervision.

(a) When a community supervision period has been satisfactorily completed, the court on its own motion shall discharge the respondent from community supervision.

(b) The court may discharge the respondent from community supervision on the motion of the respondent if the court finds that the respondent:

(1) has satisfactorily completed one year of community supervision; and

(2) has fully complied with the community supervision order.

Subch. F. Judgment and Interest

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Sec. 157.261. Unpaid Child Support as Judgment.

(a) A child support payment not timely made constitutes a final judgment for the amount due and owing, including interest as provided in this chapter.

(b) For the purposes of this subchapter, interest begins to accrue on the date the judge signs the order for the judgment unless the order contains a statement that the order is rendered on another specific date.

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Sec. 157.263. Confirmation of Arrearages.

(a) If a motion for enforcement of child support requests a money judgment for arrearages, the court shall confirm the amount of arrearages and render one cumulative money judgment.

(b) A cumulative money judgment includes:

(1) unpaid child support not previously confirmed;

(2) the balance owed on previously confirmed arrearages or lump sum or retroactive support judgments;

(3) interest on the arrearages; and

(4) a statement that it is a cumulative judgment.

(b–1) In rendering a money judgment under this section, the court may not reduce or modify the amount of child support arrearages but, in confirming the amount of arrearages, may allow a counterclaim or offset as provided by this title.

(c) If the amount of arrearages confirmed by the court reflects a credit to the obligor for support arrearages collected from a federal tax refund under 42 U.S.C. Section 664, and, subsequently, the amount of that credit is reduced because the refund was adjusted because of an injured spouse claim by a jointly filing spouse, the tax return was amended, the return was audited by the Internal Revenue Service, or for another reason permitted by law, the court shall render a new cumulative judgment to include as arrearages an amount equal to the amount by which the credit was reduced.

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Sec. 157.264. Enforcement of Judgment.

(a) A money judgment rendered as provided in this subchapter or a judgment for retroactive child support rendered under Chapter 154 may be enforced by any means available for the enforcement of a judgment for debts or the collection of child support.

(b) The court shall render an order requiring that the obligor make periodic payments on the judgment, including by income withholding under Chapter 158 if the obligor is subject to income withholding.

(c) An order rendered under Subsection (b) does not preclude or limit the use of any other means for enforcement of the judgment.

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Sec. 157.265. Accrual of Interest on Child Support.

(a) Interest accrues on the portion of delinquent child support that is greater than the amount of the monthly periodic support obligation at the rate of six percent simple interest per year from the date the support is delinquent until the date the support is paid or the arrearages are confirmed and reduced to money judgment.

(b) Interest accrues on child support arrearages that have been confirmed and reduced to money judgment as provided in this subchapter at the rate of six percent simple interest per year from the date the order is rendered until the date the judgment is paid.

(c) Interest accrues on a money judgment for retroactive or lump–sum child support at the annual rate of six percent simple interest from the date the order is rendered until the judgment is paid.

(d) Subsection (a) applies to a child support payment that becomes due on or after January 1, 2002.

(e) Child support arrearages in existence on January 1, 2002, that were not confirmed and reduced to a money judgment on or before that date accrue interest as follows:

(1) before January 1, 2002, the arrearages are subject to the interest rate that applied to the arrearages before that date; and

(2) on and after January 1, 2002, the cumulative total of arrearages and interest accumulated on those arrearages described by Subdivision (1) is subject to Subsection (a).

(f) Subsections (b) and (c) apply to a money judgment for child support rendered on or after January 1, 2002. A money judgment for child support rendered before that date is governed by the law in effect on the date the judgment was rendered, and the former law is continued in effect for that purpose.

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Sec. 157.266. Date of Delinquency.

(a) A child support payment is delinquent for the purpose of accrual of interest if the payment is not received before the 31st day after the payment date stated in the order by:

(1) the local registry, Title IV–D registry, or state disbursement unit; or

(2) the obligee or entity specified in the order, if payments are not made through a registry.

(b) If a payment date is not stated in the order, a child support payment is delinquent if payment is not received by the registry or the obligee or entity specified in the order on the date that an amount equal to the support payable for one month becomes past due.

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Sec. 157.268. Application of Child Support Payment. Child support collected shall be applied in the following order of priority:

(1) current child support;

(2) non–delinquent child support owed;

(3) the principal amount of child support that has not been confirmed and reduced to money judgment;

(4) the principal amount of child support that has been confirmed and reduced to money judgment;

(5) interest on the principal amounts specified in Subdivisions (3) and (4); and

(6) the amount of any ordered attorney's fees or costs, or Title IV–D service fees authorized under Section 231.103 for which the obligor is responsible.

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Sec. 157.269. Retention of Jurisdiction. A court that renders an order providing for the payment of child support retains continuing jurisdiction to enforce the order, including by adjusting the amount of the periodic payments to be made by the obligor or the amount to be withheld from the obligor's disposable earnings, until all current support and medical support and child support arrearages, including interest and any applicable fees and costs, have been paid.

Subch. G. Child Support Lien

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Sec. 157.311. Definitions. In this subchapter:

(1) "Account" means:

(A) any type of a demand deposit account, checking or negotiable withdrawal order account, savings account, time deposit account, mutual fund account, certificate of deposit, or any other instrument of deposit in which an individual has a beneficial ownership either in its entirety or on a shared or multiple party basis, including any accrued interest and dividends; and

(B) an insurance policy, including a life insurance policy or annuity contract, in which an individual has a beneficial ownership or against which an individual may file a claim or counterclaim.

(2) "Claimant" means:

(A) the obligee or a private attorney representing the obligee;

(B) the Title IV–D agency providing child support services;

(C) a domestic relations office or local registry; or

(D) an attorney appointed as a friend of the court.

(3) "Court having continuing jurisdiction" is the court of continuing, exclusive jurisdiction in this state or a tribunal of another state having jurisdiction under the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act or a substantially similar act.

(4) "Financial institution" has the meaning assigned by 42 U.S.C. Section 669a(d)(1) and includes a depository institution, depository institution holding company as defined by 12 U.S.C. Section 1813(w), credit union, benefit association, insurance company, mutual fund, and any similar entity authorized to do business in this state.

(5) "Lien" means a child support lien issued in this or another state.

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Sec. 157.312. General Provisions.

(a) A claimant may enforce child support by a lien as provided in this subchapter.

(b) The remedies provided by this subchapter do not affect the availability of other remedies provided by law.

(c) The lien is in addition to any other lien provided by law.

(d) A child support lien arises by operation of law against real and personal property of an obligor for all amounts of child support due and owing, including any accrued interest, regardless of whether the amounts have been adjudicated or otherwise determined, subject to the requirements of this subchapter for perfection of the lien.

(e) A child support lien arising in another state may be enforced in the same manner and to the same extent as a lien arising in this state.

(f) A foreclosure action under this subchapter is not required as a prerequisite to levy and execution on a judicial or administrative determination of arrearages as provided by Section 157.327.

(g) A child support lien under this subchapter may not be directed to an employer to attach to the disposable earnings of an obligor paid by the employer.

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Sec. 157.313. Contents of Child Support Lien Notice.

(a) Except as provided by Subsection (e), a child support lien notice must contain:

(1) the name and address of the person to whom the notice is being sent;

(2) the style, docket or cause number, and identity of the tribunal of this or another state having continuing jurisdiction of the child support action and, if the case is a Title IV–D case, the case number;

(3) the full name, address, and, if known, the birth date, driver's license number, social security number, and any aliases of the obligor;

(4) the full name and, if known, social security number of the obligee;

(5) the amount of the current or prospective child support obligation, the frequency with which current or prospective child support is ordered to be paid, and the amount of child support arrearages owed by the obligor and the date of the signing of the court order, administrative order, or writ that determined the arrearages or the date and manner in which the arrearages were determined;

(6) the rate of interest specified in the court order, administrative order, or writ or, in the absence of a specified interest rate, the rate provided for by law;

(7) the name and address of the person or agency asserting the lien;

(8) the motor vehicle identification number as shown on the obligor's title if the property is a motor vehicle;

(9) a statement that the lien attaches to all nonexempt real and personal property of the obligor that is located or recorded in the state, including any property specifically identified in the notice and any property acquired after the date of filing or delivery of the notice;

(10) a statement that any ordered child support not timely paid in the future constitutes a final judgment for the amount due and owing, including interest, and accrues up to an amount that may not exceed the lien amount; and

(11) a statement that the obligor is being provided a copy of the lien notice and that the obligor may dispute the arrearage amount by filing suit under Section 157.323.

(b) A claimant may include any other information that the claimant considers necessary.

(c) Except as provided by Subsection (e), the lien notice must be verified.

(d) A claimant must file a notice for each after–acquired motor vehicle.

(e) A notice of a lien for child support under this section may be in the form authorized by federal law or regulation. The federal form of lien notice does not require verification when used by the Title IV–D agency.

(f) The requirement under Subsections (a)(3) and (4) to provide a social security number, if known, does not apply to a lien notice for a lien on real property.

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Sec. 157.314. Filing Lien Notice or Abstract of Judgment; Notice to Obligor.

(a) A child support lien notice or an abstract of judgment for past due child support may be filed by the claimant with the county clerk of:

(1) any county in which the obligor is believed to own nonexempt real or personal property;

(2) the county in which the obligor resides; or

(3) the county in which the court having continuing jurisdiction has venue of the suit affecting the parent–child relationship.

(b) A child support lien notice may be filed with or delivered to the following, as appropriate:

(1) the clerk of the court in which a claim, counterclaim, or suit by, or on behalf of, the obligor, including a claim or potential right to proceeds from an estate as an heir, beneficiary, or creditor, is pending, provided that a copy of the lien is mailed to the attorney of record for the obligor, if any;

(2) an attorney who represents the obligor in a claim or counterclaim that has not been filed with a court;

(3) any other individual or organization believed to be in possession of real or personal property of the obligor; or

(4) any governmental unit or agency that issues or records certificates, titles, or other indicia of property ownership.

(c) Not later than the 21st day after the date of filing or delivering the child support lien notice, the claimant shall provide a copy of the notice to the obligor by first class or certified mail, return receipt requested, addressed to the obligor at the obligor's last known address. If another person is known to have an ownership interest in the property subject to the lien, the claimant shall provide a copy of the lien notice to that person at the time notice is provided to the obligor.

(d) If a child support lien notice is delivered to a financial institution with respect to an account of the obligor, the institution shall immediately:

(1) provide the claimant with the last known address of the obligor; and

(2) notify any other person having an ownership interest in the account that the account has been frozen in an amount not to exceed the amount of the child support arrearage identified in the notice.

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Sec. 157.3145. Service on Financial Institution.

(a) Service of a child support lien notice on a financial institution relating to property held by the institution in the name of, or in behalf of, an obligor is governed by Section 59.008, Finance Code, if the institution is subject to that law, or may be delivered to the registered agent, the institution's main business office in this state, or another address provided by the institution under Section 231.307.

(b) A financial institution doing business in this state shall comply with the notice of lien and levy under this section regardless of whether the institution's corporate headquarters is located in this state.

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Sec. 157.315. Recording and Indexing Lien.

(a) On receipt of a child support lien notice, the county clerk shall immediately record the notice in the county judgment records as provided in Chapter 52, Property Code.

(b) The county clerk may not charge the Title IV–D agency, a domestic relations office, a friend of the court, or any other party a fee for recording the notice of a lien. To qualify for this exemption, the lien notice must be styled "Notice of Child Support Lien" or be in the form authorized by federal law or regulation.

(c) The county clerk may not charge the Title IV–D agency, a domestic relations office, or a friend of the court a fee for recording the release of a child support lien. The lien release must be styled "Release of Child Support Lien."

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Sec. 157.316. Perfection of Child Support Lien.

(a) Except as provided by Subsection (b), a child support lien is perfected when an abstract of judgment for past due child support or a child support lien notice is filed or delivered as provided by Section 157.314.

(b) If a lien established under this subchapter attaches to a motor vehicle, the lien must be perfected in the manner provided by Chapter 501, Transportation Code, and the court or Title IV–D agency that rendered the order of child support shall include in the order a requirement that the obligor surrender to the court or Title IV–D agency evidence of the legal ownership of the motor vehicle against which the lien may attach. A lien against a motor vehicle under this subchapter is not perfected until the obligor's title to the vehicle has been surrendered to the court or Title IV–D agency and the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles has issued a subsequent title that discloses on its face the fact that the vehicle is subject to a child support lien under this subchapter.

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Sec. 157.317. Property to Which Lien Attaches.

(a) A child support lien attaches to all real and personal property not exempt under the Texas Constitution or other law, including:

(1) an account in a financial institution;

(2) a retirement plan, including an individual retirement account;

(3) the proceeds of an insurance policy, including the proceeds from a life insurance policy or annuity contract and the proceeds from the sale or assignment of life insurance or annuity benefits, a claim for compensation, or a settlement or award for the claim for compensation, due to or owned by the obligor; and

(4) property seized and subject to forfeiture under Chapter 59, Code of Criminal Procedure.

(a–1) A lien attaches to all property owned or acquired on or after the date the lien notice or abstract of judgment is filed with the county clerk of the county in which the property is located, with the court clerk as to property or claims in litigation, or, as to property of the obligor in the possession or control of a third party, from the date the lien notice is delivered to that party.

(b) A lien attaches to all nonhomestead real property of the obligor but does not attach to a homestead exempt under the Texas Constitution or the Property Code.

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Sec. 157.3171. Release of Lien on Homestead Property.

(a) An obligor who believes that a child support lien has attached to real property of the obligor that is the obligor's homestead, as defined by Section 41.002, Property Code, may file an affidavit to release the lien against the homestead in the same manner that a judgment debtor may file an affidavit under Section 52.0012, Property Code, to release a judgment lien against a homestead.

(b) Except as provided by Subsection (c), the obligor must comply with all requirements imposed by Section 52.0012, Property Code. For purposes of complying with that section, the obligor is considered to be a judgment debtor under that section and the claimant under the child support lien is considered to be a judgment creditor under that section.

(c) For purposes of Section 52.0012(d)(2), Property Code, and the associated text in the affidavit required by Section 52.0012(f), Property Code, the obligor is required only to send the letter and affidavit described in those provisions to the claimant under the child support lien at the claimant's last known address.

(d) The claimant under the child support lien may dispute the obligor's affidavit by filing a contradicting affidavit in the manner provided by Section 52.0012(e), Property Code.

(e) Subject to Subsection (f), an affidavit filed by an obligor under this section has the same effect with respect to a child support lien as an affidavit filed under Section 52.0012, Property Code, has with respect to a judgment lien.

(f) If the claimant files a contradicting affidavit as described by Subsection (d), the issue of whether the real property is subject to the lien must be resolved in an action brought for that purpose in the district court of the county in which the real property is located and the lien was filed.

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Sec. 157.318. Duration and Effect of Child Support Lien.

(a) Subject to Subsection (d), a lien is effective until all current support and child support arrearages, including interest, any costs and reasonable attorney's fees, and any Title IV–D service fees authorized under Section 231.103 for which the obligor is responsible, have been paid or the lien is otherwise released as provided by this subchapter.

(b) The lien secures payment of all child support arrearages owed by the obligor under the underlying child support order, including arrearages that accrue after the lien notice was filed or delivered as provided by Section 157.314.

(c) The filing of a lien notice or abstract of judgment with the county clerk is a record of the notice and has the same effect as any other lien notice with respect to real property records.

(d) A lien is effective with respect to real property until the 10th anniversary of the date on which the lien notice was filed with the county clerk. A lien subject to the limitation prescribed by this subsection may be renewed for subsequent 10–year periods by filing a renewed lien notice in the same manner as the original lien notice. For purposes of establishing priority, a renewed lien notice filed before the applicable 10th anniversary relates back to the date the original lien notice was filed. A renewed lien notice filed on or after the applicable 10th anniversary has priority over any other lien recorded with respect to the real property only on the basis of the date the renewed lien notice is filed.

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Sec. 157.319. Effect of Lien Notice.

(a) If a person having actual notice of the lien possesses nonexempt personal property of the obligor that may be subject to the lien, the property may not be paid over, released, sold, transferred, encumbered, or conveyed unless:

(1) a release of lien signed by the claimant is delivered to the person in possession; or

(2) a court, after notice to the claimant and hearing, has ordered the release of the lien because arrearages do not exist.

(b) A person having notice of a child support lien who violates this section may be joined as a party to a foreclosure action under this chapter and is subject to the penalties provided by this subchapter.

(c) This section does not affect the validity or priority of a lien of a health care provider, a lien for attorney's fees, or a lien of a holder of a security interest. This section does not affect the assignment of rights or subrogation of a claim under Title XIX of the federal Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. Section 1396 et seq.), as amended.

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Sec. 157.320. Priority of Lien as to Real Property.

(a) A lien created under this subchapter does not have priority over a lien or conveyance of an interest in the nonexempt real property recorded before the child support lien notice is recorded in the county where the real property is located.

(b) A lien created under this subchapter has priority over any lien or conveyance of an interest in the nonexempt real property recorded after the child support lien notice is recorded in the county clerk's office in the county where the property of the obligor is located.

(c) A conveyance of real property by the obligor after a lien notice has been recorded in the county where the real property is located is subject to the lien and may not impair the enforceability of the lien against the real property.

(d) A lien created under this subchapter is subordinate to a vendor's lien retained in a conveyance to the obligor.

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Sec. 157.321. Discretionary Release of Lien. A child support lien claimant may at any time release a lien on all or part of the property of the obligor or return seized property, without liability, if assurance of payment is considered adequate by the claimant or if the release or return will facilitate the collection of the arrearages. The release or return may not operate to prevent future action to collect from the same or other property owned by the obligor.

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Sec. 157.322. Mandatory Release of Lien.

(a) On payment in full of the amount of child support due, together with any costs and reasonable attorney's fees, the child support lien claimant shall execute and deliver to the obligor or the obligor's attorney a release of the child support lien.

(b) The release of the child support lien is effective when:

(1) filed with the county clerk with whom the lien notice or abstract of judgment was filed; or

(2) delivered to any other individual or organization that may have been served with a lien notice under this subchapter.

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Sec. 157.323. Forclosure or Suit to Determine Arrearages.

(a) In addition to any other remedy provided by law, an action to foreclose a child support lien, to dispute the amount of arrearages stated in the lien, or to resolve issues of ownership interest with respect to property subject to a child support lien may be brought in:

(1) the court in which the lien notice was filed under Section 157.314(b)(1);

(2) the district court of the county in which the property is or was located and the lien was filed; or

(3) the court of continuing jurisdiction.

(b) The procedures provided by Subchapter B apply to a foreclosure action under this section, except that a person or organization in possession of the property of the obligor or known to have an ownership interest in property that is subject to the lien may be joined as an additional respondent.

(c) If arrearages are owed by the obligor, the court shall:

(1) render judgment against the obligor for the amount due, plus costs and reasonable attorney's fees;

(2) order any official authorized to levy execution to satisfy the lien, costs, and attorney's fees by selling any property on which a lien is established under this subchapter; or

(3) order an individual or organization in possession of nonexempt personal property or cash owned by the obligor to dispose of the property as the court may direct.

(d) For execution and sale under this section, publication of notice is necessary only for three consecutive weeks in a newspaper published in the county where the property is located or, if there is no newspaper in that county, in the most convenient newspaper in circulation in the county.

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Sec. 157.324. Liability for Failure to Comply with Order or Lien. A person who knowingly disposes of property subject to a child support lien or who, after a foreclosure hearing, fails to surrender on demand nonexempt personal property as directed by a court under this subchapter is liable to the claimant in an amount equal to the value of the property disposed of or not surrendered, not to exceed the amount of the child support arrearages for which the lien or foreclosure judgment was issued.

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Sec. 157.325. Release of Excess Funds to Debtor or Obligor.

(a) If a person has in the person's possession earnings, deposits, accounts, balances, or other funds or assets of the obligor, including the proceeds of a judgment or other settlement of a claim or counterclaim due to the obligor that are in excess of the amount of arrearages specified in the child support lien, the holder of the nonexempt personal property or the obligor may request that the claimant release any excess amount from the lien. The claimant shall grant the request and discharge any lien on the excess amount unless the security for the arrearages would be impaired.

(b) If the claimant refuses the request, the holder of the personal property or the obligor may file suit under this subchapter for an order determining the amount of arrearages and discharging excess personal property or money from the lien.

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Sec. 157.326. Interest of Obligor's Spouse or Another Person Having Ownership Interest.

(a) A spouse of an obligor or another person having an ownership interest in property that is subject to a child support lien may file suit under Section 157.323 to determine the extent, if any, of the spouse's or other person's interest in real or personal property that is subject to:

(1) a lien perfected under this subchapter; or

(2) an action to foreclose under this subchapter.

(b) After notice to the obligor, the obligor's spouse, any other person alleging an ownership interest, the claimant, and the obligee, the court shall conduct a hearing and determine the extent, if any, of the ownership interest in the property held by the obligor's spouse or other person. If the court finds that:

(1) the property is the separate property of the obligor's spouse or the other person, the court shall order that the lien against the property be released and that any action to foreclose on the property be dismissed;

(2) the property is jointly owned by the obligor and the obligor's spouse, the court shall determine whether the sale of the obligor's interest in the property would result in an unreasonable hardship on the obligor's spouse or family and:

(A) if so, the court shall render an order that the obligor's interest in the property not be sold and that the lien against the property should be released; or

(B) if not, the court shall render an order partitioning the property and directing that the property be sold and the proceeds applied to the child support arrearages; or

(3) the property is owned in part by another person, other than the obligor's spouse, the court shall render an order partitioning the property and directing that the obligor's share of the property be applied to the child support arrearages.

(c) In a proceeding under this section, the spouse or other person claiming an ownership interest in the property has the burden to prove the extent of that ownership interest.

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Sec. 157.327. Execution and Levy on Financial Assets of Obligor.

(a) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, if a judgment or administrative determination of arrearages has been rendered, a claimant may deliver a notice of levy to any financial institution possessing or controlling assets or funds owned by, or owed to, an obligor and subject to a child support lien, including a lien for child support arising in another state.

(b) The notice under this section must:

(1) identify the amount of child support arrearages owing at the time the amount of arrearages was determined or, if the amount is less, the amount of arrearages owing at the time the notice is prepared and delivered to the financial institution; and

(2) direct the financial institution to pay to the claimant, not earlier than the 15th day or later than the 21st day after the date of delivery of the notice, an amount from the assets of the obligor or from funds due to the obligor that are held or controlled by the institution, not to exceed the amount of the child support arrearages identified in the notice, unless:

(A) the institution is notified by the claimant that the obligor has paid the arrearages or made arrangements satisfactory to the claimant for the payment of the arrearages;

(B) the obligor or another person files a suit under Section 157.323 requesting a hearing by the court; or

(C) if the claimant is the Title IV–D agency, the obligor has requested an agency review under Section 157.328.

(c) A financial institution that receives a notice of levy under this section may not close an account in which the obligor has an ownership interest, permit a withdrawal from any account the obligor owns, in whole or in part, or pay funds to the obligor so that any amount remaining in the account is less than the amount of the arrearages identified in the notice, plus any fees due to the institution and any costs of the levy identified by the claimant.

(d) A financial institution that receives a notice of levy under this section shall notify any other person having an ownership interest in an account in which the obligor has an ownership interest that the account has been levied on in an amount not to exceed the amount of the child support arrearages identified in the notice of levy.

(e) The notice of levy may be delivered to a financial institution as provided by Section 59.008, Finance Code, if the institution is subject to that law or may be delivered to the registered agent, the institution's main business office in this state, or another address provided by the institution under Section 231.307.

(f) A financial institution may deduct the fees and costs identified in Subsection (c) from the obligor's assets before paying the appropriate amount to the claimant.

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Sec. 157.3271. Levy on Financial Institution Account of Deceased Obligor.

(a) Subject to Subsection (b), the Title IV–D agency may, not earlier than the 90th day after the date of death of an obligor in a Title IV–D case, deliver a notice of levy to a financial institution in which the obligor was the sole owner of an account, regardless of whether the Title IV–D agency has issued a child support lien notice regarding the account.

(b) The Title IV–D agency may not deliver a notice of levy under this section if probate proceedings relating to the obligor's estate have commenced.

(c) The notice of levy must:

(1) identify the amount of child support arrearages determined by the Title IV–D agency to be owing and unpaid by the obligor on the date of the obligor's death; and

(2) direct the financial institution to pay to the Title IV–D agency, not earlier than the 45th day or later than the 60th day after the date of delivery of the notice, an amount from the assets of the obligor or from funds due to the obligor that are held or controlled by the institution, not to exceed the amount of the child support arrearages identified in the notice.

(d) Not later than the 35th day after the date of delivery of the notice, the financial institution must notify any other person asserting a claim against the account that:

(1) the account has been levied on for child support arrearages in the amount shown on the notice of levy; and

(2) the person may contest the levy by filing suit and requesting a court hearing in the same manner that a person may challenge a child support lien under Section 157.323.

(e) A person who contests a levy under this section, as authorized by Subsection (d)(2), may bring the suit in:

(1) the district court of the county in which the property is located or in which the obligor resided; or

(2) the court of continuing jurisdiction.

(f) The notice of levy may be delivered to a financial institution as provided by Section 59.008, Finance Code, if the institution is subject to that law or may be delivered to the registered agent, the institution's main business office in this state, or another address provided by the institution under Section 231.307.

(g) A financial institution may deduct its fees and costs, including any costs for complying with this section, from the deceased obligor's assets before paying the appropriate amount to the Title IV–D agency.

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Sec. 157.328. Notice of Levy Sent to Obligor.

(a) At the time the notice of levy under Section 157.327 is delivered to a financial institution, the claimant shall serve the obligor with a copy of the notice.

(b) The notice of levy delivered to the obligor must inform the obligor that:

(1) the claimant will not proceed with levy if, not later than the 10th day after the date of receipt of the notice, the obligor pays in full the amount of arrearages identified in the notice or otherwise makes arrangements acceptable to the claimant for the payment of the arrearage amounts; and

(2) the obligor may contest the levy by filing suit under Section 157.323 not later than the 10th day after the date of receipt of the notice.

(c) If the claimant is the Title IV–D agency, the obligor receiving a notice of levy may request review by the agency not later than the 10th day after the date of receipt of the notice to resolve any issue in dispute regarding the existence or amount of the arrearages. The agency shall provide an opportunity for a review, by telephone conference or in person, as appropriate to the circumstances, not later than the fifth business day after the date an oral or written request from the obligor for the review is received. If the review fails to resolve any issue in dispute, the obligor may file suit under Section 157.323 for a hearing by the court not later than the fifth day after the date of the conclusion of the agency review. If the obligor fails to timely file suit, the Title IV–D agency may request the financial institution to release and remit the funds subject to levy.

(d) The notice under this section may be delivered to the last known address of the obligor by first class mail, certified mail, or registered mail.

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Sec. 157.329. No Liability for Compliance with Notice of Levy. A financial institution that possesses or has a right to an obligor's assets for which a notice of levy has been delivered and that surrenders the assets or right to assets to a child support lien claimant is not liable to the obligor or any other person for the property or rights surrendered.

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Sec. 157.330. Failure to Comply with Notice of Levy.

(a) A person who possesses or has a right to property that is the subject of a notice of levy delivered to the person and who refuses to surrender the property or right to property to the claimant on demand is liable to the claimant in an amount equal to the value of the property or right to property not surrendered but that does not exceed the amount of the child support arrearages for which the notice of levy has been filed.

(b) A claimant may recover costs and reasonable attorney's fees incurred in an action under this section.

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Sec. 157.331. Additional Levy to Satisfy Arrearages. If the property or right to property on which a notice of levy has been filed does not produce money sufficient to satisfy the amount of child support arrearages identified in the notice of levy, the claimant may proceed to levy on other property of the obligor until the total amount of child support due is paid.

Subch. H. Habeas Corpus

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Sec. 157.371. Jurisdiction.

(a) The relator may file a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in either the court of continuing, exclusive jurisdiction or in a court with jurisdiction to issue a writ of habeas corpus in the county in which the child is found.

(b) Although a habeas corpus proceeding is not a suit affecting the parent–child relationship, the court may refer to the provisions of this title for definitions and procedures as appropriate.

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Sec. 157.372. Return of Child.

(a) Subject to Chapter 152 and the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act (28 U.S.C. Section 1738A), if the right to possession of a child is governed by a court order, the court in a habeas corpus proceeding involving the right to possession of the child shall compel return of the child to the relator only if the court finds that the relator is entitled to possession under the order.

(b) If the court finds that the previous order was granted by a court that did not give the contestants reasonable notice of the proceeding and an opportunity to be heard, the court may not render an order in the habeas corpus proceeding compelling return of the child on the basis of that order.

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Sec. 157.373. Relator Relinquished Possession; Temporary Orders.

(a) If the relator has by consent or acquiescence relinquished actual possession and control of the child for not less than 6 months preceding the date of the filing of the petition for the writ, the court may either compel or refuse to order return of the child.

(b) The court may disregard brief periods of possession and control by the relator during the 6–month period.

(c) In a suit in which the court does not compel return of the child, the court may issue temporary orders under Chapter 105 if a suit affecting the parent–child relationship is pending and the parties have received notice of a hearing on temporary orders set for the same time as the habeas corpus proceeding.

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Sec. 157.374. Welfare of Child. Notwithstanding any other provision of this subchapter, the court may render an appropriate temporary order if there is a serious immediate question concerning the welfare of the child.

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Sec. 157.375. Immunity to Civil Process.

(a) While in this state for the sole purpose of compelling the return of a child through a habeas corpus proceeding, the relator is not amenable to civil process and is not subject to the jurisdiction of any civil court except the court in which the writ is pending. The relator is subject to process and jurisdiction in that court only for the purpose of prosecuting the writ.

(b) A request by the relator for costs, attorney's fees, and necessary travel and other expenses under Chapter 106 or 152 is not a waiver of immunity to civil process.

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Sec. 157.376. No Existing Order.

(a) If the right to possession of a child is not governed by an order, the court in a habeas corpus proceeding involving the right of possession of the child:

(1) shall compel return of the child to the parent if the right of possession is between a parent and a nonparent and a suit affecting the parent–child relationship has not been filed; or

(2) may either compel return of the child or issue temporary orders under Chapter 105 if a suit affecting the parent–child relationship is pending and the parties have received notice of a hearing on temporary orders set for the same time as the habeas corpus proceeding.

(b) The court may not use a habeas corpus proceeding to adjudicate the right of possession of a child between two parents or between two or more nonparents.

Subch. I. Clarification of Orders

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Sec. 157.421. Clarifying Nonspecific Order.

(a) A court may clarify an order rendered by the court in a proceeding under this title if the court finds, on the motion of a party or on the court's own motion, that the order is not specific enough to be enforced by contempt.

(b) The court shall clarify the order by rendering an order that is specific enough to be enforced by contempt.

(c) A clarified order does not affect the finality of the order that it clarifies.

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Sec. 157.422. Procedure.

(a) The procedure for filing a motion for enforcement of a final order applies to a motion for clarification.

(b) A person is not entitled to a jury in a proceeding under this subchapter.

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Sec. 157.423. Substantive Change Not Enforceable.

(a) A court may not change the substantive provisions of an order to be clarified under this subchapter.

(b) A substantive change made by a clarification order is not enforceable.

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Sec. 157.424. Relation to Motion for Contempt. The court may render a clarification order before a motion for contempt is made or heard, in conjunction with a motion for contempt, or after the denial of a motion for contempt.

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Sec. 157.425. Order Not Retroactive. The court may not provide that a clarification order is retroactive for the purpose of enforcement by contempt.

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Sec. 157.426. Time Allowed to Comply.

(a) In a clarification order, the court shall provide a reasonable time for compliance.

(b) The clarification order may be enforced by contempt after the time for compliance has expired.

Ch. 158. Withholding From Earnings for Child Support

Subch. A. Income Withholding Required; General Provisions

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Sec. 158.001. Income Withholding; General Rule. In a proceeding in which periodic payments of child support are ordered, modified, or enforced, the court or the Title IV–D agency shall order that income be withheld from the disposable earnings of the obligor as provided by this chapter.

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Sec. 158.002. Suspension of Income Withholding. Except in a Title IV–D case, the court may provide, for good cause shown or on agreement of the parties, that the order withholding income need not be issued or delivered to an employer until:

(1) the obligor has been in arrears for an amount due for more than 30 days;

(2) the amount of the arrearages is an amount equal to or greater than the amount due for a one–month period; or

(3) any other violation of the child support order has occurred.

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Sec. 158.003. Withholding for Arrearages in Addition to Current Support.

(a) In addition to income withheld for the current support of a child, income shall be withheld from the disposable earnings of the obligor to be applied toward the liquidation of any child support arrearages, including accrued interest as provided in Chapter 157.

(b) The additional amount to be withheld for arrearages shall be an amount sufficient to discharge those arrearages in not more than two years or an additional 20 percent added to the amount of the current monthly support order, whichever amount will result in the arrearages being discharged in the least amount of time.

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Sec. 158.004. Withholding for Arrearages when No Current Support is Due. If current support is no longer owed, the court or the Title IV–D agency shall order that income be withheld for arrearages, including accrued interest as provided in Chapter 157, in an amount sufficient to discharge those arrearages in not more than two years.

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Sec. 158.005. Withholding to Satisfy Judgment for Arrearages. In rendering a cumulative judgment for arrearages, the court shall order that a reasonable amount of income be withheld from the disposable earnings of the obligor to be applied toward the satisfaction of the judgment.

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Sec. 158.0051. Order for Withholding for Costs and Fees.

(a) In addition to an order for income to be withheld for child support, including child support and child support arrearages, the court may render an order that income be withheld from the disposable earnings of the obligor to be applied towards the satisfaction of any ordered attorney's fees and costs resulting from an action to enforce child support under this title.

(b) An order rendered under this section is subordinate to an order or writ of withholding for child support under this chapter and is subject to the maximum amount allowed to be withheld under Section 158.009.

(c) The court shall order that amounts withheld for fees and costs under this section be remitted directly to the person entitled to the ordered attorney's fees or costs or be paid through a local registry for disbursement to that person.

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Sec. 158.006. Income Withholding in Title IV–D Suits. In a Title IV–D case, the court or the Title IV–D agency shall order that income be withheld from the disposable earnings of the obligor and may not suspend, stay, or delay issuance of the order or of a judicial or administrative writ of withholding.

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Sec. 158.007. Extension of Repayment Schedule by Court or Title IV–D Agency; Unreasonable Hardship. If the court or the Title IV–D agency finds that the schedule for discharging arrearages would cause the obligor, the obligor's family, or children for whom support is due from the obligor to suffer unreasonable hardship, the court or agency may extend the payment period for a reasonable length of time.

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Sec. 158.008. Priority of Withholding. An order or writ of withholding has priority over any garnishment, attachment, execution, or other assignment or order affecting disposable earnings.

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Sec. 158.009. Maximum Amount Withheld From Earnings. An order or writ of withholding shall direct that any employer of the obligor withhold from the obligor's disposable earnings the amount specified up to a maximum amount of 50 percent of the obligor's disposable earnings.

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Sec. 158.010. Order or Writ Binding on Employer Doing Business in State. An order or writ of withholding issued under this chapter and delivered to an employer doing business in this state is binding on the employer without regard to whether the obligor resides or works outside this state.

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Sec. 158.011. Voluntary Withholding by Obligor.

(a) An obligor may file with the clerk of the court a notarized or acknowledged request signed by the obligor and the obligee for the issuance and delivery to the obligor's employer of a writ of withholding. A notarized or acknowledged request may be filed under this section regardless of whether a writ or order has been served on any party or of the existence or amount of an arrearage.

(b) On receipt of a request under this section, the clerk shall issue and deliver a writ of withholding in the manner provided by this chapter.

(c) An employer that receives a writ of withholding issued under this section may request a hearing in the same manner and according to the same terms provided by Section 158.205.

(d) An obligor whose employer receives a writ of withholding issued under this section may request a hearing in the manner provided by Section 158.309.

(e) An obligee may contest a writ of withholding issued under this section by requesting, not later than the 180th day after the date on which the obligee discovers that the writ has been issued, a hearing in the manner provided by Section 158.309.

(f) A writ of withholding under this section may not reduce the total amount of child support, including arrearages, owed by the obligor.

Subch. B. Procedure

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Sec. 158.101. Applicability of Procedure. Except as otherwise provided in this chapter, the procedure for a motion for enforcement of child support as provided in Chapter 157 applies to an action for income withholding.

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Sec. 158.102. Time Limitations. An order or writ for income withholding under this chapter may be issued until all current support and child support arrearages, interest, and any applicable fees and costs, including ordered attorney's fees and court costs, have been paid.

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Sec. 158.103. Contents of Order or Writ of Withholding. An order of withholding or writ of withholding issued under this chapter must contain the information required by the forms prescribed by the Title IV–D agency under Section 158.106.

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Sec. 158.104. Request for Issuance of Order or Judicial Writ of Withholding. A request for issuance of an order or judicial writ of withholding may be filed with the clerk of the court by the prosecuting attorney, the Title IV–D agency, the friend of the court, a domestic relations office, the obligor, the obligee, or an attorney representing the obligee or obligor.

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Sec. 158.105. Issuance and Delivery of Order or Judicial Writ of Withholding.

(a) On filing a request for issuance of an order or judicial writ of withholding, the clerk of the court shall cause a certified copy of the order or writ to be delivered to the obligor's current employer or to any subsequent employer of the obligor.

(b) The clerk shall issue and deliver the certified copy of the order or judicial writ not later than the fourth working day after the date the order is signed or the request is filed, whichever is later.

(c) An order or judicial writ of withholding shall be delivered to the employer by first class mail or, if requested, by certified or registered mail, return receipt requested, by electronic transmission, including electronic mail or facsimile transmission, or by service of citation to:

(1) the person authorized to receive service of process for the employer in civil cases generally; or

(2) a person designated by the employer, by written notice to the clerk, to receive orders or writs of withholding.

(d) The clerk may deliver an order or judicial writ of withholding under Subsection (c) by electronic mail if the employer has an electronic mail address or by facsimile transmission if the employer is capable of receiving documents transmitted in that manner. If delivery is accomplished by electronic mail, the clerk must request acknowledgment of receipt from the employer or use an electronic mail system with a read receipt capability. If delivery is accomplished by facsimile transmission, the clerk's facsimile machine must create a delivery confirmation report.

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Sec. 158.106. Required Forms for Income Withholding.

(a) The Title IV–D agency shall prescribe forms as required by federal law in a standard format entitled order or notice to withhold income for child support under this chapter.

(b) The Title IV–D agency shall make the required forms available to obligors, obligees, domestic relations offices, friends of the court, clerks of the court, and private attorneys.

(c) The Title IV–D agency may prescribe additional forms for the efficient collection of child support from earnings and to promote the administration of justice for all parties.

(d) The forms prescribed by the Title IV–D agency under this section shall be used:

(1) for an order or judicial writ of income withholding under this chapter; and

(2) to request voluntary withholding under Section 158.011.

Subch. C. Rights and Duties of Employer

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Sec. 158.201. Order or Writ Binding on Employer.

(a) An employer required to withhold income from earnings is not entitled to notice of the proceedings before the order is rendered or writ of withholding is issued.

(b) An order or writ of withholding is binding on an employer regardless of whether the employer is specifically named in the order or writ.

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Sec. 158.202. Effective Date of and Duration of Withholding. An employer shall begin to withhold income in accordance with an order or writ of withholding not later than the first pay period following the date on which the order or writ was delivered to the employer and shall continue to withhold income as required by the order or writ as long as the obligor is employed by the employer.

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Sec. 158.203. Remitting Withheld Payments.

(a) The employer shall remit the amount to be withheld to the person or office named in the order or writ on each pay date. The payment must include the date on which the withholding occurred.

(b) An employer with 50 or more employees shall remit a payment required under this section by electronic funds transfer or electronic data interchange not later than the second business day after the pay date.

(b–1) An employer with fewer than 50 employees may remit a payment required under this section by electronic funds transfer or electronic data interchange. A payment remitted by the employer electronically must be remitted not later than the date specified by Subsection (b).

(c) The employer shall include with each payment transmitted:

(1) the number assigned by the Title IV–D agency, if available, and the county identification number, if available;

(2) the name of the county or the county's federal information processing standard code;

(3) the cause number of the suit under which withholding is required;

(4) the payor's name and social security number; and

(5) the payee's name and, if available, social security number, unless the payment is transmitted by electronic funds transfer.

(d) In a case in which an obligor's income is subject to withholding, the employer shall remit the payment of child support directly to the state disbursement unit.

(e) The state disbursement unit may impose on an employer described by Subsection (b) a payment processing surcharge in an amount of not more than $25 for each remittance made on behalf of an employee that is not made by electronic funds transfer or electronic data exchange. The payment processing surcharge under this subsection may not be charged against the employee or taken from amounts withheld from the employee's wages.

(f) The state disbursement unit shall:

(1) notify an employer described by Subsection (b) who fails to remit withheld income by electronic funds transfer or electronic data exchange that the employer is subject to a payment processing surcharge under Subsection (e); and

(2) inform the employer of the amount of the surcharge owed and the manner in which the surcharge is required to be paid to the unit.

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Sec. 158.204. Employer May Deduct Fee From Earnings. An employer may deduct an administrative fee of not more than $10 each month from the obligor's disposable earnings in addition to the amount to be withheld as child support.

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Sec. 158.205. Hearing Requested by Employer.

(a) Not later than the 20th day after the date an order or writ of withholding is delivered, the employer may, as appropriate, file a motion with the court or file a request with the Title IV–D agency for a hearing on the applicability of the order or writ to the employer. The Title IV–D agency by rule shall establish procedures for an agency hearing under this section.

(b) The hearing under this section shall be held not later than the 15th day after the date the motion or request was made.

(c) An order or writ of withholding remains binding and payments shall continue to be made pending further order of the court or, in the case of an administrative writ, action of the Title IV–D agency.

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Sec. 158.206. Liability and Obligation of Employer; Workers' Compensation Claims.

(a) An employer receiving an order or a writ of withholding under this chapter, including an order or writ directing that health insurance be provided to a child, who complies with the order or writ is not liable to the obligor for the amount of income withheld and paid as required by the order or writ.

(b) An employer receiving an order or writ of withholding who does not comply with the order or writ is liable:

(1) to the obligee for the amount not paid in compliance with the order or writ, including the amount the obligor is required to pay for health insurance under Chapter 154;

(2) to the obligor for:

(A) the amount withheld and not paid as required by the order or writ; and

(B) an amount equal to the interest that accrues under Section 157.265 on the amount withheld and not paid; and

(3) for reasonable attorney's fees and court costs.

(c) If an obligor has filed a claim for workers' compensation, the obligor's employer shall send a copy of the income withholding order or writ to the insurance carrier with whom the claim has been filed in order to continue the ordered withholding of income.

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Sec. 158.207. Employer Receiving More than One Order or Writ.

(a) An employer receiving two or more orders or writs for one obligor shall comply with each order or writ to the extent possible.

(b) If the total amount due under the orders or writs exceeds the maximum amount allowed to be withheld under Section 158.009, the employer shall pay an equal amount towards the current support in each order or writ until the employer has complied fully with each current support obligation and, thereafter, equal amounts on the arrearages until the employer has complied with each order or writ, or until the maximum total amount of allowed withholding is reached, whichever occurs first.

(c) An employer who receives more than one order or writ of withholding that combines withholding for child support and spousal maintenance as provided by Section 8.101 shall withhold income and pay the amount withheld in accordance with Section 8.207.

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Sec. 158.208. Employer May Combine Amounts Withheld. An employer required to withhold from more than one obligor may combine the amounts withheld and make a single payment to each agency designated if the employer separately identifies the amount of the payment that is attributable to each obligor.

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Sec. 158.209. Employer's Penalty for Discriminatory Hiring or Discharge.

(a) An employer may not use an order or writ of withholding as grounds in whole or part for the termination of employment or for any other disciplinary action against an employee.

(b) An employer may not refuse to hire an employee because of an order or writ of withholding.

(c) If an employer intentionally discharges an employee in violation of this section, the employer continues to be liable to the employee for current wages and other benefits and for reasonable attorney's fees and court costs incurred in enforcing the employee's rights as provided in this section.

(d) An action under this section may be brought by the employee, a friend of the court, the domestic relations office, or the Title IV–D agency.

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Sec. 158.210. Fine for Noncompliance.

(a) In addition to the civil remedies provided by this subchapter or any other remedy provided by law, an employer who knowingly violates the provisions of this chapter may be subject to a fine not to exceed $200 for each occurrence in which the employer fails to:

(1) withhold income for child support as instructed in an order or writ issued under this chapter; or

(2) remit withheld income within the time required by Section 158.203 to the payee identified in the order or writ or to the state disbursement unit.

(b) A fine recovered under this section shall be paid to the county in which the obligee resides and shall be used by the county to improve child support services.

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Sec. 158.211. Notice of Termination of Employment and of New Employment.

(a) If an obligor terminates employment with an employer who has been withholding income, both the obligor and the employer shall notify the court or the Title IV–D agency and the obligee of that fact not later than the seventh day after the date employment terminated and shall provide the obligor's last known address and the name and address of the obligor's new employer, if known.

(b) The obligor has a continuing duty to inform any subsequent employer of the order or writ of withholding after obtaining employment.

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Sec. 158.212. Improper Payment. An employer who remits a payment to an incorrect office or person shall remit the payment to the agency or person identified in the order of withholding not later than the second business day after the date the employer receives the returned payment.

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Sec. 158.213. Withholding from Workers' Compensation Benefits.

(a) An insurance carrier that receives an order or writ of withholding under Section 158.206 for workers' compensation benefits payable to an obligor shall withhold an amount not to exceed the maximum amount allowed to be withheld from income under Section 158.009 regardless of whether the benefits payable to the obligor for lost income are paid as lump sum amounts or as periodic payments.

(b) An insurance carrier subject to this section shall send the amount withheld for child support to the place of payment designated in the order or writ of withholding.

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Sec. 158.214. Withholding from Severance Pay.

(a) In this section, "severance pay" means income paid on termination of employment in addition to the employee's usual earnings from the employer at the time of termination.

(b) An employer receiving an order or writ of withholding under this chapter shall withhold from any severance pay owed an obligor an amount equal to the amount the employer would have withheld under the order or writ if the severance pay had been paid as the obligor's usual earnings as a current employee.

(c) The total amount that may be withheld under this section is subject to the maximum amount allowed to be withheld under Section 158.009.

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Sec. 158.215. Withholding from Lump–Sum Payments.

(a) In this section, "lump–sum payment" means income in the form of a bonus or an amount paid in lieu of vacation or other leave time. The term does not include an employee's usual earnings or an amount paid as severance pay on termination of employment.

(b) This section applies only to an employer who receives an administrative writ of withholding in a Title IV–D case.

(c) An employer to whom this section applies may not make a lump–sum payment to the obligor in the amount of $500 or more without first notifying the Title IV–D agency to determine whether all or a portion of the payment should be applied to child support arrearages owed by the obligor.

(d) After notifying the Title IV–D agency in compliance with Subsection (c), the employer may not make the lump–sum payment before the earlier of:

(1) the 10th day after the date on which the employer notified the Title IV–D agency; or

(2) the date on which the employer receives authorization from the Title IV–D agency to make the payment.

(e) If the employer receives a timely authorization from the Title IV–D agency under Subsection (d)(2), the employer may make the payment only in accordance with the terms of that authorization.

Subch. D. Judicial Writ of Withholding Issued by Clerk

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Sec. 158.301. Notice of Application for Judicial Writ of Withholding; Filing.

(a) A notice of application for judicial writ of withholding may be filed if:

(1) a delinquency occurs in child support payments in an amount equal to or greater than the total support due for one month; or

(2) income withholding was not ordered at the time child support was ordered.

(b) The notice of application for judicial writ of withholding may be filed in the court of continuing jurisdiction by:

(1) the Title IV–D agency;

(2) the attorney representing the local domestic relations office;

(3) the attorney appointed a friend of the court as provided in Chapter 202;

(4) the obligor or obligee; or

(5) a private attorney representing the obligor or obligee.

(c) The Title IV–D agency may in a Title IV–D case file a notice of application for judicial writ of withholding on request of the obligor or obligee.

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Sec. 158.302. Contents of Notice of Application for Judicial Writ of Withholding. The notice of application for judicial writ of withholding shall be verified and:

(1) state the amount of monthly support due, including medical support, the amount of arrearages or anticipated arrearages, including accrued interest, and the amount of wages that will be withheld in accordance with a judicial writ of withholding;

(2) state that the withholding applies to each current or subsequent employer or period of employment;

(3) state that if the obligor does not contest the withholding within 10 days after the date of receipt of the notice, the obligor's employer will be notified to begin the withholding;

(4) describe the procedures for contesting the issuance and delivery of a writ of withholding;

(5) state that if the obligor contests the withholding, the obligor will be afforded an opportunity for a hearing by the court not later than the 30th day after the date of receipt of the notice of contest;

(6) state that the sole ground for successfully contesting the issuance of a writ of withholding is a dispute concerning the identity of the obligor or the existence or amount of the arrearages, including accrued interest;

(7) describe the actions that may be taken if the obligor contests the notice of application for judicial writ of withholding, including the procedures for suspending issuance of a writ of withholding; and

(8) include with the notice a suggested form for the motion to stay issuance and delivery of the judicial writ of withholding that the obligor may file with the clerk of the appropriate court.

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Sec. 158.303. Interstate Request for Income Withholding.

(a) The registration of a foreign support order as provided in Chapter 159 is sufficient for the filing of a notice of application for judicial writ of withholding.

(b) The notice shall be filed with the clerk of the court having venue as provided in Chapter 159.

(c) Notice of application for judicial writ of withholding may be delivered to the obligor at the same time that an order is filed for registration under Chapter 159.

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Sec. 158.304. Additional Arrearages. If the notice of application for judicial writ of withholding states that the obligor has repeatedly failed to pay support in accordance with the underlying support order, the judicial writ may include arrearages that accrue between the filing of the notice and the date of the hearing or the issuance of a judicial writ of withholding.

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Sec. 158.306. Delivery of Notice of Application for Judicial Writ of Withholding; Time of Delivery.

(a) A notice of application for judicial writ of withholding may be delivered to the obligor by:

(1) hand delivery by a person designated by the Title IV–D agency or local domestic relations office;

(2) first–class or certified mail, return receipt requested, addressed to the obligor's last known address or place of employment; or

(3) by service of citation as in civil cases generally.

(b) If the notice is delivered by mailing or hand delivery, the party who filed the notice shall file with the court a certificate stating the name, address, and date on which the mailing or hand delivery was made.

(c) Notice is considered to have been received by the obligor:

(1) if hand delivered, on the date of delivery;

(2) if mailed by certified mail, on the date of receipt;

(3) if mailed by first–class mail, on the 10th day after the date the notice was mailed; or

(4) if delivered by service of citation, on the date of service.

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Sec. 158.307. Motion to Stay Issuance of Writ of Withholding.

(a) The obligor may stay issuance of a judicial writ of withholding by filing a motion to stay with the clerk of court not later than the 10th day after the date the notice of application for judicial writ of withholding was received.

(b) The grounds for filing a motion to stay issuance are limited to a dispute concerning the identity of the obligor or the existence or the amount of the arrearages.

(c) The obligor shall verify that statements of fact in the motion to stay issuance of the writ are true and correct.

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Sec. 158.308. Effect of Filing Motion to Stay. The filing of a motion to stay by an obligor in the manner provided by Section 158.307 prohibits the clerk of court from delivering the judicial writ of withholding to any employer of the obligor before a hearing is held.

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Sec. 158.309. Hearing on Motion to Stay.

(a) If a motion to stay is filed in the manner provided by Section 158.307, the court shall set a hearing on the motion and the clerk of court shall notify the obligor, obligee, or their authorized representatives, and the party who filed the application for judicial writ of withholding of the date, time, and place of the hearing.

(b) The court shall hold a hearing on the motion to stay not later than the 30th day after the date the motion was filed, except that a hearing may be held later than the 30th day after filing if both the obligor and obligee agree and waive the right to have the motion heard within 30 days.

(c) Upon hearing, the court shall:

(1) render an order for income withholding that includes a determination of the amount of child support arrearages, including medical support and interest; or

(2) grant the motion to stay.

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Sec. 158.310. Special Exceptions.

(a) A defect in a notice of application for judicial writ of withholding is waived unless the respondent specially excepts in writing and cites with particularity the alleged defect, obscurity, or other ambiguity in the notice.

(b) A special exception under this section must be heard by the court before hearing the motion to stay issuance.

(c) If the court sustains an exception, the court shall provide the party filing the notice an opportunity to refile and the court shall continue the hearing to a date certain without the requirement of additional service.

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Sec. 158.311. Arrearages.

(a) Payment of arrearages after receipt of notice of application for judicial writ of withholding may not be the sole basis for the court to refuse to order withholding.

(b) The court shall order that a reasonable amount of income be withheld to be applied toward the liquidation of arrearages, even though a judgment confirming arrearages has been rendered against the obligor.

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Sec. 158.312. Request for Issuance and Delivery of Writ of Withholding.

(a) If a notice of application for judicial writ of withholding is delivered and a motion to stay is not filed within the time limits provided by Section 158.307, the party who filed the notice shall file with the clerk of the court a request for issuance of the writ of withholding stating the amount of current support, including medical support, the amount of arrearages, and the amount to be withheld from the obligor's income.

(b) The request for issuance may not be filed before the 11th day after the date of receipt of the notice of application for judicial writ of withholding by the obligor.

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Sec. 158.313. Issuance and Delivery of Writ of Withholding.

(a) On the filing of a request for issuance of a writ of withholding, the clerk of the court shall issue the writ.

(b) The writ shall be delivered as provided by Subchapter B.

(c) The clerk shall issue and mail the writ not later than the second working day after the date the request is filed.

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Sec. 158.314. Contents of Writ of Withholding. The judicial writ of income withholding issued by the clerk must direct that the employer or a subsequent employer withhold from the obligor's disposable income for current child support, including medical support, and child support arrearages an amount that is consistent with the provisions of this chapter regarding orders of withholding.

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Sec. 158.315. Extension of Repayment Schedule by Party; Unreasonable Hardship. If the party who filed the notice of application for judicial writ of withholding finds that the schedule for repaying arrearages would cause the obligor, the obligor's family, or the children for whom the support is due from the obligor to suffer unreasonable hardship, the party may extend the payment period in the writ.

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Sec. 158.316. Payment of Amount to BE Withheld. The amount to be withheld shall be paid to the person or office named in the writ on each pay date and shall include with the payment the date on which the withholding occurred.

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Sec. 158.317. Failure to Receive Notice of Application for Judicial Writ of Withholding.

(a) Not later than the 30th day after the date of the first pay period following the date of delivery of the writ of withholding to the obligor's employer, the obligor may file an affidavit with the court that a motion to stay was not timely filed because the notice of application for judicial writ of withholding was not received by the obligor and that grounds exist for a motion to stay.

(b) Concurrently with the filing of the affidavit, the obligor may file a motion to withdraw the writ of withholding and request a hearing on the applicability of the writ.

(c) Income withholding may not be interrupted until after the hearing at which the court renders an order denying or modifying withholding.

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Sec. 158.319. Issuance and Delivery of Judicial Writ of Withholding to Subsequent Employer.

(a) After the issuance of a judicial writ of withholding by the clerk, a party authorized to file a notice of application for judicial writ of withholding under this subchapter may issue the judicial writ of withholding to a subsequent employer of the obligor by delivering to the employer by certified mail a copy of the writ.

(b) The judicial writ of withholding must include the name, address, and signature of the party and clearly indicate that the writ is being issued to a subsequent employer.

(c) The party shall file a copy of the judicial writ of withholding with the clerk not later than the third working day following delivery of the writ to the subsequent employer. The party shall pay the clerk a fee of $15 at the time the copy of the writ is filed.

(d) The party shall file the postal return receipt from the delivery to the subsequent employer not later than the third working day after the party receives the receipt.

Subch. E. Modification, Reduction, or Termination of Withholding

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Sec. 158.401. Modifications to or Termination of Withholding by Title IV–D Agency.

(a) The Title IV–D agency shall establish procedures for the reduction in the amount of or termination of withholding from income on the liquidation of an arrearages or the termination of the obligation of support in Title IV–D cases. The procedures shall provide that the payment of overdue support may not be used as the sole basis for terminating withholding.

(b) At the request of the Title IV–D agency, the clerk of the court shall issue a judicial writ of withholding to the obligor's employer reflecting any modification or changes in the amount to be withheld or the termination of withholding.

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Sec. 158.402. Agreement by Parties Regarding Amount or Duration of Withholding.

(a) An obligor and obligee may agree on a reduction in or termination of income withholding for child support on the occurrence of one of the following contingencies stated in the order:

(1) the child becomes 18 years of age or is graduated from high school, whichever is later;

(2) the child's disabilities of minority are removed by marriage, court order, or other operation of law; or

(3) the child dies.

(b) The obligor and obligee may file a notarized or acknowledged request with the clerk of the court under Section 158.011 for a revised judicial writ of withholding, including the termination of withholding.

(c) The clerk shall issue and deliver to an employer of the obligor a judicial writ of withholding that reflects the agreed revision or termination of withholding.

(d) An agreement by the parties under this section does not modify the terms of a support order.

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Sec. 158.403. Modifications to or Termination of Withholding in Voluntary Withholding Cases.

(a) If an obligor initiates voluntary withholding under Section 158.011, the obligee or an agency providing child support services may file with the clerk of the court a notarized request signed by the obligor and the obligee or agency, as appropriate, for the issuance and delivery to the obligor of a:

(1) modified writ of withholding that reduces the amount of withholding; or

(2) notice of termination of withholding.

(b) On receipt of a request under this section, the clerk shall issue and deliver a modified writ of withholding or notice of termination in the manner provided by Section 158.402.

(c) The clerk may charge a reasonable fee not to exceed $15 for filing the request.

(d) An obligee may contest a modified writ of withholding or notice of termination issued under this section by requesting a hearing in the manner provided by Section 158.309 not later than the 180th day after the date the obligee discovers that the writ or notice has been issued.

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Sec. 158.404. Delivery of Order of Reduction or Termination of Withholding. If a court has rendered an order that reduces the amount of child support to be withheld or terminates withholding for child support, any person or governmental entity may deliver to the employer a certified copy of the order without the requirement that the clerk of the court deliver the order.

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Sec. 158.405. Liability of Employers. The provisions of this chapter regarding the liability of employers for withholding apply to an order that reduces or terminates withholding.

Subch. F. Administrative Writ of Withholding

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Sec. 158.501. Issuance of Administrative Writ of Withholding.

(a) The Title IV–D agency may initiate income withholding by issuing an administrative writ of withholding for the enforcement of an existing order as authorized by this subchapter.

(b) Except as provided by Subsection (d), the Title IV–D agency is the only entity that may issue an administrative writ under this subchapter.

(c) The Title IV–D agency may use the procedures authorized by this subchapter to enforce a support order rendered by a tribunal of another state regardless of whether the order has been registered under Chapter 159.

(d) A domestic relations office may issue an administrative writ of withholding under this chapter in a proceeding in which the office is providing child support enforcement services. A reference in this code to the Title IV–D agency that relates to an administrative writ includes a domestic relations office, except that the writ must be in the form prescribed by the Title IV–D agency under Section 158.504.

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Sec. 158.502. When Administrative Writ of Withholding May Be Issued.

(a) An administrative writ of withholding under this subchapter may be issued by the Title IV–D agency at any time until all current support, including medical support, and child support arrearages, and Title IV–D service fees authorized under Section 231.103 for which the obligor is responsible, have been paid. The writ issued under this subsection may be based on an obligation in more than one support order.

(b) The Title IV–D agency may issue an administrative writ of withholding that directs that an amount be withheld for an arrearage or adjusts the amount to be withheld for an arrearage. An administrative writ issued under this subsection may be contested as provided by Section 158.506.

(c) The Title IV–D agency may issue an administrative writ of withholding as a reissuance of an existing withholding order on file with the court of continuing jurisdiction or a tribunal of another state. The administrative writ under this subsection is not subject to the contest provisions of Sections 158.505(a)(2) and 158.506.

(d) The Title IV–D agency may issue an administrative writ of withholding to direct child support payments to the state disbursement unit of another state.

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Sec. 158.503. Delivery of Administrative Writ to Employer; Filing with Court or Maintaining Record.

(a) An administrative writ of withholding issued under this subchapter may be delivered to an employer by mail or by electronic transmission.

(b) The Title IV–D agency shall:

(1) not later than the third business day after the date of delivery of the administrative writ of withholding to an employer, file a copy of the writ, together with a signed certificate of service, in the court of continuing jurisdiction; or

(2) maintain a record of the writ until all support obligations of the obligor have been satisfied or income withholding has been terminated as provided by this chapter.

(b–1) The certificate of service required under Subsection (b)(1) may be signed electronically.

(c) The copy of the administrative writ of withholding filed with the clerk of court must include:

(1) the name, address, and signature of the authorized attorney or individual that issued the writ;

(2) the name and address of the employer served with the writ; and

(3) a true copy of the information provided to the employer.

(d) The clerk of the court may charge a reasonable fee not to exceed $15 for filing an administrative writ under this section.

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Sec. 158.504. Contents of Administrative Writ of Withholding.

(a) The administrative writ of withholding must be in the form prescribed by the Title IV–D agency as required by this chapter and in a standard format authorized by the United States Department of Health and Human Services.

(b) An administrative writ of withholding issued under this subchapter may contain only the information that is necessary for the employer to withhold income for child support and medical support and shall specify the place where the withheld income is to be paid.

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Sec. 158.505. Notice to Obligor.

(a) On issuance of an administrative writ of withholding, the Title IV–D agency shall send the obligor:

(1) notice that the withholding has commenced, including, if the writ is issued as provided by Section 158.502(b), the amount of the arrearages, including accrued interest;

(2) except as provided by Section 158.502(c), notice of the procedures to follow if the obligor desires to contest withholding on the grounds that the identity of the obligor or the existence or amount of arrearages is incorrect; and

(3) a copy of the administrative writ, including the information concerning income withholding provided to the employer.

(b) The notice required under this section may be sent to the obligor by:

(1) personal delivery by a person designated by the Title IV–D agency;

(2) first–class mail or certified mail, return receipt requested, addressed to the obligor's last known address; or

(3) service of citation as in civil cases generally.

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Sec. 158.506. Contest by Obligor to Administrative Writ of Withholding.

(a) Except as provided by Section 158.502(c), an obligor receiving the notice under Section 158.505 may request a review by the Title IV–D agency to resolve any issue in dispute regarding the identity of the obligor or the existence or amount of arrearages. The Title IV–D agency shall provide an opportunity for a review, by telephonic conference or in person, as may be appropriate under the circumstances.

(b) After a review under this section, the Title IV–D agency may issue a new administrative writ of withholding to the employer, including a writ modifying the amount to be withheld or terminating withholding.

(c) If a review under this section fails to resolve any issue in dispute, the obligor may file a motion with the court to withdraw the administrative writ of withholding and request a hearing with the court not later than the 30th day after receiving notice of the agency's determination. Income withholding may not be interrupted pending a hearing by the court.

(d) If an administrative writ of withholding issued under this subchapter is based on an order of a tribunal of another state that has not been registered under Chapter 159, the obligor may file a motion with an appropriate court in accordance with Subsection (c).

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Sec. 158.507. Administrative Writ Terminating Withholding. An administrative writ to terminate withholding may be issued and delivered to an employer by the Title IV–D agency when all current support, including medical support, and child support arrearages, and Title IV–D service fees authorized under Section 231.103 for which the obligor is responsible, have been paid.

Ch. 159. Uniform Interstate Family Support Act

Subch. A. Conflicts Between Provisions

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Sec. 159.001. Conflicts Between Provisions. If a provision of this chapter conflicts with a provision of this title or another statute or rule of this state and the conflict cannot be reconciled, this chapter prevails.

Subch. B. General Provisions

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Sec. 159.101. Short Title. This chapter may be cited as the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act.

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Sec. 159.102. Definitions. In this chapter:

(1) "Child" means an individual, whether over or under the age of majority, who:

(A) is or is alleged to be owed a duty of support by the individual's parent; or

(B) is or is alleged to be the beneficiary of a support order directed to the parent.

(2) "Child support order" means a support order for a child, including a child who has attained the age of majority under the law of the issuing state or foreign country.

(3) "Convention" means the Convention on the International Recovery of Child Support and Other Forms of Family Maintenance, concluded at The Hague on November 23, 2007.

(4) "Duty of support" means an obligation imposed or imposable by law to provide support for a child, spouse, or former spouse, including an unsatisfied obligation to provide support.

(5) "Foreign country" means a country, including a political subdivision thereof, other than the United States, that authorizes the issuance of support orders and:

(A) which has been declared under the law of the United States to be a foreign reciprocating country;

(B) which has established a reciprocal arrangement for child support with this state as provided in Section 159.308;

(C) which has enacted a law or established procedures for the issuance and enforcement of support orders which are substantially similar to the procedures under this chapter; or

(D) in which the Convention is in force with respect to the United States.

(6) "Foreign support order" means a support order of a foreign tribunal.

(7) "Foreign tribunal" means a court, administrative agency, or quasi–judicial entity of a foreign country which is authorized to establish, enforce, or modify support orders or to determine parentage of a child. The term includes a competent authority under the Convention.

(8) "Home state" means the state or foreign country in which a child lived with a parent or a person acting as parent for at least six consecutive months immediately preceding the time of filing of a petition or a comparable pleading for support and, if a child is less than six months old, the state or foreign country in which the child lived from birth with any of them. A period of temporary absence of any of them is counted as part of the six–month or other period.

(9) "Income" includes earnings or other periodic entitlements to money from any source and any other property subject to withholding for support under the law of this state.

(10) "Income–withholding order" means an order or other legal process directed to an obligor's employer, as provided in Chapter 158, to withhold support from the income of the obligor.

(11) "Initiating tribunal" means the tribunal of a state or foreign country from which a petition or comparable pleading is forwarded or a petition or comparable pleading is filed for forwarding to another state or foreign country.

(12) "Issuing foreign country" means the foreign country in which a tribunal issues a support order or a judgment determining parentage of a child.

(13) "Issuing state" means the state in which a tribunal issues a support order or a judgment determining parentage of a child.

(14) "Issuing tribunal" means the tribunal of a state or foreign country that issues a support order or a judgment determining parentage of a child.

(15) "Law" includes decisional and statutory law and rules and regulations having the force of law.

(16) "Obligee" means:

(A) an individual to whom a duty of support is or is alleged to be owed or in whose favor a support order or a judgment determining parentage of a child has been issued;

(B) a foreign country, state, or political subdivision of a state to which the rights under a duty of support or support order have been assigned or that has independent claims based on financial assistance provided to an individual obligee in place of child support;

(C) an individual seeking a judgment determining parentage of the individual's child; or

(D) a person that is a creditor in a proceeding under Subchapter H.

(17) "Obligor" means an individual, or the estate of a decedent, that:

(A) owes or is alleged to owe a duty of support;

(B) is alleged but has not been adjudicated to be a parent of a child;

(C) is liable under a support order; or

(D) is a debtor in a proceeding under Subchapter H.

(18) "Outside this state" means a location in another state or a country other than the United States, whether or not the country is a foreign country.

(19) "Person" means an individual, corporation, business trust, estate, trust, partnership, limited liability company, association, joint venture, public corporation, government or governmental subdivision, agency, or instrumentality, or any other legal or commercial entity.

(20) "Record" means information that is:

(A) inscribed on a tangible medium or that is stored in an electronic or other medium; and

(B) retrievable in a perceivable form.

(21) "Register" means to file in a tribunal of this state a support order or judgment determining parentage of a child issued in another state or a foreign country.

(22) "Registering tribunal" means a tribunal in which a support order or judgment determining parentage of a child is registered.

(23) "Responding state" means a state in which a petition or comparable pleading for support or to determine parentage of a child is filed or to which a petition or comparable pleading is forwarded for filing from another state or a foreign country.

(24) "Responding tribunal" means the authorized tribunal in a responding state or foreign country.

(25) "Spousal support order" means a support order for a spouse or former spouse of the obligor.

(26) "State" means a state of the United States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the United States Virgin Islands, or any territory or insular possession subject to the jurisdiction of the United States. The term includes an Indian nation or tribe.

(27) "Support enforcement agency" means a public official, governmental entity, or private agency authorized to:

(A) seek enforcement of support orders or laws relating to the duty of support;

(B) seek establishment or modification of child support;

(C) request determination of parentage of a child;

(D) attempt to locate obligors or their assets; or

(E) request determination of the controlling child support order.

"Support enforcement agency" does not include a domestic relations office unless that office has entered into a cooperative agreement with the Title IV–D agency to perform duties under this chapter.

(28) "Support Order" means a judgment, decree, order, decision, or directive, whether temporary, final, or subject to modification, issued in a state or foreign country for the benefit of a child, a spouse, or a former spouse that provides for monetary support, health care, arrearages, retroactive support, or reimbursement for financial assistance provided to an individual obligee in place of child support. The term may include related costs and fees, interest, income withholding, automatic adjustment, reasonable attorney's fees, and other relief.

(29) "Tribunal" means a court, administrative agency, or quasi–judicial entity authorized to establish, enforce, or modify support orders or to determine parentage of a child.

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Sec. 159.103. State Tribunal and Support Enforcement Agency.

(a) The court is the tribunal of this state.

(b) The office of the attorney general is the support enforcement agency of this state.

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Sec. 159.104. Remedies Cumulative.

(a) Remedies provided by this chapter are cumulative and do not affect the availability of remedies under other law or the recognition of a foreign support order on the basis of comity.

(b) This chapter does not:

(1) provide the exclusive method of establishing or enforcing a support order under the law of this state; or

(2) grant a tribunal of this state jurisdiction to render judgment or issue an order relating to child custody or visitation in a proceeding under this chapter.

[Contents]

Sec. 159.105. Application of Chapter to Resident of Foreign Country and Foreign Support Proceeding.

(a) A tribunal of this state shall apply Subchapters B through G and, as applicable, Subchapter H to a support proceeding involving:

(1) a foreign support order;

(2) a foreign tribunal; or

(3) an obligee, obligor, or child residing in a foreign country.

(b) A tribunal of this state that is requested to recognize and enforce a support order on the basis of comity may apply the procedural and substantive provisions of Subchapters B through G.

(c) Subchapter H applies only to a support proceeding under the Convention. In such a proceeding, if a provision of Subchapter H is inconsistent with Subchapters B through G, Subchapter H controls.

Subch. C. Jurisdiction

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Sec. 159.201. Bases for Jurisdiction Over Nonresident.

(a) In a proceeding to establish or enforce a support order or to determine parentage of a child, a tribunal of this state may exercise personal jurisdiction over a nonresident individual or the individual's guardian or conservator if:

(1) the individual is personally served with citation in this state;

(2) the individual submits to the jurisdiction of this state by consent in a record, by entering a general appearance, or by filing a responsive document having the effect of waiving any contest to personal jurisdiction;

(3) the individual resided with the child in this state;

(4) the individual resided in this state and provided prenatal expenses or support for the child;

(5) the child resides in this state as a result of the acts or directives of the individual;

(6) the individual engaged in sexual intercourse in this state and the child may have been conceived by that act of intercourse;

(7) the individual asserted parentage of a child in the paternity registry maintained in this state by the vital statistics unit; or

(8) there is any other basis consistent with the constitutions of this state and the United States for the exercise of personal jurisdiction.

(b) The bases of personal jurisdiction listed in Subsection (a) or in any other law of this state may not be used to acquire personal jurisdiction for a tribunal of this state to modify a child support order of another state unless the requirements of Section 159.611 are met, or, in the case of a foreign support order, unless the requirements of Section 159.615 are met.

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Sec. 159.202. Duration of Personal Jurisdiction. Personal jurisdiction acquired by a tribunal of this state in a proceeding under this chapter or other law of this state relating to a support order continues as long as the tribunal of this state has continuing, exclusive jurisdiction to modify its order or continuing jurisdiction to enforce its order as provided by Sections 159.205, 159.206, and 159.211.

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Sec. 159.203. Initiating and Responding Tribunal of State. Under this chapter, a tribunal of this state may serve as an initiating tribunal to forward proceedings to a tribunal of another state and as a responding tribunal for proceedings initiated in another state or a foreign country.

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Sec. 159.204. Simultaneous Proceedings.

(a) A tribunal of this state may exercise jurisdiction to establish a support order if the petition or comparable pleading is filed after a pleading is filed in another state or a foreign country only if:

(1) the petition or comparable pleading in this state is filed before the expiration of the time allowed in the other state or the foreign country for filing a responsive pleading challenging the exercise of jurisdiction by the other state or the foreign country;

(2) the contesting party timely challenges the exercise of jurisdiction in the other state or the foreign country; and

(3) if relevant, this state is the home state of the child.

(b) A tribunal of this state may not exercise jurisdiction to establish a support order if the petition or comparable pleading is filed before a petition or comparable pleading is filed in another state or a foreign country if:

(1) the petition or comparable pleading in the other state or foreign country is filed before the expiration of the time allowed in this state for filing a responsive pleading challenging the exercise of jurisdiction by this state;

(2) the contesting party timely challenges the exercise of jurisdiction in this state; and

(3) if relevant, the other state or foreign country is the home state of the child.

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Sec. 159.205. Continuing, Exclusive Jurisdiction to Modify Child Support Order.

(a) A tribunal of this state that has issued a child support order consistent with the law of this state has and shall exercise continuing, exclusive jurisdiction to modify its child support order if the order is the controlling order and:

(1) at the time of the filing of a request for modification this state is the residence of the obligor, the individual obligee, or the child for whose benefit the support order is issued; or

(2) even if this state is not the residence of the obligor, the individual obligee, or the child for whose benefit the support order is issued, the parties consent in a record or in open court that the tribunal of this state may continue to exercise jurisdiction to modify its order.

(b) A tribunal of this state that has issued a child support order consistent with the law of this state may not exercise continuing, exclusive jurisdiction to modify the order if:

(1) all of the parties who are individuals file consent in a record with the tribunal of this state that a tribunal of another state that has jurisdiction over at least one of the parties who is an individual or that is located in the state of residence of the child may modify the order and assume continuing, exclusive jurisdiction; or

(2) the tribunal's order is not the controlling order.

(c) If a tribunal of another state has issued a child support order pursuant to the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act or a law substantially similar to that Act that modifies a child support order of a tribunal of this state, tribunals of this state shall recognize the continuing, exclusive jurisdiction of the tribunal of the other state.

(d) A tribunal of this state that lacks continuing, exclusive jurisdiction to modify a child support order may serve as an initiating tribunal to request a tribunal of another state to modify a support order issued in that state.

(e) A temporary support order issued ex parte or pending resolution of a jurisdictional conflict does not create continuing, exclusive jurisdiction in the issuing tribunal.

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Sec. 159.206. Continuing Jurisdiction to Enforce Child Support Order.

(a) A tribunal of this state that has issued a child support order consistent with the law of this state may serve as an initiating tribunal to request a tribunal of another state to enforce:

(1) the order, if the order:

(A) is the controlling order; and

(B) has not been modified by a tribunal of another state that assumed jurisdiction under the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act; or

(2) a money judgment for arrears of support and interest on the order accrued before a determination that an order of a tribunal of another state is the controlling order.

(b) A tribunal of this state having continuing jurisdiction over a support order may act as a responding tribunal to enforce the order.

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Sec. 159.207. Determination of Controlling Child Support Order.

(a) If a proceeding is brought under this chapter and only one tribunal has issued a child support order, the order of that tribunal controls and must be recognized.

(b) If a proceeding is brought under this chapter and two or more child support orders have been issued by tribunals of this state, another state, or a foreign country with regard to the same obligor and same child, a tribunal of this state having personal jurisdiction over both the obligor and individual obligee shall apply the following rules and by order shall determine which order controls and must be recognized:

(1) if only one of the tribunals would have continuing, exclusive jurisdiction under this chapter, the order of that tribunal controls;

(2) if more than one of the tribunals would have continuing, exclusive jurisdiction under this chapter:

(A) an order issued by a tribunal in the current home state of the child controls; or

(B) if an order has not been issued in the current home state of the child, the order most recently issued controls; and

(3) if none of the tribunals would have continuing, exclusive jurisdiction under this chapter, the tribunal of this state shall issue a child support order that controls.

(c) If two or more child support orders have been issued for the same obligor and same child, on request of a party who is an individual or that is a support enforcement agency, a tribunal of this state having personal jurisdiction over both the obligor and the obligee who is an individual shall determine which order controls under Subsection (b). The request may be filed with a registration for enforcement or registration for modification under Subchapter G or may be filed as a separate proceeding.

(d) A request to determine which is the controlling order must be accompanied by a copy of every child support order in effect and the applicable record of payments. The requesting party shall give notice of the request to each party whose rights may be affected by the determination.

(e) The tribunal that issued the controlling order under Subsection (a), (b), or (c) has continuing jurisdiction to the extent provided by Section 159.205 or 159.206.

(f) A tribunal of this state that determines by order which is the controlling order under Subsection (b)(1) or (2) or Subsection (c), or that issues a new controlling order under Subsection (b)(3), shall state in that order:

(1) the basis upon which the tribunal made its determination;

(2) the amount of prospective support, if any; and

(3) the total amount of consolidated arrears and accrued interest, if any, under all of the orders after all payments made are credited as provided by Section 159.209.

(g) Within 30 days after issuance of an order determining which order is the controlling order, the party obtaining the order shall file a certified copy of the controlling order in each tribunal that issued or registered an earlier order of child support. A party or support enforcement agency obtaining the order that fails to file a certified copy is subject to appropriate sanctions by a tribunal in which the issue of failure to file arises. The failure to file does not affect the validity or enforceability of the controlling order.

(h) An order that has been determined to be the controlling order, or a judgment for consolidated arrears of support and interest, if any, made under this section, must be recognized in proceedings under this chapter.

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Sec. 159.208. Child Support Orders for Two or More Obligees. In responding to registrations or petitions for enforcement of two or more child support orders in effect at the same time with regard to the same obligor and different individual obligees, at least one of which was issued by a tribunal of another state or a foreign country, a tribunal of this state shall enforce those orders in the same manner as if the orders had been issued by a tribunal of this state.

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Sec. 159.209. Credit for Payments. A tribunal of this state shall credit amounts collected for a particular period under any child support order against the amounts owed for the same period under any other child support order for support of the same child issued by a tribunal of this state, another state, or a foreign country.

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Sec. 159.210. Application of Chapter to Nonresident Subject to Personal Jurisdiction. A tribunal of this state exercising personal jurisdiction over a nonresident in a proceeding under this chapter or under other law of this state relating to a support order or recognizing a foreign support order may receive evidence from outside this state as provided by Section 159.316, communicate with a tribunal outside this state as provided by Section 159.317, and obtain discovery through a tribunal outside this state as provided by Section 159.318. In all other respects, Subchapters D, E, F, and G do not apply and the tribunal shall apply the procedural and substantive law of this state.

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Sec. 159.211. Continuing, Exclusive Jurisdiction to Modify Spousal Support Order.

(a) A tribunal of this state issuing a spousal support order consistent with the law of this state has continuing, exclusive jurisdiction to modify the spousal support order throughout the existence of the support obligation.

(b) A tribunal of this state may not modify a spousal support order issued by a tribunal of another state or a foreign country having continuing, exclusive jurisdiction over that order under the law of that state or foreign country.

(c) A tribunal of this state that has continuing, exclusive jurisdiction over a spousal support order may serve as:

(1) an initiating tribunal to request a tribunal of another state to enforce the spousal support order issued in this state; or

(2) a responding tribunal to enforce or modify its own spousal support order.

Subch. D. Civil Provisions of General Application

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Sec. 159.301. Proceedings Under Chapter.

(a) Except as otherwise provided in this chapter, this subchapter applies to all proceedings under this chapter.

(b) [Repealed]

(c) An individual petitioner or a support enforcement agency may initiate a proceeding authorized under this chapter by filing a petition in an initiating tribunal for forwarding to a responding tribunal or by filing a petition or a comparable pleading directly in a tribunal of another state or foreign country that has or can obtain personal jurisdiction over the respondent.

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Sec. 159.302. Proceeding by Minor Parent. A minor parent or a guardian or other legal representative of a minor parent may maintain a proceeding on behalf of or for the benefit of the minor's child.

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Sec. 159.303. Application of Law of State. Except as otherwise provided in this chapter, a responding tribunal of this state shall:

(1) apply the procedural and substantive law generally applicable to similar proceedings originating in this state and may exercise all powers and provide all remedies available in those proceedings; and

(2) determine the duty of support and the amount payable in accordance with the law and support guidelines of this state.

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Sec. 159.304. Duties of Initiating Tribunal.

(a) On the filing of a petition authorized by this chapter, an initiating tribunal of this state shall forward the petition and its accompanying documents:

(1) to the responding tribunal or appropriate support enforcement agency in the responding state; or

(2) if the identity of the responding tribunal is unknown, to the state information agency of the responding state with a request that they be forwarded to the appropriate tribunal and that receipt be acknowledged.

(b) If requested by the responding tribunal, a tribunal of this state shall issue a certificate or other document and make findings required by the law of the responding state. If the responding tribunal is in a foreign country, on request the tribunal of this state shall specify the amount of support sought, convert that amount into the equivalent amount in the foreign currency under the applicable official or market exchange rate as publicly reported, and provide any other documents necessary to satisfy the requirements of the responding foreign tribunal.

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Sec. 159.305. Duties and Powers of Responding Tribunal.

(a) When a responding tribunal of this state receives a petition or comparable pleading from an initiating tribunal or directly under Section 159.301(c), the responding tribunal shall cause the petition or pleading to be filed and notify the petitioner where and when it was filed.

(b) A responding tribunal of this state, to the extent not prohibited by other law, may do one or more of the following:

(1) establish or enforce a support order, modify a child support order, determine the controlling child support order, or determine parentage of a child;

(2) order an obligor to comply with a support order, specifying the amount and the manner of compliance;

(3) order income withholding;

(4) determine the amount of any arrearages and specify a method of payment;

(5) enforce orders by civil or criminal contempt, or both;

(6) set aside property for satisfaction of the support order;

(7) place liens and order execution on the obligor's property;

(8) order an obligor to keep the tribunal informed of the obligor's current residential address, electronic mail address, telephone number, employer, address of employment, and telephone number at the place of employment;

(9) issue a bench warrant or capias for an obligor who has failed after proper notice to appear at a hearing ordered by the tribunal and enter the bench warrant or capias in any local and state computer systems for criminal warrants;

(10) order the obligor to seek appropriate employment by specified methods;

(11) award reasonable attorney's fees and other fees and costs; and

(12) grant any other available remedy.

(c) A responding tribunal of this state shall include in a support order issued under this chapter, or in the documents accompanying the order, the calculations on which the support order is based.

(d) A responding tribunal of this state may not condition the payment of a support order issued under this chapter on compliance by a party with provisions for visitation.

(e) If a responding tribunal of this state issues an order under this chapter, the tribunal shall send a copy of the order to the petitioner and the respondent and to the initiating tribunal, if any.

(f) If requested to enforce a support order, arrears, or judgment or modify a support order stated in a foreign currency, a responding tribunal of this state shall convert the amount stated in the foreign currency to the equivalent amount in dollars under the applicable official or market exchange rate as publicly reported.

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Sec. 159.306. Inappropriate Tribunal. If a petition or comparable pleading is received by an inappropriate tribunal of this state, that tribunal shall forward the pleading and accompanying documents to an appropriate tribunal in this state or another state and notify the petitioner where and when the pleading was sent.

[Contents]

Sec. 159.307. Duties of Support Enforcement Agency.

(a) A support enforcement agency of this state, on request, shall provide services to a petitioner in a proceeding under this chapter.

(b) A support enforcement agency of this state that is providing services to the petitioner shall:

(1) take all steps necessary to enable an appropriate tribunal of this state, another state, or a foreign country to obtain jurisdiction over the respondent;

(2) request an appropriate tribunal to set a date, time, and place for a hearing;

(3) make a reasonable effort to obtain all relevant information, including information as to income and property of the parties;

(4) within two days, exclusive of Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays, after receipt of notice in a record from an initiating, responding, or registering tribunal, send a copy of the notice to the petitioner;

(5) within two days, exclusive of Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays, after receipt of communication in a record from the respondent or the respondent's attorney, send a copy of the communication to the petitioner; and

(6) notify the petitioner if jurisdiction over the respondent cannot be obtained.

(c) A support enforcement agency of this state that requests registration of a child support order in this state for enforcement or for modification shall make reasonable efforts:

(1) to ensure that the order to be registered is the controlling order; or

(2) if two or more child support orders exist and the identity of the controlling order has not been determined, to ensure that a request for such a determination is made in a tribunal having jurisdiction to do so.

(d) A support enforcement agency of this state that requests registration and enforcement of a support order, arrears, or a judgment stated in a foreign currency shall convert the amount stated in the foreign currency into the equivalent amount in dollars under the applicable official or market exchange rate as publicly reported.

(e) A support enforcement agency of this state shall issue, or request a tribunal of this state to issue, a child support order and an income–withholding order that redirects payment of current support, arrears, and interest if requested to do so by a support enforcement agency of another state under Section 159.319.

(f) This chapter does not create or negate a relationship of attorney and client or other fiduciary relationship between a support enforcement agency or the attorney for the agency and the individual being assisted by the agency.

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Sec. 159.308. Duty of Attorney General and Governor.

(a) If the attorney general determines that the support enforcement agency is neglecting or refusing to provide services to an individual, the attorney general may order the agency to perform its duties under this chapter or may provide those services directly to the individual.

(b) The governor may determine that a foreign country has established a reciprocal arrangement for child support with this state and take appropriate action for notification of the determination.

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Sec. 159.309. Private Counsel. An individual may employ private counsel to represent the individual in proceedings authorized by this chapter.

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Sec. 159.310. Duties of State Information Agency.

(a) The Title IV–D agency is the state information agency under this chapter.

(b) The state information agency shall:

(1) compile and maintain a current list, including addresses, of the tribunals in this state that have jurisdiction under this chapter and any support enforcement agencies in this state and transmit a copy to the state information agency of every other state;

(2) maintain a register of names and addresses of tribunals and support enforcement agencies received from other states;

(3) forward to the appropriate tribunal in the county in this state in which the obligee who is an individual or the obligor resides, or in which the obligor's property is believed to be located, all documents concerning a proceeding under this chapter received from another state or a foreign country; and

(4) obtain information concerning the location of the obligor and the obligor's property in this state not exempt from execution, by such means as postal verification and federal or state locator services, examination of telephone directories, requests for the obligor's address from employers, and examination of governmental records, including, to the extent not prohibited by other law, those relating to real property, vital statistics, law enforcement, taxation, motor vehicles, driver's licenses, and social security.

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Sec. 159.311. Pleadings and Accompanying Documents.

(a) In a proceeding under this chapter, a petitioner seeking to establish a support order, to determine parentage of a child, or to register and modify a support order of a tribunal of another state or foreign country must file a petition. Unless otherwise ordered under Section 159.312, the petition or accompanying documents must provide, so far as known, the name, residential address, and social security numbers of the obligor and the obligee or the parent and alleged parent, and the name, sex, residential address, social security number, and date of birth of each child for whose benefit support is sought or whose parentage is to be determined. Unless filed at the time of registration, the petition must be accompanied by a copy of any support order known to have been issued by another tribunal. The petition may include any other information that may assist in locating or identifying the respondent.

(b) The petition must specify the relief sought. The petition and accompanying documents must conform substantially with the requirements imposed by the forms mandated by federal law for use in cases filed by a support enforcement agency.

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Sec. 159.312. Nondisclosure of Information in Exceptional Circumstances. If a party alleges in an affidavit or pleading under oath that the health, safety, or liberty of a party or child would be jeopardized by disclosure of specific identifying information, that information must be sealed and may not be disclosed to the other party or the public. After a hearing in which a tribunal takes into consideration the health, safety, or liberty of the party or child, the tribunal may order disclosure of information that the tribunal determines to be in the interest of justice.

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Sec. 159.313. Costs and Fees.

(a) The petitioner may not be required to pay a filing fee or other costs.

(b) If an obligee prevails, a responding tribunal of this state may assess against an obligor filing fees, reasonable attorney's fees, other costs, and necessary travel and other reasonable expenses incurred by the obligee and the obligee's witnesses. The tribunal may not assess fees, costs, or expenses against the obligee or the support enforcement agency of either the initiating or responding state or foreign country, except as provided by other law. Attorney's fees may be taxed as costs, and may be ordered paid directly to the attorney, who may enforce the order in the attorney's own name. Payment of support owed to the obligee has priority over fees, costs, and expenses.

(c) The tribunal shall order the payment of costs and reasonable attorney's fees if it determines that a hearing was requested primarily for delay. In a proceeding under Subchapter G, a hearing is presumed to have been requested primarily for delay if a registered support order is confirmed or enforced without change.

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Sec. 159.314. Limited Immunity of Petitioner.

(a) Participation by a petitioner in a proceeding under this chapter before a responding tribunal, whether in person, by private attorney, or through services provided by the support enforcement agency, does not confer personal jurisdiction over the petitioner in another proceeding.

(b) A petitioner is not amenable to service of civil process while physically present in this state to participate in a proceeding under this chapter.

(c) The immunity granted by this section does not extend to civil litigation based on acts unrelated to a proceeding under this chapter committed by a party while physically present in this state to participate in the proceeding.

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Sec. 159.315. Nonparentage as Defense. A party whose parentage of a child has been previously determined by or under law may not plead nonparentage as a defense to a proceeding under this chapter.

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Sec. 159.316. Special Rules of Evidence and Procedure.

(a) The physical presence of a nonresident party who is an individual in a tribunal of this state is not required for the establishment, enforcement, or modification of a support order or the rendition of a judgment determining parentage of a child.

(b) An affidavit, a document substantially complying with federally mandated forms, or a document incorporated by reference in an affidavit or document, that would not be excluded under the hearsay rule if given in person, is admissible in evidence if given under penalty of perjury by a party or witness residing outside this state.

(c) A copy of the record of child support payments certified as a true copy of the original by the custodian of the record may be forwarded to a responding tribunal. The copy is evidence of facts asserted in it and is admissible to show whether payments were made.

(d) Copies of bills for testing for parentage of a child, and for prenatal and postnatal health care of the mother and child furnished to the adverse party at least 10 days before trial are admissible in evidence to prove the amount of the charges billed and that the charges were reasonable, necessary, and customary.

(e) Documentary evidence transmitted from outside this state to a tribunal of this state by telephone, telecopier, or other electronic means that does not provide an original record may not be excluded from evidence on an objection based on the means of transmission.

(f) In a proceeding under this chapter, a tribunal of this state shall permit a party or witness residing outside this state to be deposed or to testify under penalty of perjury by telephone, audiovisual means, or other electronic means at a designated tribunal or other location. A tribunal of this state shall cooperate with other tribunals in designating an appropriate location for the deposition or testimony.

(g) If a party called to testify at a civil hearing refuses to answer on the ground that the testimony may be self–incriminating, the trier of fact may draw an adverse inference from the refusal.

(h) A privilege against disclosure of communications between spouses does not apply in a proceeding under this chapter.

(i) The defense of immunity based on the relationship of husband and wife or parent and child does not apply in a proceeding under this chapter.

(j) A voluntary acknowledgment of paternity, certified as a true copy, is admissible to establish parentage of the child.

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Sec. 159.317. Communications Between TribunalS. A tribunal of this state may communicate with a tribunal outside this state in a record or by telephone, electronic mail, or by other means, to obtain information concerning the laws, the legal effect of a judgment, decree, or order of that tribunal, and the status of a proceeding. A tribunal of this state may furnish similar information by similar means to a tribunal outside this state.

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Sec. 159.318. Assistance with Discovery. A tribunal of this state may:

(1) request a tribunal outside this state to assist in obtaining discovery; and

(2) on request, compel a person over whom the tribunal has jurisdiction to respond to a discovery order issued by a tribunal outside this state.

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Sec. 159.319. Receipt and Disbursement of Payments.

(a) A support enforcement agency or tribunal of this state shall disburse promptly any amounts received under a support order, as directed by the order. The agency or tribunal shall furnish to a requesting party or tribunal of another state or a foreign country a certified statement by the custodian of the record of the amounts and dates of all payments received.

(b) If the obligor, the obligee who is an individual, and the child do not reside in this state, on request from the support enforcement agency of this state or another state, the support enforcement agency of this state or a tribunal of this state shall:

(1) direct that the support payment be made to the support enforcement agency in the state in which the obligee is receiving services; and

(2) issue and send to the obligor's employer a conforming income–withholding order or an administrative notice of change of payee reflecting the redirected payments.

(c) The support enforcement agency of this state on receiving redirected payments from another state under a law similar to Subsection (b) shall provide to a requesting party or a tribunal of the other state a certified statement by the custodian of the record of the amount and dates of all payments received.

Subch. E. Establishment of Support Order or Determination of Parentage

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Sec. 159.401. Establishment of Support Order.

(a) If a support order entitled to recognition under this chapter has not been issued, a responding tribunal of this state with personal jurisdiction over the parties may issue a support order if:

(1) the individual seeking the order resides outside this state; or

(2) the support enforcement agency seeking the order is located outside this state.

(b) The tribunal may issue a temporary child support order if the tribunal determines that such an order is appropriate and the individual ordered to pay is:

(1) a presumed father of the child;

(2) petitioning to have his paternity adjudicated;

(3) identified as the father of the child through genetic testing;

(4) an alleged father who has declined to submit to genetic testing;

(5) shown by clear and convincing evidence to be the father of the child;

(6) an acknowledged father as provided by applicable state law;

(7) the mother of the child; or

(8) an individual who has been ordered to pay child support in a previous proceeding and the order has not been reversed or vacated.

(c) On finding, after notice and an opportunity to be heard, that an obligor owes a duty of support, the tribunal shall issue a support order directed to the obligor and may issue other orders under Section 159.305.

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Sec. 159.402. Proceeding to Determine Parentage. A tribunal of this state authorized to determine parentage of a child may serve as a responding tribunal in a proceeding to determine parentage of a child brought under this chapter or a law or procedure substantially similar to this chapter.

Subch. F. Enforcement of Support Order Without Registration

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Sec. 159.501. Employer's Receipt of Income–Withholding Order of Another State. An income–withholding order issued in another state may be sent by or on behalf of the obligee or by the support enforcement agency to the person defined as the obligor's employer under Chapter 158 without first filing a petition or comparable pleading or registering the order with a tribunal of this state.

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Sec. 159.502. Employer's Compliance with Income–Withholding Order of Another State.

(a) On receipt of an income–withholding order, the obligor's employer shall immediately provide a copy of the order to the obligor.

(b) The employer shall treat an income–withholding order issued in another state that appears regular on its face as if the order had been issued by a tribunal of this state.

(c) Except as otherwise provided in Subsection (d) and Section 159.503, the employer shall withhold and distribute the funds as directed in the withholding order by complying with terms of the order that specify:

(1) the duration and amount of periodic payments of current child support, stated as a sum certain;

(2) the person designated to receive payments and the address to which the payments are to be forwarded;

(3) medical support, whether in the form of periodic cash payments, stated as a sum certain, or ordering the obligor to provide health insurance coverage for the child under a policy available through the obligor's employment;

(4) the amount of periodic payments of fees and costs for a support enforcement agency, the issuing tribunal, and the obligee's attorney, stated as sums certain; and

(5) the amount of periodic payments of arrearages and interest on arrearages, stated as sums certain.

(d) An employer shall comply with the law of the state of the obligor's principal place of employment for withholding from income with respect to:

(1) the employer's fee for processing an income–withholding order;

(2) the maximum amount permitted to be withheld from the obligor's income; and

(3) the times within which the employer must implement the withholding order and forward the child support payment.

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Sec. 159.503. Employer's Compliance with Two or More Income–Withholding Orders. If an obligor's employer receives two or more income–withholding orders with respect to the earnings of the same obligor, the employer satisfies the terms of the orders if the employer complies with the law of the state of the obligor's principal place of employment to establish the priorities for withholding and allocating income withheld for two or more child support obligees.

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Sec. 159.504. Immunity from Civil Liability. An employer who complies with an income–withholding order issued in another state in accordance with this subchapter is not subject to civil liability to an individual or agency with regard to the employer's withholding of child support from the obligor's income.

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Sec. 159.505. Penalties for Noncompliance. An employer who wilfully fails to comply with an income–withholding order issued by another state and received for enforcement is subject to the same penalties that may be imposed for noncompliance with an order issued by a tribunal of this state.

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Sec. 159.506. Contest by Obligor.

(a) An obligor may contest the validity or enforcement of an income–withholding order issued in another state and received directly by an employer in this state by registering the order in a tribunal of this state and filing a contest to that order as provided in Subchapter G or otherwise contesting the order in the same manner as if the order had been issued by a tribunal of this state.

(b) The obligor shall give notice of the contest to:

(1) a support enforcement agency providing services to the obligee;

(2) each employer that has directly received an income–withholding order relating to the obligor; and

(3) the person designated to receive payments in the income–withholding order or, if no person is designated, to the obligee.

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Sec. 159.507. Administrative Enforcement of Orders.

(a) A party or support enforcement agency seeking to enforce a support order or an income–withholding order, or both, issued in another state or a foreign support order may send the documents required for registering the order to a support enforcement agency of this state.

(b) On receipt of the documents, the support enforcement agency, without initially seeking to register the order, shall consider and, if appropriate, use any administrative procedure authorized by the law of this state to enforce a support order or an income–withholding order, or both. If the obligor does not contest administrative enforcement, the order need not be registered. If the obligor contests the validity or administrative enforcement of the order, the support enforcement agency shall register the order under this chapter.

Subch. G. Registration, Enforcement, and Modification of Support Order

Part 1. Registration for Enforcement of Support Order

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Sec. 159.601. Registration of Order for Enforcement. A support order or income–withholding order issued in another state or a foreign support order may be registered in this state for enforcement.

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Sec. 159.602. Procedure to Register order for Enforcement.

(a) Except as otherwise provided by Section 159.706, a support order or income–withholding order of another state or a foreign support order may be registered in this state by sending the following records to the appropriate tribunal in this state:

(1) a letter of transmittal to the tribunal requesting registration and enforcement;

(2) two copies, including one certified copy, of the order to be registered, including any modification of the order;

(3) a sworn statement by the person requesting registration or a certified statement by the custodian of the records showing the amount of any arrearage;

(4) the name of the obligor and, if known:

(A) the obligor's address and social security number;

(B) the name and address of the obligor's employer and any other source of income of the obligor; and

(C) a description of and the location of property of the obligor in this state not exempt from execution; and

(5) except as otherwise provided by Section 159.312, the name and address of the obligee and, if applicable, the person to whom support payments are to be remitted.

(b) On receipt of a request for registration, the registering tribunal shall cause the order to be filed as an order of a tribunal of another state or a foreign support order, together with one copy of the documents and information, regardless of their form.

(c) A petition or comparable pleading seeking a remedy that must be affirmatively sought under other law of this state may be filed at the same time as the request for registration or later. The pleading must specify the grounds for the remedy sought.

(d) If two or more orders are in effect, the person requesting registration shall:

(1) furnish to the tribunal a copy of each support order asserted to be in effect in addition to the documents specified in this section;

(2) specify the order alleged to be the controlling order, if any; and

(3) specify the amount of consolidated arrears, if any.

(e) A request for a determination of which order is the controlling order may be filed separately from or with a request for registration and enforcement or for registration and modification. The person requesting registration shall give notice of the request to each party whose rights may be affected by the determination.

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Sec. 159.603. Effect of Registration for Enforcement.

(a) A support order or income–withholding order issued in another state or a foreign support order is registered when the order is filed in the registering tribunal of this state.

(b) A registered support order issued in another state or a foreign country is enforceable in the same manner and is subject to the same procedures as an order issued by a tribunal of this state.

(c) Except as otherwise provided in this subchapter, a tribunal of this state shall recognize and enforce, but may not modify, a registered support order if the issuing tribunal had jurisdiction.

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Sec. 159.604. Choice of Law.

(a) Except as otherwise provided by Subsection (d), the law of the issuing state or foreign country governs:

(1) the nature, extent, amount, and duration of current payments under a registered support order;

(2) the computation and payment of arrearages and accrual of interest on the arrearages under the support order; and

(3) the existence and satisfaction of other obligations under the support order.

(b) In a proceeding for arrears under a registered support order, the statute of limitation of this state, or of the issuing state or foreign country, whichever is longer, applies.

(c) A responding tribunal of this state shall apply the procedures and remedies of this state to enforce current support and collect arrears and interest due on a support order of another state or a foreign country registered in this state.

(d) After a tribunal of this state or another state determines which is the controlling order and issues an order consolidating arrears, if any, the tribunal of this state shall prospectively apply the law of the state or foreign country issuing the controlling order, including that state's or country's law on interest on arrears, on current and future support, and on consolidated arrears.

Part 2. Contest of Validity or Enforcement

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Sec. 159.605. Notice of Registration of Order.

(a) When a support order or income–withholding order issued in another state or a foreign support order is registered, the registering tribunal of this state shall notify the nonregistering party. The notice must be accompanied by a copy of the registered order and the documents and relevant information accompanying the order.

(b) A notice must inform the nonregistering party:

(1) that a registered order is enforceable as of the date of registration in the same manner as an order issued by a tribunal of this state;

(2) that a hearing to contest the validity or enforcement of the registered order must be requested within 20 days after notice unless the registered order is under Section 159.707;

(3) that failure to contest the validity or enforcement of the registered order in a timely manner will result in confirmation of the order and enforcement of the order and the alleged arrearages; and

(4) of the amount of any alleged arrearages.

(c) If the registering party asserts that two or more orders are in effect, the notice must also:

(1) identify the two or more orders and the order alleged by the registering party to be the controlling order and the consolidated arrears, if any;

(2) notify the nonregistering party of the right to a determination of which is the controlling order;

(3) state that the procedures provided in Subsection (b) apply to the determination of which is the controlling order; and

(4) state that failure to contest the validity or enforcement of the order alleged to be the controlling order in a timely manner may result in confirmation that the order is the controlling order.

(d) On registration of an income–withholding order for enforcement, the support enforcement agency or the registering tribunal shall notify the obligor's employer under Chapter 158.

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Sec. 159.606. Procedure to Contest Validity or Enforcement of Registered Support Order.

(a) A nonregistering party seeking to contest the validity or enforcement of a registered support order in this state shall request a hearing within the time required by Section 159.605. The nonregistering party may seek to vacate the registration, to assert any defense to an allegation of noncompliance with the registered order, or to contest the remedies being sought or the amount of any alleged arrearages under Section 159.607.

(b) If the nonregistering party fails to contest the validity or enforcement of the registered support order in a timely manner, the order is confirmed by operation of law.

(c) If a nonregistering party requests a hearing to contest the validity or enforcement of the registered support order, the registering tribunal shall schedule the matter for hearing and give notice to the parties of the date, time, and place of the hearing.

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Sec. 159.607. Contest of Registration or Enforcement.

(a) A party contesting the validity or enforcement of a registered support order or seeking to vacate the registration has the burden of proving one or more of the following defenses:

(1) the issuing tribunal lacked personal jurisdiction over the contesting party;

(2) the order was obtained by fraud;

(3) the order has been vacated, suspended, or modified by a later order;

(4) the issuing tribunal has stayed the order pending appeal;

(5) there is a defense under the law of this state to the remedy sought;

(6) full or partial payment has been made;

(7) the statute of limitation under Section 159.604 precludes enforcement of some or all of the alleged arrearages; or

(8) the alleged controlling order is not the controlling order.

(b) If a party presents evidence establishing a full or partial defense under Subsection (a), a tribunal may stay enforcement of the registered support order, continue the proceeding to permit production of additional relevant evidence, and issue other appropriate orders. An uncontested portion of the registered support order may be enforced by all remedies available under the law of this state.

(c) If the contesting party does not establish a defense under Subsection (a) to the validity or enforcement of the registered support order, the registering tribunal shall issue an order confirming the order.

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Sec. 159.608. Confirmed Order. Confirmation of a registered support order, whether by operation of law or after notice and hearing, precludes further contest of the order with respect to any matter that could have been asserted at the time of registration.

Part 3. Registration and Modification of Child Support Order of Another State

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Sec. 159.609. Procedure to Register Child Support Order of Another State for Modification. A party or support enforcement agency seeking to modify, or to modify and enforce, a child support order issued in another state shall register that order in this state in the same manner provided in Sections 159.601 through 159.608 if the order has not been registered. A petition for modification may be filed at the same time as a request for registration, or later. The pleading must specify the grounds for modification.

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Sec. 159.610. Effect of Registration for Modification. A tribunal of this state may enforce a child support order of another state registered for purposes of modification in the same manner as if the order had been issued by a tribunal of this state, but the registered support order may be modified only if the requirements of Section 159.611 or 159.613 have been met.

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Sec. 159.611. Modification of Child Support Order of Another State.

(a) If Section 159.613 does not apply, on petition a tribunal of this state may modify a child support order issued in another state that is registered in this state if, after notice and hearing, the tribunal finds that:

(1) the following requirements are met:

(A) the child, the obligee who is an individual, and the obligor do not reside in the issuing state;

(B) a petitioner who is a nonresident of this state seeks modification; and

(C) the respondent is subject to the personal jurisdiction of the tribunal of this state; or

(2) this state is the residence of the child, or a party who is an individual is subject to the personal jurisdiction of the tribunal of this state, and all of the parties who are individuals have filed consents in a record in the issuing tribunal for a tribunal of this state to modify the support order and assume continuing, exclusive jurisdiction.

(b) Modification of a registered child support order is subject to the same requirements, procedures, and defenses that apply to the modification of an order issued by a tribunal of this state, and the order may be enforced and satisfied in the same manner.

(c) A tribunal of this state may not modify any aspect of a child support order that may not be modified under the law of the issuing state, including the duration of the obligation of support. If two or more tribunals have issued child support orders for the same obligor and same child, the order that controls and must be so recognized under Section 159.207 establishes the aspects of the support order that are nonmodifiable.

(d) In a proceeding to modify a child support order, the law of the state that is determined to have issued the initial controlling order governs the duration of the obligation of support. The obligor's fulfillment of the duty of support established by that order precludes imposition of a further obligation of support by a tribunal of this state.

(e) On issuance of an order by a tribunal of this state modifying a child support order issued in another state, the tribunal of this state becomes the tribunal of continuing, exclusive jurisdiction.

(f) Notwithstanding Subsections (a) through (e) of this section and Section 159.201(b), a tribunal of this state retains jurisdiction to modify an order issued by a tribunal of this state if:

(1) one party resides in another state; and

(2) the other party resides outside the United States.

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Sec. 159.612. Recognition of Order Modified in Another State. If a child support order issued by a tribunal of this state is modified by a tribunal of another state that assumed jurisdiction under the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act, a tribunal of this state:

(1) may enforce the order that was modified only as to arrears and interest accruing before the modification;

(2) may provide appropriate relief for violations of the order that occurred before the effective date of the modification; and

(3) shall recognize the modifying order of the other state, on registration, for the purpose of enforcement.

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Sec. 159.613. Jurisdiction to Modify Child Support Order of Another State Within Individual Parties Reside in this State.

(a) If all of the parties who are individuals reside in this state and the child does not reside in the issuing state, a tribunal of this state has jurisdiction to enforce and to modify the issuing state's child support order in a proceeding to register that order.

(b) A tribunal of this state exercising jurisdiction under this section shall apply the provisions of Subchapters B and C, this subchapter, and the procedural and substantive law of this state to the proceeding for enforcement or modification. Subchapters D, E, F, H, and I do not apply.

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Sec. 159.614. Notice to Issuing Tribunal of Modification. Within 30 days after issuance of a modified child support order, the party obtaining the modification shall file a certified copy of the order with the issuing tribunal that had continuing, exclusive jurisdiction over the earlier order and in each tribunal in which the party knows the earlier order has been registered. A party who obtains the order and fails to file a certified copy is subject to appropriate sanctions by a tribunal in which the issue of failure to file arises. The failure to file does not affect the validity or enforceability of the modified order of the new tribunal having continuing, exclusive jurisdiction.

Part 4. Registration and Modification of Foreign Child Support Order

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Sec. 159.615. Jurisdiction to Modify Child Support Order of Foreign Country.

(a) Except as otherwise provided by Section 159.711, if a foreign country lacks or refuses to exercise jurisdiction to modify its child support order pursuant to its laws, a tribunal of this state may assume jurisdiction to modify the child support order and bind all individuals subject to the personal jurisdiction of the tribunal regardless of whether the consent to modification of a child support order otherwise required of the individual under Section 159.611 has been given or whether the individual seeking modification is a resident of this state or of the foreign country.

(b) An order issued by a tribunal of this state modifying a foreign child support order under this section is the controlling order.

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Sec. 159.616. Procedure to Register Child Support Order of Foreign Country for Modification. A party or support enforcement agency seeking to modify, or to modify and enforce, a foreign child support order not under the Convention may register that order in this state under Sections 159.601 through 159.608 if the order has not been registered. A petition for modification may be filed at the same time as a request for registration or at another time. The petition must specify the grounds for modification.

Subch. H. Support Proceeding Under Convention

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Sec. 159.701. Definitions. In this subchapter:

(1) "Application" means a request under the Convention by an obligee or obligor, or on behalf of a child, made through a central authority for assistance from another central authority.

(2) "Central authority" means the entity designated by the United States or a foreign country described in Section 159.102(5)(D) to perform the functions specified in the Convention.

(3) "Convention support order" means a support order of a tribunal of a foreign country described in Section 159.102(5)(D).

(4) "Direct request" means a petition filed by an individual in a tribunal of this state in a proceeding involving an obligee, obligor, or child residing outside the United States.

(5) "Foreign central authority" means the entity designated by a foreign country described in Section 159.102(5)(D) to perform the functions specified in the Convention.

(6) "Foreign support agreement":

(A) means an agreement for support in a record that:

(i) is enforceable as a support order in the country of origin;

(ii) has been:

(a) formally drawn up or registered as an authentic instrument by a foreign tribunal; or

(b) authenticated by, or concluded, registered, or filed with a foreign tribunal; and

(iii) may be reviewed and modified by a foreign tribunal; and

(B) includes a maintenance arrangement or authentic instrument under the Convention.

(7) "United States central authority" means the secretary of the United States Department of Health and Human Services.

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Sec. 159.702. Applicability. This subchapter applies only to a support proceeding under the Convention. In such a proceeding, if a provision of this subchapter is inconsistent with Subchapters B through G, this subchapter controls.

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Sec. 159.703. Relationship of Office of Attorney General to United States Central Authority. The office of the attorney general of this state is recognized as the agency designated by the United States central authority to perform specific functions under the Convention.

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Sec. 159.704. Initiation by Office of Attorney General of Support Proceeding Under Convention.

(a) In a support proceeding under this subchapter, the office of the attorney general of this state shall:

(1) transmit and receive applications; and

(2) initiate or facilitate the institution of a proceeding regarding an application in a tribunal of this state.

(b) The following support proceedings are available to an obligee under the Convention:

(1) recognition or recognition and enforcement of a foreign support order;

(2) enforcement of a support order issued or recognized in this state;

(3) establishment of a support order if there is no existing order, including, if necessary, determination of parentage of a child;

(4) establishment of a support order if recognition of a foreign support order is refused under Section 159.708(b)(2), (4), or (9);

(5) modification of a support order of a tribunal of this state; and

(6) modification of a support order of a tribunal of another state or a foreign country.

(c) The following support proceedings are available under the Convention to an obligor against which there is an existing support order:

(1) recognition of an order suspending or limiting enforcement of an existing support order of a tribunal of this state;

(2) modification of a support order of a tribunal of this state; and

(3) modification of a support order of a tribunal of another state or a foreign country.

(d) A tribunal of this state may not require security, bond, or deposit, however described, to guarantee the payment of costs and expenses in proceedings under the Convention.

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Sec. 159.705. Direct Request.

(a) A petitioner may file a direct request seeking establishment or modification of a support order or determination of parentage of a child. In the proceeding, the law of this state applies.

(b) A petitioner may file a direct request seeking recognition and enforcement of a support order or support agreement. In the proceeding, Sections 159.706 through 159.713 apply.

(c) In a direct request for recognition and enforcement of a Convention support order or foreign support agreement:

(1) a security, bond, or deposit is not required to guarantee the payment of costs and expenses; and

(2) an obligee or obligor that in the issuing country has benefited from free legal assistance is entitled to benefit, at least to the same extent, from any free legal assistance provided for by the law of this state under the same circumstances.

(d) A petitioner filing a direct request is not entitled to assistance from the office of the attorney general.

(e) This subchapter does not prevent the application of laws of this state that provide simplified, more expeditious rules regarding a direct request for recognition and enforcement of a foreign support order or foreign support agreement.

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Sec. 159.706. Registration of Convention Support Order.

(a) Except as otherwise provided in this subchapter, a party who is an individual or a support enforcement agency seeking recognition of a Convention support order shall register the order in this state as provided in Subchapter G.

(b) Notwithstanding Sections 159.311 and 159.602(a), a request for registration of a Convention support order must be accompanied by:

(1) the complete text of the support order or an abstract or extract of the support order drawn up by the issuing foreign tribunal, which may be in the form recommended by the Hague Conference on Private International Law;

(2) a record stating that the support order is enforceable in the issuing country;

(3) if the respondent did not appear and was not represented in the proceedings in the issuing country, a record attesting, as appropriate, either that the respondent had proper notice of the proceedings and an opportunity to be heard or that the respondent had proper notice of the support order and an opportunity to be heard in a challenge or appeal on fact or law before a tribunal;

(4) a record showing the amount of arrears, if any, and the date the amount was calculated;

(5) a record showing a requirement for automatic adjustment of the amount of support, if any, and the information necessary to make the appropriate calculations; and

(6) if necessary, a record showing the extent to which the applicant received free legal assistance in the issuing country.

(c) A request for registration of a Convention support order may seek recognition and partial enforcement of the order.

(d) A tribunal of this state may vacate the registration of a Convention support order without the filing of a contest under Section 159.707 only if, acting on its own motion, the tribunal finds that recognition and enforcement of the order would be manifestly incompatible with public policy.

(e) The tribunal shall promptly notify the parties of the registration or the order vacating the registration of a Convention support order.

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Sec. 159.707. Contest of Registered Convention Support Order.

(a) Except as otherwise provided in this subchapter, Sections 159.605 through 159.608 apply to a contest of a registered Convention support order.

(b) A party contesting a registered Convention support order shall file a contest not later than 30 days after notice of the registration. If the contesting party does not reside in the United States, the contest must be filed not later than 60 days after notice of the registration.

(c) If the nonregistering party fails to contest the registered Convention support order by the time specified in Subsection (b), the order is enforceable.

(d) A contest of a registered Convention support order may be based only on grounds set forth in Section 159.708. The contesting party bears the burden of proof.

(e) In a contest of a registered Convention support order, a tribunal of this state:

(1) is bound by the findings of fact on which the foreign tribunal based its jurisdiction; and

(2) may not review the merits of the order.

(f) A tribunal of this state deciding a contest of a registered Convention support order shall promptly notify the parties of its decision.

(g) A challenge or appeal, if any, does not stay the enforcement of a Convention support order unless there are exceptional circumstances.

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Sec. 159.708. Recognition and Enforcement of Registered Convention Support Order.

(a) Except as otherwise provided in Subsection (b), a tribunal of this state shall recognize and enforce a registered Convention support order.

(b) The following grounds are the only grounds on which a tribunal of this state may refuse recognition and enforcement of a registered Convention support order:

(1) recognition and enforcement of the order is manifestly incompatible with public policy, including the failure of the issuing tribunal to observe minimum standards of due process, which include notice and an opportunity to be heard;

(2) the issuing tribunal lacked personal jurisdiction consistent with Section 159.201;

(3) the order is not enforceable in the issuing country;

(4) the order was obtained by fraud in connection with a matter of procedure;

(5) a record transmitted in accordance with Section 159.706 lacks authenticity or integrity;

(6) a proceeding between the same parties and having the same purpose is pending before a tribunal of this state and that proceeding was the first to be filed;

(7) the order is incompatible with a more recent support order involving the same parties and having the same purpose if the more recent support order is entitled to recognition and enforcement under this chapter in this state;

(8) payment, to the extent alleged arrears have been paid in whole or in part;

(9) in a case in which the respondent neither appeared nor was represented in the proceeding in the issuing foreign country:

(A) if the law of that country provides for prior notice of proceedings, the respondent did not have proper notice of the proceedings and an opportunity to be heard; or

(B) if the law of that country does not provide for prior notice of the proceedings, the respondent did not have proper notice of the order and an opportunity to be heard in a challenge or appeal on fact or law before a tribunal; or

(10) the order was made in violation of Section 159.711.

(c) If a tribunal of this state does not recognize a Convention support order under Subsection (b)(2), (4), or (9):

(1) the tribunal may not dismiss the proceeding without allowing a reasonable time for a party to request the establishment of a new Convention support order; and

(2) the office of the attorney general shall take all appropriate measures to request a child support order for the obligee if the application for recognition and enforcement was received under Section 159.704.

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Sec. 159.709. Partial Enforcement. If a tribunal of this state does not recognize and enforce a Convention support order in its entirety, it shall enforce any severable part of the order. An application or direct request may seek recognition and partial enforcement of a Convention support order.

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Sec. 159.710. Foreign Support Agreement.

(a) Except as otherwise provided by Subsections (c) and (d), a tribunal of this state shall recognize and enforce a foreign support agreement registered in this state.

(b) An application or direct request for recognition and enforcement of a foreign support agreement must be accompanied by:

(1) the complete text of the foreign support agreement; and

(2) a record stating that the foreign support agreement is enforceable as an order of support in the issuing country.

(c) A tribunal of this state may vacate the registration of a foreign support agreement only if, acting on its own motion, the tribunal finds that recognition and enforcement would be manifestly incompatible with public policy.

(d) In a contest of a foreign support agreement, a tribunal of this state may refuse recognition and enforcement of the agreement if it finds:

(1) recognition and enforcement of the agreement is manifestly incompatible with public policy;

(2) the agreement was obtained by fraud or falsification;

(3) the agreement is incompatible with a support order involving the same parties and having the same purpose in this state, another state, or a foreign country if the support order is entitled to recognition and enforcement under this chapter in this state; or

(4) the record submitted under Subsection (b) lacks authenticity or integrity.

(e) A proceeding for recognition and enforcement of a foreign support agreement must be suspended during the pendency of a challenge to or appeal of the agreement before a tribunal of another state or a foreign country.

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Sec. 159.711. Modification of Convention Child Support Order.

(a) A tribunal of this state may not modify a Convention child support order if the obligee remains a resident of the foreign country where the support order was issued unless:

(1) the obligee submits to the jurisdiction of a tribunal of this state, either expressly or by defending on the merits of the case without objecting to the jurisdiction at the first available opportunity; or

(2) the foreign tribunal lacks or refuses to exercise jurisdiction to modify its support order or issue a new support order.

(b) If a tribunal of this state does not modify a Convention child support order because the order is not recognized in this state, Section 159.708

(c) applies.

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Sec. 159.712. Personal Information; Limit on Use. Personal information gathered or transmitted under this subchapter may be used only for the purposes for which it was gathered or transmitted.

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Sec. 159.713. Record in Original Language; English Translation. A record filed with a tribunal of this state under this subchapter must be in the original language and, if not in English, must be accompanied by an English translation.

Subch. I. Interstate Rendition

[Contents]

Sec. 159.801. Grounds for Rendition.

(a) For purposes of this subchapter, "governor" includes an individual performing the functions of governor or the executive authority of a state covered by this chapter.

(b) The governor of this state may:

(1) demand that the governor of another state surrender an individual found in the other state who is charged criminally in this state with having failed to provide for the support of an obligee; or

(2) on the demand of the governor of another state, surrender an individual found in this state who is charged criminally in the other state with having failed to provide for the support of an obligee.

(c) A provision for extradition of individuals not inconsistent with this chapter applies to the demand even if the individual whose surrender is demanded was not in the demanding state when the crime was allegedly committed and has not fled from that state.

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Sec. 159.802. Conditions of Rendition.

(a) Before making a demand that the governor of another state surrender an individual charged criminally in this state with having failed to provide for the support of an obligee, the governor of this state may require a prosecutor of this state to demonstrate that, not less than 60 days previously, the obligee had initiated proceedings for support under this chapter or that the proceeding would be of no avail.

(b) If, under this chapter or a law substantially similar to this chapter, the governor of another state makes a demand that the governor of this state surrender an individual charged criminally in that state with having failed to provide for the support of a child or other individual to whom a duty of support is owed, the governor may require a prosecutor to investigate the demand and report whether a proceeding for support has been initiated or would be effective. If it appears that a proceeding would be effective but has not been initiated, the governor may delay honoring the demand for a reasonable time to permit the initiation of a proceeding.

(c) If a proceeding for support has been initiated and the individual whose rendition is demanded prevails, the governor may decline to honor the demand. If the petitioner prevails and the individual whose rendition is demanded is subject to a support order, the governor may decline to honor the demand if the individual is complying with the support order.

Subch. J. Miscellaneous Provisions

[Contents]

Sec. 159.901. Uniformity of Application and Construction. In applying and construing this uniform act, consideration must be given to the need to promote uniformity of the law with respect to its subject matter among states that enact it.

Ch. 160. Uniform Parentage Act

Subch. A. Application and Construction

[Contents]

Sec. 160.001. Application and Construction. This chapter shall be applied and construed to promote the uniformity of the law among the states that enact the Uniform Parentage Act.

[Contents]

Sec. 160.002. Conflicts Between Provisions. If a provision of this chapter conflicts with another provision of this title or another state statute or rule and the conflict cannot be reconciled, this chapter prevails.

Subch. B. General Provisions

[Contents]

Sec. 160.101. Short Title. This chapter may be cited as the Uniform Parentage Act.

[Contents]

Sec. 160.102. Definitions. In this chapter:

(1) "Adjudicated father" means a man who has been adjudicated by a court to be the father of a child.

(2) "Assisted reproduction" means a method of causing pregnancy other than sexual intercourse. The term includes:

(A) intrauterine insemination;

(B) donation of eggs;

(C) donation of embryos;

(D) in vitro fertilization and transfer of embryos; and

(E) intracytoplasmic sperm injection.

(3) "Child" means an individual of any age whose parentage may be determined under this chapter.

(4) "Commence" means to file the initial pleading seeking an adjudication of parentage in a court of this state.

(5) "Determination of parentage" means the establishment of the parent–child relationship by the signing of a valid acknowledgment of paternity under Subchapter D or by an adjudication by a court.

(6) "Donor" means an individual who provides eggs or sperm to a licensed physician to be used for assisted reproduction, regardless of whether the eggs or sperm are provided for consideration. The term does not include:

(A) a husband who provides sperm or a wife who provides eggs to be used for assisted reproduction by the wife;

(B) a woman who gives birth to a child by means of assisted reproduction; or

(C) an unmarried man who, with the intent to be the father of the resulting child, provides sperm to be used for assisted reproduction by an unmarried woman, as provided by Section 160.7031.

(7) "Ethnic or racial group" means, for purposes of genetic testing, a recognized group that an individual identifies as all or part of the individual's ancestry or that is identified by other information.

(8) "Genetic testing" means an analysis of an individual's genetic markers to exclude or identify a man as the father of a child or a woman as the mother of a child. The term includes an analysis of one or more of the following:

(A) deoxyribonucleic acid; and

(B) blood–group antigens, red–cell antigens, human–leukocyte antigens, serum enzymes, serum proteins, or red–cell enzymes.

(9) "Intended parents" means individuals who enter into an agreement providing that the individuals will be the parents of a child born to a gestational mother by means of assisted reproduction, regardless of whether either individual has a genetic relationship with the child.

(10) "Man" means a male individual of any age.

(11) "Parent" means an individual who has established a parent–child relationship under Section 160.201.

(12) "Paternity index" means the likelihood of paternity determined by calculating the ratio between:

(A) the likelihood that the tested man is the father of the child, based on the genetic markers of the tested man, the mother of the child, and the child, conditioned on the hypothesis that the tested man is the father of the child; and

(B) the likelihood that the tested man is not the father of the child, based on the genetic markers of the tested man, the mother of the child, and the child, conditioned on the hypothesis that the tested man is not the father of the child and that the father of the child is of the same ethnic or racial group as the tested man.

(13) "Presumed father" means a man who, by operation of law under Section 160.204, is recognized as the father of a child until that status is rebutted or confirmed in a judicial proceeding.

(14) "Probability of paternity" means the probability, with respect to the ethnic or racial group to which the alleged father belongs, that the alleged father is the father of the child, compared to a random, unrelated man of the same ethnic or racial group, expressed as a percentage incorporating the paternity index and a prior probability.

(15) "Record" means information that is inscribed on a tangible medium or that is stored in an electronic or other medium and is retrievable in a perceivable form.

(16) "Signatory" means an individual who authenticates a record and is bound by its terms.

(17) "Support enforcement agency" means a public official or public agency authorized to seek:

(A) the enforcement of child support orders or laws relating to the duty of support;

(B) the establishment or modification of child support;

(C) the determination of parentage;

(D) the location of child–support obligors and their income and assets; or

(E) the conservatorship of a child or the termination of parental rights.

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Sec. 160.103. Scope of Chapter; Choice of Law.

(a) Except as provided by Chapter 233, this chapter governs every determination of parentage in this state.

(b) The court shall apply the law of this state to adjudicate the parent–child relationship. The applicable law does not depend on:

(1) the place of birth of the child; or

(2) the past or present residence of the child.

(c) This chapter does not create, enlarge, or diminish parental rights or duties

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Sec. 160.104. Authorized Courts. The following courts are authorized to adjudicate parentage under this chapter:

(1) a court with jurisdiction to hear a suit affecting the parent–child relationship under this title; or

(2) a court with jurisdiction to adjudicate parentage under another law of this state.

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Sec. 160.105. Protection of Participants. A proceeding under this chapter is subject to the other laws of this state governing the health, safety, privacy, and liberty of a child or any other individual who may be jeopardized by the disclosure of identifying information, including the person's address, telephone number, place of employment, and social security number and the name of the child's day–care facility and school.

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Sec. 160.106. Determination of Maternity. The provisions of this chapter relating to the determination of paternity apply to a determination of maternity.

Subch. C. Parent–Child Relationship

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Sec. 160.201. Establishment of Parent–Child Relationship.

(a) The mother–child relationship is established between a woman and a child by:

(1) the woman giving birth to the child;

(2) an adjudication of the woman's maternity; or

(3) the adoption of the child by the woman.

(b) The father–child relationship is established between a man and a child by:

(1) an unrebutted presumption of the man's paternity of the child under Section 160.204;

(2) an effective acknowledgment of paternity by the man under Subchapter D, unless the acknowledgment has been rescinded or successfully challenged;

(3) an adjudication of the man's paternity;

(4) the adoption of the child by the man; or

(5) the man's consenting to assisted reproduction by his wife under Subchapter H, which resulted in the birth of the child.

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Sec. 160.202. No Discrimination Based on Marital Status. A child born to parents who are not married to each other has the same rights under the law as a child born to parents who are married to each other.

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Sec. 160.203. Consequences of Establishment of Parentage. Unless parental rights are terminated, a parent–child relationship established under this chapter applies for all purposes, except as otherwise provided by another law of this state.

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Sec. 160.204. Presumption of Paternity.

(a) A man is presumed to be the father of a child if:

(1) he is married to the mother of the child and the child is born during the marriage;

(2) he is married to the mother of the child and the child is born before the 301st day after the date the marriage is terminated by death, annulment, declaration of invalidity, or divorce;

(3) he married the mother of the child before the birth of the child in apparent compliance with law, even if the attempted marriage is or could be declared invalid, and the child is born during the invalid marriage or before the 301st day after the date the marriage is terminated by death, annulment, declaration of invalidity, or divorce;

(4) he married the mother of the child after the birth of the child in apparent compliance with law, regardless of whether the marriage is or could be declared invalid, he voluntarily asserted his paternity of the child, and:

(A) the assertion is in a record filed with the vital statistics unit;

(B) he is voluntarily named as the child's father on the child's birth certificate; or

(C) he promised in a record to support the child as his own; or

(5) during the first two years of the child's life, he continuously resided in the household in which the child resided and he represented to others that the child was his own.

(b) A presumption of paternity established under this section may be rebutted only by:

(1) an adjudication under Subchapter G; or

(2) the filing of a valid denial of paternity by a presumed father in conjunction with the filing by another person of a valid acknowledgment of paternity as provided by Section 160.305.

Subch. D. Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity

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Sec. 160.301. Acknowledgement of Paternity. The mother of a child and a man claiming to be the biological father of the child may sign an acknowledgment of paternity with the intent to establish the man's paternity.

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Sec. 160.302. Execution of Acknowledgement of Paternity.

(a) An acknowledgment of paternity must:

(1) be in a record;

(2) be signed, or otherwise authenticated, under penalty of perjury by the mother and the man seeking to establish paternity;

(3) state that the child whose paternity is being acknowledged:

(A) does not have a presumed father or has a presumed father whose full name is stated; and

(B) does not have another acknowledged or adjudicated father;

(4) state whether there has been genetic testing and, if so, that the acknowledging man's claim of paternity is consistent with the results of the testing; and

(5) state that the signatories understand that the acknowledgment is the equivalent of a judicial adjudication of the paternity of the child and that a challenge to the acknowledgment is permitted only under limited circumstances.

(b) An acknowledgment of paternity is void if it:

(1) states that another man is a presumed father of the child, unless a denial of paternity signed or otherwise authenticated by the presumed father is filed with the vital statistics unit;

(2) states that another man is an acknowledged or adjudicated father of the child; or

(3) falsely denies the existence of a presumed, acknowledged, or adjudicated father of the child.

(c) A presumed father may sign or otherwise authenticate an acknowledgment of paternity.

(d) An acknowledgment of paternity constitutes an affidavit under Section 666(a)(5)(C), Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. Section 666(a)(5)(C)).

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Sec. 160.303. Denial of Paternity. A presumed father of a child may sign a denial of his paternity. The denial is valid only if:

(1) an acknowledgment of paternity signed or otherwise authenticated by another man is filed under Section 160.305;

(2) the denial is in a record and is signed or otherwise authenticated under penalty of perjury; and

(3) the presumed father has not previously:

(A) acknowledged paternity of the child, unless the previous acknowledgment has been rescinded under Section 160.307 or successfully challenged under Section 160.308; or

(B) been adjudicated to be the father of the child.

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Sec. 160.304. Rules for Acknowledgement and Denial of Paternity.

(a) An acknowledgment of paternity and a denial of paternity may be contained in a single document or in different documents and may be filed separately or simultaneously. If the acknowledgment and denial are both necessary, neither document is valid until both documents are filed.

(b) An acknowledgment of paternity or a denial of paternity may be signed before the birth of the child.

(c) Subject to Subsection (a), an acknowledgment of paternity or denial of paternity takes effect on the date of the birth of the child or the filing of the document with the vital statistics unit, whichever occurs later.

(d) An acknowledgment of paternity or denial of paternity signed by a minor is valid if it otherwise complies with this chapter.

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Sec. 160.305. Effect of Acknowledgement or Denial of Paternity.

(a) Except as provided by Sections 160.307 and 160.308, a valid acknowledgment of paternity filed with the vital statistics unit is the equivalent of an adjudication of the paternity of a child and confers on the acknowledged father all rights and duties of a parent.

(b) Except as provided by Sections 160.307 and 160.308, a valid denial of paternity filed with the vital statistics unit in conjunction with a valid acknowledgment of paternity is the equivalent of an adjudication of the nonpaternity of the presumed father and discharges the presumed father from all rights and duties of a parent.

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Sec. 160.306. Filing Fee Not Required. The Department of State Health Services may not charge a fee for filing:

(1) an acknowledgment of paternity;

(2) a denial of paternity; or

(3) a rescission of an acknowledgment of paternity or denial of paternity.

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Sec. 160.307. Procedures for Rescission.

(a) A signatory may rescind an acknowledgment of paternity or denial of paternity as provided by this section before the earlier of:

(1) the 60th day after the effective date of the acknowledgment or denial, as provided by Section 160.304; or

(2) the date a proceeding to which the signatory is a party is initiated before a court to adjudicate an issue relating to the child, including a proceeding that establishes child support.

(b) A signatory seeking to rescind an acknowledgment of paternity or denial of paternity must file with the vital statistics unit a completed rescission, on the form prescribed under Section 160.312, in which the signatory declares under penalty of perjury that:

(1) as of the date the rescission is filed, a proceeding has not been held affecting the child identified in the acknowledgment of paternity or denial of paternity, including a proceeding to establish child support;

(2) a copy of the completed rescission was sent by certified or registered mail, return receipt requested, to:

(A) if the rescission is of an acknowledgment of paternity, the other signatory of the acknowledgment of paternity and the signatory of any related denial of paternity; or

(B) if the rescission is of a denial of paternity, the signatories of the related acknowledgment of paternity; and

(3) if a signatory to the acknowledgment of paternity or denial of paternity is receiving services from the Title IV–D agency, a copy of the completed rescission was sent by certified or registered mail to the Title IV–D agency.

(c) On receipt of a completed rescission, the vital statistics unit shall void the acknowledgment of paternity or denial of paternity affected by the rescission and amend the birth record of the child, if appropriate.

(d) Any party affected by the rescission, including the Title IV–D agency, may contest the rescission by bringing a proceeding under Subchapter G to adjudicate the parentage of the child.

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Sec. 160.308. Challenge After Expiration of Period for Rescission.

(a) After the period for rescission under Section 160.307 has expired, a signatory of an acknowledgment of paternity or denial of paternity may commence a proceeding to challenge the acknowledgment or denial only on the basis of fraud, duress, or material mistake of fact. The proceeding may be commenced at any time before the issuance of an order affecting the child identified in the acknowledgment or denial, including an order relating to support of the child.

(b) A party challenging an acknowledgment of paternity or denial of paternity has the burden of proof.

(c) Notwithstanding any other provision of this chapter, a collateral attack on an acknowledgment of paternity signed under this chapter may not be maintained after the issuance of an order affecting the child identified in the acknowledgment, including an order relating to support of the child.

(d) For purposes of Subsection (a), evidence that, based on genetic testing, the man who is the signatory of an acknowledgement of paternity is not rebuttably identified as the father of a child in accordance with Section 160.505 constitutes a material mistake of fact.

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Sec. 160.309. Procedure for Challenge.

(a) Each signatory to an acknowledgment of paternity and any related denial of paternity must be made a party to a proceeding to challenge the acknowledgment or denial of paternity.

(b) For purposes of a challenge to an acknowledgment of paternity or denial of paternity, a signatory submits to the personal jurisdiction of this state by signing the acknowledgment or denial. The jurisdiction is effective on the filing of the document with the vital statistics unit.

(c) Except for good cause shown, while a proceeding is pending to challenge an acknowledgment of paternity or a denial of paternity, the court may not suspend the legal responsibilities of a signatory arising from the acknowledgment, including the duty to pay child support.

(d) A proceeding to challenge an acknowledgment of paternity or a denial of paternity shall be conducted in the same manner as a proceeding to adjudicate parentage under Subchapter G.

(e) At the conclusion of a proceeding to challenge an acknowledgment of paternity or a denial of paternity, the court shall order the vital statistics unit to amend the birth record of the child, if appropriate.

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Sec. 160.310. Ratification Barred. A court or administrative agency conducting a judicial or administrative proceeding may not ratify an unchallenged acknowledgment of paternity.

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Sec. 160.311. Full Faith and Credit. A court of this state shall give full faith and credit to an acknowledgment of paternity or a denial of paternity that is effective in another state if the acknowledgment or denial has been signed and is otherwise in compliance with the law of the other state.

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Sec. 160.312. Forms.

(a) To facilitate compliance with this subchapter, the vital statistics unit shall prescribe forms for the:

(1) acknowledgment of paternity;

(2) denial of paternity; and

(3) rescission of an acknowledgment or denial of paternity.

(b) A valid acknowledgment of paternity, denial of paternity, or rescission of an acknowledgment or denial of paternity is not affected by a later modification of the prescribed form.

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Sec. 160.313. Release of Information. The vital statistics unit may release information relating to the acknowledgment of paternity or denial of paternity to a signatory of the acknowledgment or denial and to the courts and Title IV–D agency of this or another state.

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Sec. 160.314. Adoption of Rules. The Title IV–D agency and the executive commissioner of the Health and Human Services Commission may adopt rules to implement this subchapter.

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Sec. 160.315. Memorandum of Understanding.

(a) The Title IV–D agency and the vital statistics unit shall adopt a memorandum of understanding governing the collection and transfer of information for the voluntary acknowledgment of paternity.

(b) The Title IV–D agency and the vital statistics unit shall review the memorandum semiannually and renew or modify the memorandum as necessary.

Subch. E. Registry of Paternity

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Sec. 160.401. Establishment of Registry. A registry of paternity is established in the vital statistics unit.

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Sec. 160.402. Registration for Notification.

(a) Except as otherwise provided by Subsection (b), a man who desires to be notified of a proceeding for the adoption of or the termination of parental rights regarding a child that he may have fathered may register with the registry of paternity:

(1) before the birth of the child; or

(2) not later than the 31st day after the date of the birth of the child.

(b) A man is entitled to notice of a proceeding described by Subsection (a) regardless of whether he registers with the registry of paternity if:

(1) a father–child relationship between the man and the child has been established under this chapter or another law; or

(2) the man commences a proceeding to adjudicate his paternity before the court has terminated his parental rights.

(c) A registrant shall promptly notify the registry in a record of any change in the information provided by the registrant. The vital statistics unit shall incorporate all new information received into its records but is not required to affirmatively seek to obtain current information for incorporation in the registry.

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Sec. 160.403. Notice of Proceeding. Except as provided by Sections 161.002(b)(2), (3), and (4) and (f), notice of a proceeding to adopt or to terminate parental rights regarding a child must be given to a registrant who has timely registered with regard to that child. Notice must be given in a manner prescribed for service of process in a civil action.

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Sec. 160.404. Termination of Parental Rights: Failure to Register. The parental rights of a man alleged to be the father of a child may be terminated without notice as provided by Section 161.002 if the man:

(1) did not timely register with the vital statistics unit; and

(2) is not entitled to notice under Section 160.402 or 161.002.

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Sec. 160.411. Required Form. The vital statistics unit shall adopt a form for registering with the registry. The form must require the signature of the registrant. The form must state that:

(1) the form is signed under penalty of perjury;

(2) a timely registration entitles the registrant to notice of a proceeding for adoption of the child or for termination of the registrant's parental rights;

(3) a timely registration does not commence a proceeding to establish paternity;

(4) the information disclosed on the form may be used against the registrant to establish paternity;

(5) services to assist in establishing paternity are available to the registrant through the support enforcement agency;

(6) the registrant should also register in another state if the conception or birth of the child occurred in the other state;

(7) information on registries in other states is available from the vital statistics unit; and

(8) procedures exist to rescind the registration of a claim of paternity.

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Sec. 160.412. Furnishing of Information; Confidentiality.

(a) The vital statistics unit is not required to attempt to locate the mother of a child who is the subject of a registration. The vital statistics unit shall send a copy of the notice of the registration to a mother who has provided an address.

(b) Information contained in the registry is confidential and may be released on request only to:

(1) a court or a person designated by the court;

(2) the mother of the child who is the subject of the registration;

(3) an agency authorized by another law to receive the information;

(4) a licensed child–placing agency;

(5) a support enforcement agency;

(6) a party, or the party's attorney of record, to a proceeding under this chapter or a proceeding to adopt or to terminate parental rights regarding a child who is the subject of the registration; and

(7) the registry of paternity in another state.

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Sec. 160.413. Offense: Unauthorized Release of Information.

(a) A person commits an offense if the person intentionally releases information from the registry of paternity to another person, including an agency, that is not authorized to receive the information under Section 160.412.

(b) An offense under this section is a Class A misdemeanor.

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Sec. 160.414. Rescission of Registration. A registrant may rescind his registration at any time by sending to the registry a rescission in a record or another manner authenticated by him and witnessed or notarized.

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Sec. 160.415. Untimely Registration. If a man registers later than the 31st day after the date of the birth of the child, the vital statistics unit shall notify the registrant that the registration was not timely filed.

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Sec. 160.416. Fees for Registry.

(a) A fee may not be charged for filing a registration or to rescind a registration.

(b) Except as otherwise provided by Subsection (c), the vital statistics unit may charge a reasonable fee for making a search of the registry and for furnishing a certificate.

(c) A support enforcement agency is not required to pay a fee authorized by Subsection (b).

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Sec. 160.421. Search of Appropriate Registry.

(a) If a father–child relationship has not been established under this chapter, a petitioner for the adoption of or the termination of parental rights regarding the child must obtain a certificate of the results of a search of the registry. The petitioner may request a search of the registry on or after the 32nd day after the date of the birth of the child, and the executive commissioner of the Health and Human Services Commission may not by rule impose a waiting period that must elapse before the vital statistics unit will conduct the requested search.

(b) If the petitioner for the adoption of or the termination of parental rights regarding a child has reason to believe that the conception or birth of the child may have occurred in another state, the petitioner must obtain a certificate of the results of a search of the paternity registry, if any, in the other state.

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Sec. 160.422. Certificate of Search of Registry.

(a) The vital statistics unit shall furnish a certificate of the results of a search of the registry on request by an individual, a court, or an agency listed in Section 160.412(b).

(b) The certificate of the results of a search must be signed on behalf of the unit and state that:

(1) a search has been made of the registry; and

(2) a registration containing the information required to identify the registrant:

(A) has been found and is attached to the certificate; or

(B) has not been found.

(c) A petitioner must file the certificate of the results of a search of the registry with the court before a proceeding for the adoption of or termination of parental rights regarding a child may be concluded.

(d) A search of the registry is not required if a parent–child relationship exists between a man and the child, as provided by Section 160.201(b), and that man:

(1) has been served with citation of the proceeding for termination of the parent–child relationship; or

(2) has signed a relinquishment of parental rights with regard to the child.

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Sec. 160.423. Admissibility of Certificate. A certificate of the results of a search of the registry in this state or of a paternity registry in another state is admissible in a proceeding for the adoption of or the termination of parental rights regarding a child and, if relevant, in other legal proceedings.

Subch. F. Genetic Testing

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Sec. 160.501. Application of Subchapter. This subchapter governs genetic testing of an individual to determine parentage, regardless of whether the individual:

(1) voluntarily submits to testing; or

(2) is tested under an order of a court or a support enforcement agency.

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Sec. 160.502. Order for Testing.

(a) Except as otherwise provided by this subchapter and by Subchapter G, a court shall order a child and other designated individuals to submit to genetic testing if the request is made by a party to a proceeding to determine parentage.

(b) If a request for genetic testing of a child is made before the birth of the child, the court or support enforcement agency may not order in utero testing.

(c) If two or more men are subject to court–ordered genetic testing, the testing may be ordered concurrently or sequentially.

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Sec. 160.503. Requirements for Genetic Testing.

(a) Genetic testing must be of a type reasonably relied on by experts in the field of genetic testing. The testing must be performed in a testing laboratory accredited by:

(1) the American Association of Blood Banks, or a successor to its functions;

(2) the American Society for Histocompatibility and Immunogenetics, or a successor to its functions; or

(3) an accrediting body designated by the federal secretary of health and human services.

(b) A specimen used in genetic testing may consist of one or more samples, or a combination of samples, of blood, buccal cells, bone, hair, or other body tissue or fluid. The specimen used in the testing is not required to be of the same kind for each individual undergoing genetic testing.

(c) Based on the ethnic or racial group of an individual, the testing laboratory shall determine the databases from which to select frequencies for use in the calculation of the probability of paternity of the individual. If there is disagreement as to the testing laboratory's choice:

(1) the objecting individual may require the testing laboratory, not later than the 30th day after the date of receipt of the report of the test, to recalculate the probability of paternity using an ethnic or racial group different from that used by the laboratory;

(2) the individual objecting to the testing laboratory's initial choice shall:

(A) if the frequencies are not available to the testing laboratory for the ethnic or racial group requested, provide the requested frequencies compiled in a manner recognized by accrediting bodies; or

(B) engage another testing laboratory to perform the calculations; and

(3) the testing laboratory may use its own statistical estimate if there is a question regarding which ethnic or racial group is appropriate and, if available, shall calculate the frequencies using statistics for any other ethnic or racial group requested.

(d) If, after recalculation using a different ethnic or racial group, genetic testing does not rebuttably identify a man as the father of a child under Section 160.505, an individual who has been tested may be required to submit to additional genetic testing.

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Sec. 160.504. Report of Genetic Testing.

(a) A report of the results of genetic testing must be in a record and signed under penalty of perjury by a designee of the testing laboratory. A report made under the requirements of this subchapter is self–authenticating.

(b) Documentation from the testing laboratory is sufficient to establish a reliable chain of custody that allows the results of genetic testing to be admissible without testimony if the documentation includes:

(1) the name and photograph of each individual whose specimens have been taken;

(2) the name of each individual who collected the specimens;

(3) the places in which the specimens were collected and the date of each collection;

(4) the name of each individual who received the specimens in the testing laboratory; and

(5) the dates the specimens were received.

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Sec. 160.505. Genetic Testing Results; Rebuttal.

(a) A man is rebuttably identified as the father of a child under this chapter if the genetic testing complies with this subchapter and the results disclose:

(1) that the man has at least a 99 percent probability of paternity, using a prior probability of 0.5, as calculated by using the combined paternity index obtained in the testing; and

(2) a combined paternity index of at least 100 to 1.

(b) A man identified as the father of a child under Subsection (a) may rebut the genetic testing results only by producing other genetic testing satisfying the requirements of this subchapter that:

(1) excludes the man as a genetic father of the child; or

(2) identifies another man as the possible father of the child.

(c) Except as otherwise provided by Section 160.510, if more than one man is identified by genetic testing as the possible father of the child, the court shall order each man to submit to further genetic testing to identify the genetic father.

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Sec. 160.506. Costs of Genetic Testing.

(a) Subject to the assessment of costs under Subchapter G, the cost of initial genetic testing must be advanced:

(1) by a support enforcement agency, if the agency is providing services in the proceeding;

(2) by the individual who made the request;

(3) as agreed by the parties; or

(4) as ordered by the court.

(b) In cases in which the cost of genetic testing is advanced by the support enforcement agency, the agency may seek reimbursement from a man who is rebuttably identified as the father.

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Sec. 160.507. Additional Genetic Testing. The court or the support enforcement agency shall order additional genetic testing on the request of a party who contests the result of the original testing. If the previous genetic testing identified a man as the father of the child under Section 160.505, the court or agency may not order additional testing unless the party provides advance payment for the testing.

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Sec. 160.508. Genetic Testing Within All Individuals Not Available.

(a) Subject to Subsection (b), if a genetic testing specimen for good cause and under circumstances the court considers to be just is not available from a man who may be the father of a child, a court may order the following individuals to submit specimens for genetic testing:

(1) the parents of the man;

(2) any brothers or sisters of the man;

(3) any other children of the man and their mothers; and

(4) other relatives of the man necessary to complete genetic testing.

(b) A court may not render an order under this section unless the court finds that the need for genetic testing outweighs the legitimate interests of the individual sought to be tested.

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Sec. 160.509. Deceased Individual. For good cause shown, the court may order genetic testing of a deceased individual.

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Sec. 160.510. Identical Brothers.

(a) The court may order genetic testing of a brother of a man identified as the father of a child if the man is commonly believed to have an identical brother and evidence suggests that the brother may be the genetic father of the child.

(b) If each brother satisfies the requirements of Section 160.505 for being the identified father of the child and there is not another identical brother being identified as the father of the child, the court may rely on nongenetic evidence to adjudicate which brother is the father of the child.

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Sec. 160.511. Offense: Unauthorized Release of Specimen.

(a) A person commits an offense if the person intentionally releases an identifiable specimen of another person for any purpose not relevant to the parentage proceeding and without a court order or the written permission of the person who furnished the specimen.

(b) An offense under this section is a Class A misdemeanor.

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Sec. 160.512. Offense: Falsification of Specimen.

(a) A person commits an offense if the person alters, destroys, conceals, fabricates, or falsifies genetic evidence in a proceeding to adjudicate parentage, including inducing another person to provide a specimen with the intent to affect the outcome of the proceeding.

(b) An offense under this section is a felony of the third degree.

(c) An order excluding a man as the biological father of a child based on genetic evidence shown to be altered, fabricated, or falsified is void and unenforceable.

Subch. G. Proceeding to Adjudicate Parentage

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Sec. 160.601. Proceeding Authorized; Rules of Procedure.

(a) A civil proceeding may be maintained to adjudicate the parentage of a child.

(b) The proceeding is governed by the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, except as provided by Chapter 233.

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Sec. 160.602. Standing to Maintain Proceeding.

(a) Subject to Subchapter D and Sections 160.607 and 160.609 and except as provided by Subsection (b), a proceeding to adjudicate parentage may be maintained by:

(1) the child;

(2) the mother of the child;

(3) a man whose paternity of the child is to be adjudicated;

(4) the support enforcement agency or another government agency authorized by other law;

(5) an authorized adoption agency or licensed child–placing agency;

(6) a representative authorized by law to act for an individual who would otherwise be entitled to maintain a proceeding but who is deceased, is incapacitated, or is a minor;

(7) a person related within the second degree by consanguinity to the mother of the child, if the mother is deceased; or

(8) a person who is an intended parent.

(b) After the date a child having no presumed, acknowledged, or adjudicated father becomes an adult, a proceeding to adjudicate the parentage of the adult child may only be maintained by the adult child.

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Sec. 160.603. Necessary Parties to Proceeding. The following individuals must be joined as parties in a proceeding to adjudicate parentage:

(1) the mother of the child; and

(2) a man whose paternity of the child is to be adjudicated.

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Sec. 160.604. Personal Jurisdiction.

(a) An individual may not be adjudicated to be a parent unless the court has personal jurisdiction over the individual.

(b) A court of this state having jurisdiction to adjudicate parentage may exercise personal jurisdiction over a nonresident individual or the guardian or conservator of the individual if the conditions in Section 159.201 are satisfied.

(c) Lack of jurisdiction over one individual does not preclude the court from making an adjudication of parentage binding on another individual over whom the court has personal jurisdiction.

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Sec. 160.605. Venue. Venue for a proceeding to adjudicate parentage is in the county of this state in which:

(1) the child resides or is found;

(2) the respondent resides or is found if the child does not reside in this state; or

(3) a proceeding for probate or administration of the presumed or alleged father's estate has been commenced.

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Sec. 160.606. No Time Limitation: Child Having No Presumed, Acknowledged, or Adjudicated Father. A proceeding to adjudicate the parentage of a child having no presumed, acknowledged, or adjudicated father may be commenced at any time, including after the date:

(1) the child becomes an adult; or

(2) an earlier proceeding to adjudicate paternity has been dismissed based on the application of a statute of limitation then in effect.

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Sec. 160.607. Time Limitation: Child Having Presumed Father.

(a) Except as otherwise provided by Subsection (b), a proceeding brought by a presumed father, the mother, or another individual to adjudicate the parentage of a child having a presumed father shall be commenced not later than the fourth anniversary of the date of the birth of the child.

(b) A proceeding seeking to adjudicate the parentage of a child having a presumed father may be maintained at any time if the court determines that:

(1) the presumed father and the mother of the child did not live together or engage in sexual intercourse with each other during the probable time of conception; or

(2) the presumed father was precluded from commencing a proceeding to adjudicate the parentage of the child before the expiration of the time prescribed by Subsection (a) because of the mistaken belief that he was the child's biological father based on misrepresentations that led him to that conclusion.

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Sec. 160.608. Authority to Deny Motion for Genetic Testing.

(a) In a proceeding to adjudicate parentage, a court may deny a motion for an order for the genetic testing of the mother, the child, and the presumed father if the court determines that:

(1) the conduct of the mother or the presumed father estops that party from denying parentage; and

(2) it would be inequitable to disprove the father–child relationship between the child and the presumed father.

(b) In determining whether to deny a motion for an order for genetic testing under this section, the court shall consider the best interest of the child, including the following factors:

(1) the length of time between the date of the proceeding to adjudicate parentage and the date the presumed father was placed on notice that he might not be the genetic father;

(2) the length of time during which the presumed father has assumed the role of father of the child;

(3) the facts surrounding the presumed father's discovery of his possible nonpaternity;

(4) the nature of the relationship between the child and the presumed father;

(5) the age of the child;

(6) any harm that may result to the child if presumed paternity is successfully disproved;

(7) the nature of the relationship between the child and the alleged father;

(8) the extent to which the passage of time reduces the chances of establishing the paternity of another man and a child support obligation in favor of the child; and

(9) other factors that may affect the equities arising from the disruption of the father–child relationship between the child and the presumed father or the chance of other harm to the child.

(c) In a proceeding involving the application of this section, a child who is a minor or is incapacitated must be represented by an amicus attorney or attorney ad litem.

(d) A denial of a motion for an order for genetic testing must be based on clear and convincing evidence.

(e) If the court denies a motion for an order for genetic testing, the court shall issue an order adjudicating the presumed father to be the father of the child.

(f) This section applies to a proceeding to challenge an acknowledgment of paternity or a denial of paternity as provided by Section 160.309(d).

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Sec. 160.609. Time Limitation: Child Having Acknowledged or Adjudicated Father.

(a) If a child has an acknowledged father, a signatory to the acknowledgment or denial of paternity may commence a proceeding under this chapter to challenge the paternity of the child only within the time allowed under Section 160.308.

(b) If a child has an acknowledged father or an adjudicated father, an individual, other than the child, who is not a signatory to the acknowledgment or a party to the adjudication and who seeks an adjudication of paternity of the child must commence a proceeding not later than the fourth anniversary of the effective date of the acknowledgment or adjudication.

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Sec. 160.610. Joinder of Proceedings.

(a) Except as provided by Subsection (b), a proceeding to adjudicate parentage may be joined with a proceeding for adoption, termination of parental rights, possession of or access to a child, child support, divorce, annulment, or probate or administration of an estate or another appropriate proceeding.

(b) A respondent may not join a proceeding described by Subsection (a) with a proceeding to adjudicate parentage brought under Chapter 159.

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Sec. 160.611. Proceedings Before Birth.

(a) A proceeding to determine parentage commenced before the birth of the child may not be concluded until after the birth of the child.

(b) In a proceeding described by Subsection (a), the following actions may be taken before the birth of the child:

(1) service of process;

(2) discovery; and

(3) except as prohibited by Section 160.502, collection of specimens for genetic testing.

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Sec. 160.612. Child as Party; Representation.

(a) A minor child is a permissible party, but is not a necessary party to a proceeding under this subchapter.

(b) The court shall appoint an amicus attorney or attorney ad litem to represent a child who is a minor or is incapacitated if the child is a party or the court finds that the interests of the child are not adequately represented.

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Sec. 160.621. Admissibility of Results of Genetic Testing; Expenses.

(a) Except as otherwise provided by Subsection (c), a report of a genetic testing expert is admissible as evidence of the truth of the facts asserted in the report. The admissibility of the report is not affected by whether the testing was performed:

(1) voluntarily or under an order of the court or a support enforcement agency; or

(2) before or after the date of commencement of the proceeding.

(b) A party objecting to the results of genetic testing may call one or more genetic testing experts to testify in person or by telephone, videoconference, deposition, or another method approved by the court. Unless otherwise ordered by the court, the party offering the testimony bears the expense for the expert testifying.

(c) If a child has a presumed, acknowledged, or adjudicated father, the results of genetic testing are inadmissible to adjudicate parentage unless performed:

(1) with the consent of both the mother and the presumed, acknowledged, or adjudicated father; or

(2) under an order of the court under Section 160.502.

(d) Copies of bills for genetic testing and for prenatal and postnatal health care for the mother and child that are furnished to the adverse party on or before the 10th day before the date of a hearing are admissible to establish:

(1) the amount of the charges billed; and

(2) that the charges were reasonable, necessary, and customary.

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Sec. 160.622. Consequences of Declining Genetic Testing.

(a) An order for genetic testing is enforceable by contempt.

(b) A court may adjudicate parentage contrary to the position of an individual whose paternity is being determined on the grounds that the individual declines to submit to genetic testing as ordered by the court.

(c) Genetic testing of the mother of a child is not a prerequisite to testing the child and a man whose paternity is being determined. If the mother is unavailable or declines to submit to genetic testing, the court may order the testing of the child and each man whose paternity is being adjudicated.

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Sec. 160.623. Admission of Paternity Authorized.

(a) A respondent in a proceeding to adjudicate parentage may admit to the paternity of a child by filing a pleading to that effect or by admitting paternity under penalty of perjury when making an appearance or during a hearing.

(b) If the court finds that the admission of paternity satisfies the requirements of this section and that there is no reason to question the admission, the court shall render an order adjudicating the child to be the child of the man admitting paternity.

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Sec. 160.624. Temporary Order.

(a) In a proceeding under this subchapter, the court shall render a temporary order for child support for a child if the order is appropriate and the individual ordered to pay child support:

(1) is a presumed father of the child;

(2) is petitioning to have his paternity adjudicated;

(3) is identified as the father through genetic testing under Section 160.505;

(4) is an alleged father who has declined to submit to genetic testing;

(5) is shown by clear and convincing evidence to be the father of the child; or

(6) is the mother of the child.

(b) A temporary order may include provisions for the possession of or access to the child as provided by other laws of this state.

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Sec. 160.631. Rules for Adjudication of Paternity.

(a) The court shall apply the rules stated in this section to adjudicate the paternity of a child.

(b) The paternity of a child having a presumed, acknowledged, or adjudicated father may be disproved only by admissible results of genetic testing excluding that man as the father of the child or identifying another man as the father of the child.

(c) Unless the results of genetic testing are admitted to rebut other results of genetic testing, the man identified as the father of a child under Section 160.505 shall be adjudicated as being the father of the child.

(d) Unless the results of genetic testing are admitted to rebut other results of genetic testing, a man excluded as the father of a child by genetic testing shall be adjudicated as not being the father of the child.

(e) If the court finds that genetic testing under Section 160.505 does not identify or exclude a man as the father of a child, the court may not dismiss the proceeding. In that event, the results of genetic testing and other evidence are admissible to adjudicate the issue of paternity.

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Sec. 160.632. Jury Prohibited. The court shall adjudicate paternity of a child without a jury.

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Sec. 160.633. Hearings; Inspection of Records.

(a) A proceeding under this subchapter is open to the public as in other civil cases.

(b) Papers and records in a proceeding under this subchapter are available for public inspection.

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Sec. 160.634. Order on Deafult. The court shall issue an order adjudicating the paternity of a man who:

(1) after service of process, is in default; and

(2) is found by the court to be the father of a child.

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Sec. 160.635. Dismissal for Want of Prosecution. The court may issue an order dismissing a proceeding commenced under this chapter for want of prosecution only without prejudice. An order of dismissal for want of prosecution purportedly with prejudice is void and has only the effect of a dismissal without prejudice.

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Sec. 160.636. Order Adjudicating Parentage; Costs.

(a) The court shall render an order adjudicating whether a man alleged or claiming to be the father is the parent of the child.

(b) An order adjudicating parentage must identify the child by name and date of birth.

(c) Except as otherwise provided by Subsection (d), the court may assess filing fees, reasonable attorney's fees, fees for genetic testing, other costs, and necessary travel and other reasonable expenses incurred in a proceeding under this subchapter. Attorney's fees awarded by the court may be paid directly to the attorney. An attorney who is awarded attorney's fees may enforce the order in the attorney's own name.

(d) The court may not assess fees, costs, or expenses against the support enforcement agency of this state or another state, except as provided by other law.

(e) On request of a party and for good cause shown, the court may order that the name of the child be changed.

(f) If the order of the court is at variance with the child's birth certificate, the court shall order the vital statistics unit to issue an amended birth record.

(g) On a finding of parentage, the court may order retroactive child support as provided by Chapter 154 and, on a proper showing, order a party to pay an equitable portion of all of the prenatal and postnatal health care expenses of the mother and the child.

(h) In rendering an order for retroactive child support under this section, the court shall use the child support guidelines provided by Chapter 154, together with any relevant factors.

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Sec. 160.637. Binding Effect of Determination of Parentage.

(a) Except as otherwise provided by Subsection (b) or Section 160.316, a determination of parentage is binding on:

(1) all signatories to an acknowledgment or denial of paternity as provided by Subchapter D; and

(2) all parties to an adjudication by a court acting under circumstances that satisfy the jurisdictional requirements of Section 159.201.

(b) A child is not bound by a determination of parentage under this chapter unless:

(1) the determination was based on an unrescinded acknowledgment of paternity and the acknowledgment is consistent with the results of genetic testing;

(2) the adjudication of parentage was based on a finding consistent with the results of genetic testing and the consistency is declared in the determination or is otherwise shown; or

(3) the child was a party or was represented in the proceeding determining parentage by an attorney ad litem.

(c) In a proceeding to dissolve a marriage, the court is considered to have made an adjudication of the parentage of a child if the court acts under circumstances that satisfy the jurisdictional requirements of Section 159.201, and the final order:

(1) expressly identifies the child as "a child of the marriage" or "issue of the marriage" or uses similar words indicating that the husband is the father of the child; or

(2) provides for the payment of child support for the child by the husband unless paternity is specifically disclaimed in the order.

(d) Except as otherwise provided by Subsection (b), a determination of parentage may be a defense in a subsequent proceeding seeking to adjudicate parentage by an individual who was not a party to the earlier proceeding.

(e) A party to an adjudication of paternity may challenge the adjudication only under the laws of this state relating to appeal, the vacating of judgments, or other judicial review.

Subch. H. Child of Assisted Reproduction

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Sec. 160.701. Scope of Subch.. This subchapter applies only to a child conceived by means of assisted reproduction.

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Sec. 160.702. Parental Status of Donor. A donor is not a parent of a child conceived by means of assisted reproduction.

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Sec. 160.703. Husband's Paternity of Child of Assisted Reproduction. If a husband provides sperm for or consents to assisted reproduction by his wife as provided by Section 160.704, he is the father of a resulting child.

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Sec. 160.7031. Unmarried Man's Paternity of Child of Assisted Reproduction.

(a) If an unmarried man, with the intent to be the father of a resulting child, provides sperm to a licensed physician and consents to the use of that sperm for assisted reproduction by an unmarried woman, he is the father of a resulting child.

(b) Consent by an unmarried man who intends to be the father of a resulting child in accordance with this section must be in a record signed by the man and the unmarried woman and kept by a licensed physician.

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Sec. 160.704. Consent to Assisted Reproduction.

(a) Consent by a married woman to assisted reproduction must be in a record signed by the woman and her husband and kept by a licensed physician. This requirement does not apply to the donation of eggs by a married woman for assisted reproduction by another woman.

(b) Failure by the husband to sign a consent required by Subsection (a) before or after the birth of the child does not preclude a finding that the husband is the father of a child born to his wife if the wife and husband openly treated the child as their own.

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Sec. 160.705. Limitation on Husband's Dispute of Paternity.

(a) Except as otherwise provided by Subsection (b), the husband of a wife who gives birth to a child by means of assisted reproduction may not challenge his paternity of the child unless:

(1) before the fourth anniversary of the date of learning of the birth of the child he commences a proceeding to adjudicate his paternity; and

(2) the court finds that he did not consent to the assisted reproduction before or after the birth of the child.

(b) A proceeding to adjudicate paternity may be maintained at any time if the court determines that:

(1) the husband did not provide sperm for or, before or after the birth of the child, consent to assisted reproduction by his wife;

(2) the husband and the mother of the child have not cohabited since the probable time of assisted reproduction; and

(3) the husband never openly treated the child as his own.

(c) The limitations provided by this section apply to a marriage declared invalid after assisted reproduction.

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Sec. 160.706. Effect of Dissolution of Marriage.

(a) If a marriage is dissolved before the placement of eggs, sperm, or embryos, the former spouse is not a parent of the resulting child unless the former spouse consented in a record kept by a licensed physician that if assisted reproduction were to occur after a divorce the former spouse would be a parent of the child.

(b) The consent of a former spouse to assisted reproduction may be withdrawn by that individual in a record kept by a licensed physician at any time before the placement of eggs, sperm, or embryos.

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Sec. 160.707. Parental Status of Deceased Spouse. If a spouse dies before the placement of eggs, sperm, or embryos, the deceased spouse is not a parent of the resulting child unless the deceased spouse consented in a record kept by a licensed physician that if assisted reproduction were to occur after death the deceased spouse would be a parent of the child.

Subch. I. Gestational Agreements

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Sec. 160.751. Definition. In this subchapter, "gestational mother" means a woman who gives birth to a child conceived under a gestational agreement.

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Sec. 160.752. Scope of Subchapter; Choice of Law.

(a) Notwithstanding any other provision of this chapter or another law, this subchapter authorizes an agreement between a woman and the intended parents of a child in which the woman relinquishes all rights as a parent of a child conceived by means of assisted reproduction and that provides that the intended parents become the parents of the child.

(b) This subchapter controls over any other law with respect to a child conceived under a gestational agreement under this subchapter.

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Sec. 160.753. Establishment of Parent–Child Relationship.

(a) Notwithstanding any other provision of this chapter or another law, the mother–child relationship exists between a woman and a child by an adjudication confirming the woman as a parent of the child born to a gestational mother under a gestational agreement if the gestational agreement is validated under this subchapter or enforceable under other law, regardless of the fact that the gestational mother gave birth to the child.

(b) The father–child relationship exists between a child and a man by an adjudication confirming the man as a parent of the child born to a gestational mother under a gestational agreement if the gestational agreement is validated under this subchapter or enforceable under other law.

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Sec. 160.754. Gestational Agreement Authorized.

(a) A prospective gestational mother, her husband if she is married, each donor, and each intended parent may enter into a written agreement providing that:

(1) the prospective gestational mother agrees to pregnancy by means of assisted reproduction;

(2) the prospective gestational mother, her husband if she is married, and each donor other than the intended parents, if applicable, relinquish all parental rights and duties with respect to a child conceived through assisted reproduction;

(3) the intended parents will be the parents of the child; and

(4) the gestational mother and each intended parent agree to exchange throughout the period covered by the agreement all relevant information regarding the health of the gestational mother and each intended parent.

(b) The intended parents must be married to each other. Each intended parent must be a party to the gestational agreement.

(c) The gestational agreement must require that the eggs used in the assisted reproduction procedure be retrieved from an intended parent or a donor. The gestational mother's eggs may not be used in the assisted reproduction procedure.

(d) The gestational agreement must state that the physician who will perform the assisted reproduction procedure as provided by the agreement has informed the parties to the agreement of:

(1) the rate of successful conceptions and births attributable to the procedure, including the most recent published outcome statistics of the procedure at the facility at which it will be performed;

(2) the potential for and risks associated with the implantation of multiple embryos and consequent multiple births resulting from the procedure;

(3) the nature of and expenses related to the procedure;

(4) the health risks associated with, as applicable, fertility drugs used in the procedure, egg retrieval procedures, and egg or embryo transfer procedures; and

(5) reasonably foreseeable psychological effects resulting from the procedure.

(e) The parties to a gestational agreement must enter into the agreement before the 14th day preceding the date the transfer of eggs, sperm, or embryos to the gestational mother occurs for the purpose of conception or implantation.

(f) A gestational agreement does not apply to the birth of a child conceived by means of sexual intercourse.

(g) A gestational agreement may not limit the right of the gestational mother to make decisions to safeguard her health or the health of an embryo.

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Sec. 160.755. Petition to Validate Gestational Agreement.

(a) The intended parents and the prospective gestational mother under a gestational agreement may commence a proceeding to validate the agreement.

(b) A person may maintain a proceeding to validate a gestational agreement only if:

(1) the prospective gestational mother or the intended parents have resided in this state for the 90 days preceding the date the proceeding is commenced;

(2) the prospective gestational mother's husband, if she is married, is joined as a party to the proceeding; and

(3) a copy of the gestational agreement is attached to the petition.

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Sec. 160.756. Hearing to Validate Gestational Agreement.

(a) A gestational agreement must be validated as provided by this section.

(b) The court may validate a gestational agreement as provided by Subsection (c) only if the court finds that:

(1) the parties have submitted to the jurisdiction of the court under the jurisdictional standards of this chapter;

(2) the medical evidence provided shows that the intended mother is unable to carry a pregnancy to term and give birth to the child or is unable to carry the pregnancy to term and give birth to the child without unreasonable risk to her physical or mental health or to the health of the unborn child;

(3) unless waived by the court, an agency or other person has conducted a home study of the intended parents and has determined that the intended parents meet the standards of fitness applicable to adoptive parents;

(4) each party to the agreement has voluntarily entered into and understands the terms of the agreement;

(5) the prospective gestational mother has had at least one previous pregnancy and delivery and carrying another pregnancy to term and giving birth to another child would not pose an unreasonable risk to the child's health or the physical or mental health of the prospective gestational mother; and

(6) the parties have adequately provided for which party is responsible for all reasonable health care expenses associated with the pregnancy, including providing for who is responsible for those expenses if the agreement is terminated.

(c) If the court finds that the requirements of Subsection (b) are satisfied, the court may render an order validating the gestational agreement and declaring that the intended parents will be the parents of a child born under the agreement.

(d) The court may validate the gestational agreement at the court's discretion. The court's determination of whether to validate the agreement is subject to review only for abuse of discretion.

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Sec. 160.757. Inspection of Records. The proceedings, records, and identities of the parties to a gestational agreement under this subchapter are subject to inspection under the same standards of confidentiality that apply to an adoption under the laws of this state.

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Sec. 160.758. Continuing, Exclusive Jurisdiction. Subject to Section 152.201, a court that conducts a proceeding under this subchapter has continuing, exclusive jurisdiction of all matters arising out of the gestational agreement until the date a child born to the gestational mother during the period covered by the agreement reaches 180 days of age.

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Sec. 160.759. Termination of Gestational Agreement.

(a) Before a prospective gestational mother becomes pregnant by means of assisted reproduction, the prospective gestational mother, her husband if she is married, or either intended parent may terminate a gestational agreement validated under Section 160.756 by giving written notice of the termination to each other party to the agreement.

(b) A person who terminates a gestational agreement under Subsection (a) shall file notice of the termination with the court. A person having the duty to notify the court who does not notify the court of the termination of the agreement is subject to appropriate sanctions.

(c) On receipt of the notice of termination, the court shall vacate the order rendered under Section 160.756 validating the gestational agreement.

(d) A prospective gestational mother and her husband, if she is married, may not be liable to an intended parent for terminating a gestational agreement if the termination is in accordance with this section.

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Sec. 160.760. Parentage Under Validated Gestational Agreement.

(a) On the birth of a child to a gestational mother under a validated gestational agreement, the intended parents shall file a notice of the birth with the court not later than the 300th day after the date assisted reproduction occurred.

(b) After receiving notice of the birth, the court shall render an order that:

(1) confirms that the intended parents are the child's parents;

(2) requires the gestational mother to surrender the child to the intended parents, if necessary; and

(3) requires the vital statistics unit to issue a birth certificate naming the intended parents as the child's parents.

(c) If a person alleges that a child born to a gestational mother did not result from assisted reproduction, the court shall order that scientifically accepted parentage testing be conducted to determine the child's parentage.

(d) If the intended parents fail to file the notice required by Subsection (a), the gestational mother or an appropriate state agency may file the notice required by that subsection. On a showing that an order validating the gestational agreement was rendered in accordance with Section 160.756, the court shall order that the intended parents are the child's parents and are financially responsible for the child.

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Sec. 160.761. Effect of Gestational Mother's Marriage After Validation of Agreement. If a gestational mother is married after the court renders an order validating a gestational agreement under this subchapter:

(1) the validity of the gestational agreement is not affected;

(2) the gestational mother's husband is not required to consent to the agreement; and

(3) the gestational mother's husband is not a presumed father of the child born under the terms of the agreement.

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Sec. 160.762. Effect of Gestational Agreement that is Not Validated.

(a) A gestational agreement that is not validated as provided by this subchapter is unenforceable, regardless of whether the agreement is in a record.

(b) The parent–child relationship of a child born under a gestational agreement that is not validated as provided by this subchapter is determined as otherwise provided by this chapter.

(c) A party to a gestational agreement that is not validated as provided by this subchapter who is an intended parent under the agreement may be held liable for the support of a child born under the agreement, even if the agreement is otherwise unenforceable.

(d) The court may assess filing fees, reasonable attorney's fees, fees for genetic testing, other costs, and necessary travel and other reasonable expenses incurred in a proceeding under this section. Attorney's fees awarded by the court may be paid directly to the attorney. An attorney who is awarded attorney's fees may enforce the order in the attorney's own name.

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Sec. 160.763. Health Care Facility Reporting Requirement.

(a) The executive commissioner of the Health and Human Services Commission by rule shall develop and implement a confidential reporting system that requires each health care facility in this state at which assisted reproduction procedures are performed under gestational agreements to report statistics related to those procedures.

(b) In developing the reporting system, the executive commissioner shall require each health care facility described by Subsection (a) to annually report:

(1) the number of assisted reproduction procedures under a gestational agreement performed at the facility during the preceding year; and

(2) the number and current status of embryos created through assisted reproduction procedures described by Subdivision (1) that were not transferred for implantation.

Ch. 161. Termination of the Parent–Child Relationship

Subch. A. Grounds

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Sec. 161.001. Involuntary Termination of Parent–Child Relationship.

(a) In this section, "born addicted to alcohol or a controlled substance" means a child:

(1) who is born to a mother who during the pregnancy used a controlled substance, as defined by Chapter 481, Health and Safety Code, other than a controlled substance legally obtained by prescription, or alcohol; and

(2) who, after birth as a result of the mother's use of the controlled substance or alcohol:

(A) experiences observable withdrawal from the alcohol or controlled substance;

(B) exhibits observable or harmful effects in the child's physical appearance or functioning; or

(C) exhibits the demonstrable presence of alcohol or a controlled substance in the child's bodily fluids.

(b) The court may order termination of the parent–child relationship if the court finds by clear and convincing evidence:

(1) that the parent has:

(A) voluntarily left the child alone or in the possession of another not the parent and expressed an intent not to return;

(B) voluntarily left the child alone or in the possession of another not the parent without expressing an intent to return, without providing for the adequate support of the child, and remained away for a period of at least three months;

(C) voluntarily left the child alone or in the possession of another without providing adequate support of the child and remained away for a period of at least six months;

(D) knowingly placed or knowingly allowed the child to remain in conditions or surroundings which endanger the physical or emotional well–being of the child;

(E) engaged in conduct or knowingly placed the child with persons who engaged in conduct which endangers the physical or emotional well–being of the child;

(F) failed to support the child in accordance with the parent's ability during a period of one year ending within six months of the date of the filing of the petition;

(G) abandoned the child without identifying the child or furnishing means of identification, and the child's identity cannot be ascertained by the exercise of reasonable diligence;

(H) voluntarily, and with knowledge of the pregnancy, abandoned the mother of the child beginning at a time during her pregnancy with the child and continuing through the birth, failed to provide adequate support or medical care for the mother during the period of abandonment before the birth of the child, and remained apart from the child or failed to support the child since the birth;

(I) contumaciously refused to submit to a reasonable and lawful order of a court under Subchapter D, Chapter 261;

(J) been the major cause of:

(i) the failure of the child to be enrolled in school as required by the Education Code; or

(ii) the child's absence from the child's home without the consent of the parents or guardian for a substantial length of time or without the intent to return;

(K) executed before or after the suit is filed an unrevoked or irrevocable affidavit of relinquishment of parental rights as provided by this chapter;

(L) been convicted or has been placed on community supervision, including deferred adjudication community supervision, for being criminally responsible for the death or serious injury of a child under the following sections of the Penal Code, or under a law of another jurisdiction that contains elements that are substantially similar to the elements of an offense under one of the following Penal Code sections, or adjudicated under Title 3 for conduct that caused the death or serious injury of a child and that would constitute a violation of one of the following Penal Code sections:

(i) Section 19.02 (murder);

(ii) Section 19.03 (capital murder);

(iii) Section 19.04 (manslaughter);

(iv) Section 21.11 (indecency with a child);

(v) Section 22.01 (assault);

(vi) Section 22.011 (sexual assault);

(vii) Section 22.02 (aggravated assault);

(viii) Section 22.021 (aggravated sexual assault);

(ix) Section 22.04 (injury to a child, elderly individual, or disabled individual);

(x) Section 22.041 (abandoning or endangering child);

(xi) Section 25.02 (prohibited sexual conduct);

(xii) Section 43.25 (sexual performance by a child);

(xiii) Section 43.26 (possession or promotion of child pornography);

(xiv) Section 21.02 (continuous sexual abuse of young child or children);

(xv) Section 20A.02(a)(7) or(8) (trafficking of persons); and

(xvi) Section 43.05(a)(2) (compelling prostitution);

(M) had his or her parent–child relationship terminated with respect to another child based on a finding that the parent's conduct was in violation of Paragraph (D) or (E) or substantially equivalent provisions of the law of another state;

(N) constructively abandoned the child who has been in the permanent or temporary managing conservatorship of the Department of Family and Protective Services for not less than six months, and:

(i) the department has made reasonable efforts to return the child to the parent;

(ii) the parent has not regularly visited or maintained significant contact with the child; and

(iii) the parent has demonstrated an inability to provide the child with a safe environment;

(O) failed to comply with the provisions of a court order that specifically established the actions necessary for the parent to obtain the return of the child who has been in the permanent or temporary managing conservatorship of the Department of Family and Protective Services for not less than nine months as a result of the child's removal from the parent under Chapter 262 for the abuse or neglect of the child;

(P) used a controlled substance, as defined by Chapter 481, Health and Safety Code, in a manner that endangered the health or safety of the child, and:

(i) failed to complete a court–ordered substance abuse treatment program; or

(ii) after completion of a court–ordered substance abuse treatment program, continued to abuse a controlled substance;

(Q) knowingly engaged in criminal conduct that has resulted in the parent's:

(i) conviction of an offense; and

(ii) confinement or imprisonment and inability to care for the child for not less than two years from the date of filing the petition;

(R) been the cause of the child being born addicted to alcohol or a controlled substance, other than a controlled substance legally obtained by prescription;

(S) voluntarily delivered the child to a designated emergency infant care provider under Section 262.302 without expressing an intent to return for the child; or

(T) been convicted of:

(i) the murder of the other parent of the child under Section 19.02 or 19.03, Penal Code, or under a law of another state, federal law, the law of a foreign country, or the Uniform Code of Military Justice that contains elements that are substantially similar to the elements of an offense under Section 19.02 or 19.03, Penal Code;

(ii) criminal attempt under Section 15.01, Penal Code, or under a law of another state, federal law, the law of a foreign country, or the Uniform Code of Military Justice that contains elements that are substantially similar to the elements of an offense under Section 15.01, Penal Code, to commit the offense described by Subparagraph (i); or

(iii) criminal solicitation under Section 15.03, Penal Code, or under a law of another state, federal law, the law of a foreign country, or the Uniform Code of Military Justice that contains elements that are substantially similar to the elements of an offense under Section 15.03, Penal Code, of the offense described by Subparagraph (i); and

(2) that termination is in the best interest of the child.

[Contents]

Sec. 161.002. Termination of the Rights of an Alleged Biological Father.

(a) Except as otherwise provided by this section, the procedural and substantive standards for termination of parental rights apply to the termination of the rights of an alleged father.

(b) The rights of an alleged father may be terminated if:

(1) after being served with citation, he does not respond by timely filing an admission of paternity or a counterclaim for paternity under Chapter 160;

(2) the child is over one year of age at the time the petition for termination of the parent–child relationship or for adoption is filed, he has not registered with the paternity registry under Chapter 160, and after the exercise of due diligence by the petitioner:

(A) his identity and location are unknown; or

(B) his identity is known but he cannot be located;

(3) the child is under one year of age at the time the petition for termination of the parent–child relationship or for adoption is filed and he has not registered with the paternity registry under Chapter 160; or

(4) he has registered with the paternity registry under Chapter 160, but the petitioner's attempt to personally serve citation at the address provided to the registry and at any other address for the alleged father known by the petitioner has been unsuccessful, despite the due diligence of the petitioner.

(c) [Repealed]

(c–1) The termination of the rights of an alleged father under Subsection (b)(2) or (3) rendered on or after January 1, 2008, does not require personal service of citation or citation by publication on the alleged father, and there is no requirement to identify or locate an alleged father who has not registered with the paternity registry under Chapter 160.

(d) The termination of rights of an alleged father under Subsection (b)(4) does not require service of citation by publication on the alleged father.

(e) The court shall not render an order terminating parental rights under Subsection (b)(2) or (3) unless the court receives evidence of a certificate of the results of a search of the paternity registry under Chapter 160 from the vital statistics unit indicating that no man has registered the intent to claim paternity.

(f) The court shall not render an order terminating parental rights under Subsection (b)(4) unless the court, after reviewing the petitioner's sworn affidavit describing the petitioner's effort to obtain personal service of citation on the alleged father and considering any evidence submitted by the attorney ad litem for the alleged father, has found that the petitioner exercised due diligence in attempting to obtain service on the alleged father. The order shall contain specific findings regarding the exercise of due diligence of the petitioner.

[Contents]

Sec. 161.003. Involuntary Termination: Inability to Care for Child.

(a) The court may order termination of the parent–child relationship in a suit filed by the Department of Family and Protective Services if the court finds that:

(1) the parent has a mental or emotional illness or a mental deficiency that renders the parent unable to provide for the physical, emotional, and mental needs of the child;

(2) the illness or deficiency, in all reasonable probability, proved by clear and convincing evidence, will continue to render the parent unable to provide for the child's needs until the 18th birthday of the child;

(3) the department has been the temporary or sole managing conservator of the child of the parent for at least six months preceding the date of the hearing on the termination held in accordance with Subsection (c);

(4) the department has made reasonable efforts to return the child to the parent; and

(5) the termination is in the best interest of the child.

(b) Immediately after the filing of a suit under this section, the court shall appoint an attorney ad litem to represent the interests of the parent against whom the suit is brought.

(c) A hearing on the termination may not be held earlier than 180 days after the date on which the suit was filed.

(d) An attorney appointed under Subsection (b) shall represent the parent for the duration of the suit unless the parent, with the permission of the court, retains another attorney.

[Contents]

Sec. 161.004. Termination of Parental Rights After Denial of PRIOR Petition to Terminate.

(a) The court may terminate the parent–child relationship after rendition of an order that previously denied termination of the parent–child relationship if:

(1) the petition under this section is filed after the date the order denying termination was rendered;

(2) the circumstances of the child, parent, sole managing conservator, possessory conservator, or other party affected by the order denying termination have materially and substantially changed since the date that the order was rendered;

(3) the parent committed an act listed under Section 161.001 before the date the order denying termination was rendered; and

(4) termination is in the best interest of the child.

(b) At a hearing under this section, the court may consider evidence presented at a previous hearing in a suit for termination of the parent–child relationship of the parent with respect to the same child.

[Contents]

Sec. 161.005. Termination Within Parent is Petitioner.

(a) A parent may file a suit for termination of the petitioner's parent–child relationship. Except as provided by Subsection (h), the court may order termination if termination is in the best interest of the child.

(b) If the petition designates the Department of Family and Protective Services as managing conservator, the department shall be given service of citation. The court shall notify the department if the court appoints the department as the managing conservator of the child.

(c) Subject to Subsection (d), a man may file a suit for termination of the parent–child relationship between the man and a child if, without obtaining genetic testing, the man signed an acknowledgment of paternity of the child in accordance with Subchapter D, Chapter 160, or was adjudicated to be the father of the child in a previous proceeding under this title in which genetic testing did not occur. The petition must be verified and must allege facts showing that the petitioner:

(1) is not the child's genetic father; and

(2) signed the acknowledgment of paternity or failed to contest parentage in the previous proceeding because of the mistaken belief, at the time the acknowledgment was signed or on the date the court order in the previous proceeding was rendered, that he was the child's genetic father based on misrepresentations that led him to that conclusion.

(d) A man may not file a petition under Subsection (c) if:

(1) the man is the child's adoptive father;

(2) the child was conceived by assisted reproduction and the man consented to assisted reproduction by his wife under Subchapter H, Chapter 160; or

(3) the man is the intended father of the child under a gestational agreement validated by a court under Subchapter I, Chapter 160.

(e) A petition under Subsection (c) must be filed not later than the second anniversary of the date on which the petitioner becomes aware of the facts alleged in the petition indicating that the petitioner is not the child's genetic father.

(f) In a proceeding initiated under Subsection (c), the court shall hold a pretrial hearing to determine whether the petitioner has established a meritorious prima facie case for termination of the parent–child relationship. If a meritorious prima facie claim is established, the court shall order the petitioner and the child to submit to genetic testing under Subchapter F, Chapter 160.

(g) If the results of genetic testing ordered under Subsection (f) identify the petitioner as the child's genetic father under the standards prescribed by Section 160.505 and the results of any further testing requested by the petitioner and ordered by the court under Subchapter F, Chapter 160, do not exclude the petitioner as the child's genetic father, the court shall deny the petitioner's request for termination of the parent–child relationship.

(h) If the results of genetic testing ordered under Subsection (f) exclude the petitioner as the child's genetic father, the court shall render an order terminating the parent–child relationship.

(i) An order under Subsection (h) terminating the parent–child relationship ends the petitioner's obligation for future support of the child as of the date the order is rendered, as well as the obligation to pay interest that accrues after that date on the basis of a child support arrearage or money judgment for a child support arrearage existing on that date. The order does not affect the petitioner's obligations for support of the child incurred before that date. Those obligations are enforceable until satisfied by any means available for the enforcement of child support other than contempt.

(j) An order under Subsection (h) terminating the parent–child relationship does not preclude:

(1) the initiation of a proceeding under Chapter 160 to adjudicate whether another man is the child's parent; or

(2) if the other man subject to a proceeding under Subdivision (1) is adjudicated as the child's parent, the rendition of an order requiring that man to pay child support for the child under Chapter 154, subject to Subsection (k).

(k) Notwithstanding Section 154.131, an order described by Subsection (j)(2) may not require the other man to pay retroactive child support for any period preceding the date on which the order under Subsection (h) terminated the parent–child relationship between the child and the man seeking termination under this section.

(l) At any time before the court renders an order terminating the parent–child relationship under Subsection (h), the petitioner may request that the court also order periods of possession of or access to the child by the petitioner following termination of the parent–child relationship. If requested, the court may order periods of possession of or access to the child only if the court determines that denial of periods of possession of or access to the child would significantly impair the child's physical health or emotional well–being.

(m) The court may include provisions in an order under Subsection (l) that require:

(1) the child or any party to the proceeding to participate in counseling with a mental health professional who:

(A) has a background in family therapy; and

(B) holds a professional license that requires the person to possess at least a master's degree; and

(2) any party to pay the costs of the counseling described by Subdivision (1).

(n) Notwithstanding Subsection (m)(1), if a person who possesses the qualifications described by that subdivision is not available in the county in which the court is located, the court may require that the counseling be conducted by another person the court considers qualified for that purpose.

(o) During any period of possession of or access to the child ordered under Subsection (l) the petitioner has the rights and duties specified by Section 153.074, subject to any limitation specified by the court in its order.

[Contents]

Sec. 161.006. Termination After Abortion.

(a) A petition requesting termination of the parent–child relationship with respect to a parent who is not the petitioner may be granted if the child was born alive as the result of an abortion.

(b) In this code, "abortion" means an intentional expulsion of a human fetus from the body of a woman induced by any means for the purpose of causing the death of the fetus.

(c) The court or the jury may not terminate the parent–child relationship under this section with respect to a parent who:

(1) had no knowledge of the abortion; or

(2) participated in or consented to the abortion for the sole purpose of preventing the death of the mother.

[Contents]

Sec. 161.007. Termination Within Pregnancy Results from Criminal Act.

(a) Except as provided by Subsection (b), the court shall order the termination of the parent–child relationship of a parent and a child if the court finds by clear and convincing evidence that:

(1) the parent has engaged in conduct that constitutes an offense under Section 21.02, 22.011, 22.021, or 25.02, Penal Code;

(2) as a direct result of the conduct described by Subdivision (1), the victim of the conduct became pregnant with the parent's child; and

(3) termination is in the best interest of the child.

(b) If, for the two years after the birth of the child, the parent was married to or cohabiting with the other parent of the child, the court may order the termination of the parent–child relationship of the parent and the child if the court finds that:

(1) the parent has been convicted of an offense committed under Section 21.02, 22.011, 22.021, or 25.02, Penal Code;

(2) as a direct result of the commission of the offense by the parent, the other parent became pregnant with the child; and

(3) termination is in the best interest of the child.

Subch. B. Procedures

[Contents]

Sec. 161.101. Petition Allegations. A petition for the termination of the parent–child relationship is sufficient without the necessity of specifying the underlying facts if the petition alleges in the statutory language the ground for the termination and that termination is in the best interest of the child.

[Contents]

Sec. 161.102. Filing Suit for Termination Before Birth.

(a) A suit for termination may be filed before the birth of the child.

(b) If the suit is filed before the birth of the child, the petition shall be styled "In the Interest of an Unborn Child." After the birth, the clerk shall change the style of the case to conform to the requirements of Section 102.008.

[Contents]

Sec. 161.103. Affidavit of Voluntary Relinquishment of Parental Rights.

(a) An affidavit for voluntary relinquishment of parental rights must be:

(1) signed after the birth of the child, but not before 48 hours after the birth of the child, by the parent, whether or not a minor, whose parental rights are to be relinquished;

(2) witnessed by two credible persons; and

(3) verified before a person authorized to take oaths.

(b) The affidavit must contain:

(1) the name, county of residence, and age of the parent whose parental rights are being relinquished;

(2) the name, age, and birth date of the child;

(3) the names and addresses of the guardians of the person and estate of the child, if any;

(4) a statement that the affiant is or is not presently obligated by court order to make payments for the support of the child;

(5) a full description and statement of value of all property owned or possessed by the child;

(6) an allegation that termination of the parent–child relationship is in the best interest of the child;

(7) one of the following, as applicable:

(A) the name and county of residence of the other parent;

(B) a statement that the parental rights of the other parent have been terminated by death or court order; or

(C) a statement that the child has no presumed father;

(8) a statement that the parent has been informed of parental rights and duties;

(9) a statement that the relinquishment is revocable, that the relinquishment is irrevocable, or that the relinquishment is irrevocable for a stated period of time;

(10) if the relinquishment is revocable, a statement in boldfaced type concerning the right of the parent signing the affidavit to revoke the relinquishment only if the revocation is made before the 11th day after the date the affidavit is executed;

(11) if the relinquishment is revocable, the name and address of a person to whom the revocation is to be delivered; and

(12) the designation of a prospective adoptive parent, the Department of Family and Protective Services, if the department has consented in writing to the designation, or a licensed child–placing agency to serve as managing conservator of the child and the address of the person or agency.

(c) The affidavit may contain:

(1) a waiver of process in a suit to terminate the parent–child relationship filed under this chapter or in a suit to terminate joined with a petition for adoption; and

(2) a consent to the placement of the child for adoption by the Department of Family and Protective Services or by a licensed child–placing agency.

(d) A copy of the affidavit shall be provided to the parent at the time the parent signs the affidavit.

(e) The relinquishment in an affidavit that designates the Department of Family and Protective Services or a licensed child–placing agency to serve as the managing conservator is irrevocable. A relinquishment in any other affidavit of relinquishment is revocable unless it expressly provides that it is irrevocable for a stated period of time not to exceed 60 days after the date of its execution.

(f) A relinquishment in an affidavit of relinquishment of parental rights that fails to state that the relinquishment is irrevocable for a stated time is revocable as provided by Section 161.1035.

(g) To revoke a relinquishment under Subsection (e) the parent must sign a statement witnessed by two credible persons and verified before a person authorized to take oaths. A copy of the revocation shall be delivered to the person designated in the affidavit. If a parent attempting to revoke a relinquishment under this subsection has knowledge that a suit for termination of the parent–child relationship has been filed based on the parent's affidavit of relinquishment of parental rights, the parent shall file a copy of the revocation with the clerk of the court.

(h) The affidavit may not contain terms for limited post–termination contact between the child and the parent whose parental rights are to be relinquished as a condition of the relinquishment of parental rights.

[Contents]

Sec. 161.1031. Medical History Report.

(a) A parent who signs an affidavit of voluntary relinquishment of parental rights under Section 161.103 regarding a biological child must also prepare a medical history report that addresses the medical history of the parent and the parent's ancestors.

(b) The Department of Family and Protective Services, in cooperation with the Department of State Health Services, shall adopt a form that a parent may use to comply with this section. The form must be designed to permit a parent to identify any medical condition of the parent or the parent's ancestors that could indicate a predisposition for the child to develop the condition.

(c) The medical history report shall be used in preparing the health, social, educational, and genetic history report required by Section 162.005 and shall be made available to persons granted access under Section 162.006 in the manner provided by that section.

[Contents]

Sec. 161.1035. Revocability of Certain Affidavits. An affidavit of relinquishment of parental rights that fails to state that the relinquishment or waiver is irrevocable for a stated time is:

(1) revocable only if the revocation is made before the 11th day after the date the affidavit is executed; and

(2) irrevocable on or after the 11th day after the date the affidavit is executed.

[Contents]

Sec. 161.104. Rights of Designated Managing Conservator Pending Court Appointment. A person, licensed child–placing agency, or the Department of Family and Protective Services designated managing conservator of a child in an irrevocable or unrevoked affidavit of relinquishment has a right to possession of the child superior to the right of the person executing the affidavit, the right to consent to medical, surgical, dental, and psychological treatment of the child, and the rights and duties given by Chapter 153 to a possessory conservator until such time as these rights and duties are modified or terminated by court order.

[Contents]

Sec. 161.106. Affidavit of Waiver of Interest in Child.

(a) A man may sign an affidavit disclaiming any interest in a child and waiving notice or the service of citation in any suit filed or to be filed affecting the parent–child relationship with respect to the child.

(b) The affidavit may be signed before the birth of the child.

(c) The affidavit shall be:

(1) signed by the man, whether or not a minor;

(2) witnessed by two credible persons; and

(3) verified before a person authorized to take oaths.

(d) The affidavit may contain a statement that the affiant does not admit being the father of the child or having had a sexual relationship with the mother of the child.

(e) An affidavit of waiver of interest in a child may be used in a suit in which the affiant attempts to establish an interest in the child. The affidavit may not be used in a suit brought by another person, licensed child–placing agency, or the Department of Family and Protective Services to establish the affiant's paternity of the child.

(f) A waiver in an affidavit under this section is irrevocable.

(g) [Repealed]

(h) [Repealed]

(i) A copy of the affidavit shall be provided to the person who executed the affidavit at the time the person signs the affidavit.

[Contents]

Sec. 161.107. Missing Parent or Relative.

(a) In this section:

(1) "Parent" means a parent, as defined by Section 160.102, whose parent–child relationship with a child has not been terminated. The term does not include a man who does not have a parent–child relationship established under Chapter 160.

(2) "Relative" means a parent, grandparent, or adult sibling or child.

(b) If a parent of the child has not been personally served in a suit in which the Department of Family and Protective Services seeks termination, the department must make a diligent effort to locate that parent.

(c) If a parent has not been personally served and cannot be located, the department shall make a diligent effort to locate a relative of the missing parent to give the relative an opportunity to request appointment as the child's managing conservator.

(d) If the department is not able to locate a missing parent or a relative of that parent and sufficient information is available concerning the physical whereabouts of the parent or relative, the department shall request the state agency designated to administer a statewide plan for child support to use the parental locator service established under 42 U.S.C. Section 653 to determine the location of the missing parent or relative.

(e) The department shall be required to provide evidence to the court to show what actions were taken by the department in making a diligent effort to locate the missing parent and relative of the missing parent.

[Contents]

Sec. 161.108. Release of Child from Hospital or Birthing Center.

(a) Before or at the time an affidavit of relinquishment of parental rights under Section 161.103 is executed, the mother of a newborn child may authorize the release of the child from the hospital or birthing center to a licensed child–placing agency, the Department of Family and Protective Services, or another designated person.

(b) A release under this section must be:

(1) executed in writing;

(2) witnessed by two credible adults; and

(3) verified before a person authorized to take oaths.

(c) A hospital or birthing center shall comply with the terms of a release executed under this section without requiring a court order.

[Contents]

Sec. 161.109. Requirement of Paternity Registry Certificate.

(a) If a parent–child relationship does not exist between the child and any man, a certificate from the vital statistics unit signed by the registrar that a diligent search has been made of the paternity registry maintained by the unit and that a registration has not been found pertaining to the father of the child in question must be filed with the court before a trial on the merits in the suit for termination may be held.

(b) In a proceeding to terminate parental rights in which the alleged or probable father has not been personally served with citation or signed an affidavit of relinquishment or an affidavit of waiver of interest, the court may not terminate the parental rights of the alleged or probable father, whether known or unknown, unless a certificate from the vital statistics unit signed by the registrar states that a diligent search has been made of the paternity registry maintained by the unit and that a filing or registration has not been found pertaining to the father of the child in question.

Subch. C. Hearing and Order

[Contents]

Sec. 161.2011. Continuance; Access to Child.

(a) A parent whose rights are subject to termination in a suit affecting the parent–child relationship and against whom criminal charges are filed that directly relate to the grounds for which termination is sought may file a motion requesting a continuance of the final trial in the suit until the criminal charges are resolved. The court may grant the motion only if the court finds that a continuance is in the best interest of the child. Notwithstanding any continuance granted, the court shall conduct status and permanency hearings with respect to the child as required by Chapter 263 and shall comply with the dismissal date under Section 263.401.

(b) Nothing in this section precludes the court from issuing appropriate temporary orders as authorized in this code.

(c) The court in which a suit to terminate the parent–child relationship is pending may render an order denying a parent access to a child if the parent is indicted for criminal activity that constitutes a ground for terminating the parent–child relationship under Section 161.001. The denial of access under this section shall continue until the date the criminal charges for which the parent was indicted are resolved and the court renders an order providing for access to the child by the parent.

[Contents]

Sec. 161.202. Preferential Setting. In a termination suit, after a hearing, the court shall grant a motion for a preferential setting for a final hearing on the merits filed by a party to the suit or by the amicus attorney or attorney ad litem for the child and shall give precedence to that hearing over other civil cases if:

(1) termination would make the child eligible for adoption; and

(2) discovery has been completed or sufficient time has elapsed since the filing of the suit for the completion of all necessary and reasonable discovery if diligently pursued.

[Contents]

Sec. 161.2021. Medical History Report.

(a) In a termination suit, the court shall order each parent before the court to provide information regarding the medical history of the parent and the parent's ancestors.

(b) A parent may comply with the court's order under this section by completing the medical history report form adopted by the Department of Family and Protective Services under Section 161.1031.

(c) If the Department of Family and Protective Services is a party to the termination suit, the information provided under this section must be maintained in the department records relating to the child and made available to persons with whom the child is placed.

[Contents]

Sec. 161.203. Dismissal of Petition. A suit to terminate may not be dismissed nor may a nonsuit be taken unless the dismissal or nonsuit is approved by the court. The dismissal or nonsuit approved by the court is without prejudice.

[Contents]

Sec. 161.204. Termination Based on Affidavit of Waiver of Interest. In a suit for termination, the court may render an order terminating the parent–child relationship between a child and a man who has signed an affidavit of waiver of interest in the child, if the termination is in the best interest of the child.

[Contents]

Sec. 161.205. Order Denying Termination. If the court does not order termination of the parent–child relationship, the court shall:

(1) deny the petition; or

(2) render any order in the best interest of the child.

[Contents]

Sec. 161.206. Order Terminating Parental Rights.

(a) If the court finds by clear and convincing evidence grounds for termination of the parent–child relationship, it shall render an order terminating the parent–child relationship.

(b) Except as provided by Section 161.2061, an order terminating the parent–child relationship divests the parent and the child of all legal rights and duties with respect to each other, except that the child retains the right to inherit from and through the parent unless the court otherwise provides.

(c) Nothing in this chapter precludes or affects the rights of a biological or adoptive maternal or paternal grandparent to reasonable access under Chapter 153.

(d) An order rendered under this section must include a finding that:

(1) a request for identification of a court of continuing, exclusive jurisdiction has been made as required by Section 155.101; and

(2) all parties entitled to notice, including the Title IV–D agency, have been notified.

[Contents]

Sec. 161.2061. Terms Regarding Limited Post–Termination Contact.

(a) If the court finds it to be in the best interest of the child, the court may provide in an order terminating the parent–child relationship that the biological parent who filed an affidavit of voluntary relinquishment of parental rights under Section 161.103 shall have limited post–termination contact with the child as provided by Subsection (b) on the agreement of the biological parent and the Department of Family and Protective Services.

(b) The order of termination may include terms that allow the biological parent to:

(1) receive specified information regarding the child;

(2) provide written communications to the child; and

(3) have limited access to the child.

(c) The terms of an order of termination regarding limited post–termination contact may be enforced only if the party seeking enforcement pleads and proves that, before filing the motion for enforcement, the party attempted in good faith to resolve the disputed matters through mediation.

(d) The terms of an order of termination under this section are not enforceable by contempt.

(e) The terms of an order of termination regarding limited post–termination contact may not be modified.

(f) An order under this section does not:

(1) affect the finality of a termination order; or

(2) grant standing to a parent whose parental rights have been terminated to file any action under this title other than a motion to enforce the terms regarding limited post–termination contact until the court renders a subsequent adoption order with respect to the child.

[Contents]

Sec. 161.2062. Provision for Limited Contact Between Biological Parent and Child.

(a) An order terminating the parent–child relationship may not require that a subsequent adoption order include terms regarding limited post–termination contact between the child and a biological parent.

(b) The inclusion of a requirement for post–termination contact described by Subsection (a) in a termination order does not:

(1) affect the finality of a termination or subsequent adoption order; or

(2) grant standing to a parent whose parental rights have been terminated to file any action under this title after the court renders a subsequent adoption order with respect to the child.

[Contents]

Sec. 161.207. Appointment of Managing Conservator on Termination.

(a) If the court terminates the parent–child relationship with respect to both parents or to the only living parent, the court shall appoint a suitable, competent adult, the Department of Family and Protective Services, or a licensed child–placing agency as managing conservator of the child. An agency designated managing conservator in an unrevoked or irrevocable affidavit of relinquishment shall be appointed managing conservator.

(b) The order of appointment may refer to the docket number of the suit and need not refer to the parties nor be accompanied by any other papers in the record.

[Contents]

Sec. 161.208. Appointment of Department of Family and Protective Services as Managing Conservator. If a parent of the child has not been personally served in a suit in which the Department of Family and Protective Services seeks termination, the court that terminates a parent–child relationship may not appoint the Department of Family and Protective Services as permanent managing conservator of the child unless the court determines that:

(1) the department has made a diligent effort to locate a missing parent who has not been personally served and a relative of that parent; and

(2) a relative located by the department has had a reasonable opportunity to request appointment as managing conservator of the child or the department has not been able to locate the missing parent or a relative of the missing parent.

[Contents]

Sec. 161.209. Copy of Order of Termination. A copy of an order of termination rendered under Section 161.206 is not required to be mailed to parties as provided by Rules 119a and 239a, Texas Rules of Civil Procedure.

[Contents]

Sec. 161.210. Sealing of File. The court, on the motion of a party or on the court's own motion, may order the sealing of the file, the minutes of the court, or both, in a suit for termination.

[Contents]

Sec. 161.211. Direct or Collateral Attack on Termination Order.

(a) Notwithstanding Rule 329, Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, the validity of an order terminating the parental rights of a person who has been personally served or who has executed an affidavit of relinquishment of parental rights or an affidavit of waiver of interest in a child or whose rights have been terminated under Section 161.002(b) is not subject to collateral or direct attack after the sixth month after the date the order was signed.

(b) Notwithstanding Rule 329, Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, the validity of an order terminating the parental rights of a person who is served by citation by publication is not subject to collateral or direct attack after the sixth month after the date the order was signed.

(c) A direct or collateral attack on an order terminating parental rights based on an unrevoked affidavit of relinquishment of parental rights or affidavit of waiver of interest in a child is limited to issues relating to fraud, duress, or coercion in the execution of the affidavit.

Ch. 162. Adoption

Subch. A. Adoption of A Child

[Contents]

Sec. 162.001. Who May Adopt and Be Adopted.

(a) Subject to the requirements for standing to sue in Chapter 102, an adult may petition to adopt a child who may be adopted.

(b) A child residing in this state may be adopted if:

(1) the parent–child relationship as to each living parent of the child has been terminated or a suit for termination is joined with the suit for adoption;

(2) the parent whose rights have not been terminated is presently the spouse of the petitioner and the proceeding is for a stepparent adoption;

(3) the child is at least two years old, the parent–child relationship has been terminated with respect to one parent, the person seeking the adoption has been a managing conservator or has had actual care, possession, and control of the child for a period of six months preceding the adoption or is the child's former stepparent, and the nonterminated parent consents to the adoption; or

(4) the child is at least two years old, the parent–child relationship has been terminated with respect to one parent, and the person seeking the adoption is the child's former stepparent and has been a managing conservator or has had actual care, possession, and control of the child for a period of one year preceding the adoption.

(c) If an affidavit of relinquishment of parental rights contains a consent for the Department of Family and Protective Services or a licensed child–placing agency to place the child for adoption and appoints the department or agency managing conservator of the child, further consent by the parent is not required and the adoption order shall terminate all rights of the parent without further termination proceedings.

[Contents]

Sec. 162.002. Prerequisites to Petition.

(a) If a petitioner is married, both spouses must join in the petition for adoption.

(b) A petition in a suit for adoption or a suit for appointment of a nonparent managing conservator with authority to consent to adoption of a child must include:

(1) a verified allegation that there has been compliance with Subchapter B ; or

(2) if there has not been compliance with Subchapter B, a verified statement of the particular reasons for noncompliance.

[Contents]

Sec. 162.0025. Adoption Sought by Military Service Member. In a suit for adoption, the fact that a petitioner is a member of the armed forces of the United States, a member of the Texas National Guard or the National Guard of another state, or a member of a reserve component of the armed forces of the United States may not be considered by the court, or any person performing an adoption evaluation or home screening, as a negative factor in determining whether the adoption is in the best interest of the child or whether the petitioner would be a suitable parent.

[Contents]

Sec. 162.003. Adoption Evaluation. In a suit for adoption, an adoption evaluation must be conducted as provided in Chapter 107.

[Contents]

Sec. 162.0045. Preferential Setting. The court shall grant a motion for a preferential setting for a final hearing on an adoption and shall give precedence to that hearing over all other civil cases not given preference by other law if the adoption evaluation has been filed and the criminal history for the person seeking to adopt the child has been obtained.

[Contents]

Sec. 162.005. Preparation of Health, Social, Educational, and Genetic History Report.

(a) This section does not apply to an adoption by the child's:

(1) grandparent;

(2) aunt or uncle by birth, marriage, or prior adoption; or

(3) stepparent.

(b) Before placing a child for adoption, the Department of Family and Protective Services, a licensed child–placing agency, or the child's parent or guardian shall compile a report on the available health, social, educational, and genetic history of the child to be adopted.

[Transferred and redesignated]

(d) If the child has been placed for adoption by a person or entity other than the department, a licensed child–placing agency, or the child's parent or guardian, it is the duty of the person or entity who places the child for adoption to prepare the report.

(e) The person or entity who places the child for adoption shall provide the prospective adoptive parents a copy of the report as early as practicable before the first meeting of the adoptive parents with the child. The copy of the report shall be edited to protect the identity of birth parents and their families.

(f) The department, licensed child–placing agency, parent, guardian, person, or entity who prepares and files the original report is required to furnish supplemental medical, psychological, and psychiatric information to the adoptive parents if that information becomes available and to file the supplemental information where the original report is filed. The supplemental information shall be retained for as long as the original report is required to be retained.

[Contents]

Sec. 162.006. Access to Health, Social, Educational, and Genetic History Report; Retention.

(a) [Redesignated]

(b) The department, licensed child–placing agency, or court retaining a copy of the report shall provide a copy of the report that has been edited to protect the identity of the birth parents and any other person whose identity is confidential to the following persons on request:

(1) an adoptive parent of the adopted child;

(2) the managing conservator, guardian of the person, or legal custodian of the adopted child;

(3) the adopted child, after the child is an adult;

(4) the surviving spouse of the adopted child if the adopted child is dead and the spouse is the parent or guardian of a child of the deceased adopted child; or

(5) a progeny of the adopted child if the adopted child is dead and the progeny is an adult.

(c) A copy of the report may not be furnished to a person who cannot furnish satisfactory proof of identity and legal entitlement to receive a copy.

(d) A person requesting a copy of the report shall pay the actual and reasonable costs of providing a copy and verifying entitlement to the copy.

(e) The report shall be retained for 99 years from the date of the adoption by the department or licensed child–placing agency placing the child for adoption. If the agency ceases to function as a child–placing agency, the agency shall transfer all the reports to the department or, after giving notice to the department, to a transferee agency that is assuming responsibility for the preservation of the agency's adoption records. If the child has not been placed for adoption by the department or a licensed child–placing agency and if the child is being adopted by a person other than the child's stepparent, grandparent, aunt, or uncle by birth, marriage, or prior adoption, the person or entity who places the child for adoption shall file the report with the department, which shall retain the copies for 99 years from the date of the adoption.

[Contents]

Sec. 162.0062. Access to Information.

(a) Except as provided by Subsection (c), the prospective adoptive parents of a child are entitled to examine the records and other information relating to the history of the child. The Department of Family and Protective Services, licensed child–placing agency, or other person placing a child for adoption shall inform the prospective adoptive parents of their right to examine the records and other information relating to the history of the child. The department, licensed child–placing agency, or other person placing the child for adoption shall edit the records and information to protect the identity of the biological parents and any other person whose identity is confidential.

(b) The records described by Subsection (a) must include any records relating to an investigation of abuse in which the child was an alleged or confirmed victim of sexual abuse while residing in a foster home or other residential child–care facility. If the licensed child–placing agency or other person placing the child for adoption does not have the information required by this subsection, the department, at the request of the licensed child–placing agency or other person placing the child for adoption, shall provide the information to the prospective adoptive parents of the child.

(c) If the prospective adoptive parents of a child have reviewed the health, social, educational, and genetic history report for the child and indicated that they want to proceed with the adoption, the department may, but is not required to, allow the prospective adoptive parents of the child to examine the records and other information relating to the history of the child, unless the prospective adoptive parents request the child's case record. The department shall provide the child's case record to the prospective adoptive parents on the request of the prospective adoptive parents.

(d) The adoptive parents and the adopted child, after the child is an adult, are entitled to receive copies of the records that have been edited to protect the identity of the biological parents and any other person whose identity is confidential and other information relating to the history of the child maintained by the department, licensed child–placing agency, person, or entity placing the child for adoption.

(e) It is the duty of the person or entity placing the child for adoption to edit the records and information to protect the identity of the biological parents and any other person whose identity is confidential.

(f) At the time an adoption order is rendered, the court shall provide to the parents of an adopted child information provided by the vital statistics unit that describes the functions of the voluntary adoption registry under Subchapter E. The licensed child–placing agency shall provide to each of the child's biological parents known to the agency, the information when the parent signs an affidavit of relinquishment of parental rights or affidavit of waiver of interest in a child. The information shall include the right of the child or biological parent to refuse to participate in the registry. If the adopted child is 14 years old or older the court shall provide the information to the child.

[Contents]

Sec. 162.0065. Editing Adoption Records in Department Placement. Notwithstanding any other provision of this chapter, in an adoption in which a child is placed for adoption by the Department of Family and Protective Services, the department is not required to edit records to protect the identity of birth parents and other persons whose identity is confidential if the department determines that information is already known to the adoptive parents or is readily available through other sources, including the court records of a suit to terminate the parent–child relationship under Chapter 161.

[Contents]

Sec. 162.007. Contents of Health, Social, Educational, and Genetic History Report.

(a) The health history of the child must include information about:

(1) the child's health status at the time of placement;

(2) the child's birth, neonatal, and other medical, psychological, psychiatric, and dental history information;

(3) a record of immunizations for the child; and

(4) the available results of medical, psychological, psychiatric, and dental examinations of the child.

(b) The social history of the child must include information, to the extent known, about past and existing relationships between the child and the child's siblings, parents by birth, extended family, and other persons who have had physical possession of or legal access to the child.

(c) The educational history of the child must include, to the extent known, information about:

(1) the enrollment and performance of the child in educational institutions;

(2) results of educational testing and standardized tests for the child; and

(3) special educational needs, if any, of the child.

(d) The genetic history of the child must include a description of the child's parents by birth and their parents, any other child born to either of the child's parents, and extended family members and must include, to the extent the information is available, information about:

(1) their health and medical history, including any genetic diseases and disorders;

(2) their health status at the time of placement;

(3) the cause of and their age at death;

(4) their height, weight, and eye and hair color;

(5) their nationality and ethnic background;

(6) their general levels of educational and professional achievements, if any;

(7) their religious backgrounds, if any;

(8) any psychological, psychiatric, or social evaluations, including the date of the evaluation, any diagnosis, and a summary of any findings;

(9) any criminal conviction records relating to a misdemeanor or felony classified as an offense against the person or family or public indecency or a felony violation of a statute intended to control the possession or distribution of a substance included in Chapter 481, Health and Safety Code; and

(10) any information necessary to determine whether the child is entitled to or otherwise eligible for state or federal financial, medical, or other assistance.

(e) The report shall include a history of physical, sexual, or emotional abuse suffered by the child, if any.

(f) Notwithstanding the other provisions of this section, the Department of Family and Protective Services may, in accordance with department rule, modify the form and contents of the health, social, educational, and genetic history report for a child as the department determines appropriate based on:

(1) the relationship between the prospective adoptive parents and the child or the child's birth family;

(2) the provision of the child's case record to the prospective adoptive parents; or

(3) any other factor specified by department rule.

[Contents]

Sec. 162.008. Filing of Health, Social, Educational, and Genetic History Report.

(a) This section does not apply to an adoption by the child's:

(1) grandparent;

(2) aunt or uncle by birth, marriage, or prior adoption; or

(3) stepparent.

(b) A petition for adoption may not be granted until the following documents have been filed:

(1) a copy of the health, social, educational, and genetic history report signed by the child's adoptive parents; and

(2) if the report is required to be submitted to the Department of Family and Protective Services under Section 162.006(e), a certificate from the department acknowledging receipt of the report.

(c) A court having jurisdiction of a suit affecting the parent–child relationship may by order waive the making and filing of a report under this section if the child's biological parents cannot be located and their absence results in insufficient information being available to compile the report.

[Contents]

Sec. 162.0085. Criminal History Report Required.

(a) In a suit affecting the parent–child relationship in which an adoption is sought, the court shall order each person seeking to adopt the child to obtain that person's own criminal history record information. The court shall accept under this section a person's criminal history record information that is provided by the Department of Family and Protective Services or by a licensed child–placing agency that received the information from the department if the information was obtained not more than one year before the date the court ordered the history to be obtained.

(b) A person required to obtain information under Subsection (a) shall obtain the information in the manner provided by Section 411.128, Government Code.

[Contents]

Sec. 162.009. Residence with Petitioner.

(a) The court may not grant an adoption until the child has resided with the petitioner for not less than six months.

(b) On request of the petitioner, the court may waive the residence requirement if the waiver is in the best interest of the child.

[Contents]

Sec. 162.010. Consent Required.

(a) Unless the managing conservator is the petitioner, the written consent of a managing conservator to the adoption must be filed. The court may waive the requirement of consent by the managing conservator if the court finds that the consent is being refused or has been revoked without good cause. A hearing on the issue of consent shall be conducted by the court without a jury.

(b) If a parent of the child is presently the spouse of the petitioner, that parent must join in the petition for adoption and further consent of that parent is not required.

(c) A child 12 years of age or older must consent to the adoption in writing or in court. The court may waive this requirement if it would serve the child's best interest.

[Contents]

Sec. 162.011. Revocation of Consent. At any time before an order granting the adoption of the child is rendered, a consent required by Section 162.010 may be revoked by filing a signed revocation.

[Contents]

Sec. 162.012. Direct or Collateral Attack.

(a) Notwithstanding Rule 329, Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, the validity of an adoption order is not subject to attack after six months after the date the order was signed.

(b) The validity of a final adoption order is not subject to attack because a health, social, educational, and genetic history was not filed.

[Contents]

Sec. 162.013. Abatement or Dismissal.

(a) If the sole petitioner dies or the joint petitioners die, the court shall dismiss the suit for adoption.

(b) If one of the joint petitioners dies, the proceeding shall continue uninterrupted.

(c) If the joint petitioners divorce, the court shall abate the suit for adoption. The court shall dismiss the petition unless the petition is amended to request adoption by one of the original petitioners.

[Contents]

Sec. 162.014. Attendance at Hearing Required.

(a) If the joint petitioners are husband and wife and it would be unduly difficult for one of the petitioners to appear at the hearing, the court may waive the attendance of that petitioner if the other spouse is present.

(b) A child to be adopted who is 12 years of age or older shall attend the hearing. The court may waive this requirement in the best interest of the child.

[Contents]

Sec. 162.015. Race or Ethnicity.

(a) In determining the best interest of the child, the court may not deny or delay the adoption or otherwise discriminate on the basis of race or ethnicity of the child or the prospective adoptive parents.

(b) This section does not apply to a person, entity, tribe, organization, or child custody proceeding subject to the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (25 U.S.C. Section 1901 et seq.). In this subsection "child custody proceeding" has the meaning provided by 25 U.S.C. Section 1903.

[Contents]

Sec. 162.016. Adoption Order.

(a) If a petition requesting termination has been joined with a petition requesting adoption, the court shall also terminate the parent–child relationship at the same time the adoption order is rendered. The court must make separate findings that the termination is in the best interest of the child and that the adoption is in the best interest of the child.

(b) If the court finds that the requirements for adoption have been met and the adoption is in the best interest of the child, the court shall grant the adoption.

(c) The name of the child may be changed in the order if requested.

[Contents]

Sec. 162.017. Effect of Adoption.

(a) An order of adoption creates the parent–child relationship between the adoptive parent and the child for all purposes.

(b) An adopted child is entitled to inherit from and through the child's adoptive parents as though the child were the biological child of the parents.

(c) The terms "child," "descendant," "issue," and other terms indicating the relationship of parent and child include an adopted child unless the context or express language clearly indicates otherwise.

(d) Nothing in this chapter precludes or affects the rights of a biological or adoptive maternal or paternal grandparent to reasonable possession of or access to a grandchild, as provided in Chapter 153.

[Contents]

Sec. 162.019. Copy of Order. A copy of the adoption order is not required to be mailed to the parties as provided in Rules 119a and 239a, Texas Rules of Civil Procedure.

[Contents]

Sec. 162.020. Withdrawal or Denial of Petition. If a petition requesting adoption is withdrawn or denied, the court may order the removal of the child from the proposed adoptive home if removal is in the child's best interest and may enter any order necessary for the welfare of the child.

[Contents]

Sec. 162.021. Sealing File.

(a) The court, on the motion of a party or on the court's own motion, may order the sealing of the file and the minutes of the court, or both, in a suit requesting an adoption.

(b) Rendition of the order does not relieve the clerk from the duty to send information regarding adoption to the vital statistics unit as required by this subchapter and Chapter 108.

[Contents]

Sec. 162.022. Confidentiality Maintained by Clerk. The records concerning a child maintained by the district clerk after entry of an order of adoption are confidential. No person is entitled to access to the records or may obtain information from the records except for good cause under an order of the court that issued the order.

[Contents]

Sec. 162.023. Adoption Order from Foreign Country.

(a) Except as otherwise provided by law, an adoption order rendered to a resident of this state that is made by a foreign country shall be accorded full faith and credit by the courts of this state and enforced as if the order were rendered by a court in this state unless the adoption law or process of the foreign country violates the fundamental principles of human rights or the laws or public policy of this state.

(b) A person who adopts a child in a foreign country may register the order in this state. A petition for registration of a foreign adoption order may be combined with a petition for a name change. If the court finds that the foreign adoption order meets the requirements of Subsection (a), the court shall order the state registrar to:

(1) register the order under Chapter 192, Health and Safety Code; and

(2) file a certificate of birth for the child under Section 192.006, Health and Safety Code.

[Contents]

Sec. 162.025. Placement by Unauthorized Person; Offense.

(a) A person who is not the natural or adoptive parent of the child, the legal guardian of the child, or a child–placing agency licensed under Chapter 42, Human Resources Code, commits an offense if the person:

(1) serves as an intermediary between a prospective adoptive parent and an expectant parent or parent of a minor child to identify the parties to each other; or

(2) places a child for adoption.

(b) It is not an offense under this section if a professional provides legal or medical services to:

(1) a parent who identifies the prospective adoptive parent and places the child for adoption without the assistance of the professional; or

(2) a prospective adoptive parent who identifies a parent and receives placement of a child for adoption without the assistance of the professional.

(c) An offense under this section is a Class B misdemeanor.

Subch. B. Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children

[Contents]

Sec. 162.101. Definitions. In this subchapter:

(1) "Appropriate public authorities," with reference to this state, means the commissioner of the Department of Family and Protective Services.

(2) "Appropriate authority in the receiving state," with reference to this state, means the commissioner of the Department of Family and Protective Services.

(3) "Compact" means the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children.

(4) "Executive head," with reference to this state, means the governor.

[Contents]

Sec. 162.102. Adoption of Compact; Text. The Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children is adopted by this state and entered into with all other jurisdictions in form substantially as provided by this subchapter.

Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children


Article I. Purpose and Policy

It is the purpose and policy of the party states to cooperate with each other in the interstate placement of children to the end that:

(a) Each child requiring placement shall receive the maximum opportunity to be placed in a suitable environment and with persons or institutions having appropriate qualifications and facilities to provide a necessary and desirable degree and type of care.

(b) The appropriate authorities in a state where a child is to be placed may have full opportunity to ascertain the circumstances of the proposed placement, thereby promoting full compliance with applicable requirements for the protection of the child.

(c) The proper authorities of the state from which the placement is made may obtain the most complete information on the basis on which to evaluate a projected placement before it is made.

(d) Appropriate jurisdictional arrangements for the care of children will be promoted.

Article II. Definitions

As used in this compact:

(a) "Child" means a person who, by reason of minority, is legally subject to parental, guardianship, or similar control.

(b) "Sending agency" means a party state, officer, or employee thereof; a subdivision of a party state, or officer or employee thereof; a court of a party state; a person, corporation, association, charitable agency, or other entity which sends, brings, or causes to be sent or brought any child to another party state.

(c) "Receiving state" means the state to which a child is sent, brought, or caused to be sent or brought, whether by public authorities or private persons or agencies, and whether for placement with state or local public authorities or for placement with private agencies or persons.

(d) "Placement" means the arrangement for the care of a child in a family free or boarding home or in a child–caring agency or institution but does not include any institution caring for the mentally ill, mentally defective, or epileptic or any institution primarily educational in character, and any hospital or other medical facility.

Article III. Conditions for Placement

(a) No sending agency shall send, bring, or cause to be sent or brought into any other party state any child for placement in foster care or as a preliminary to a possible adoption unless the sending agency shall comply with each and every requirement set forth in this article and with the applicable laws of the receiving state governing the placement of children therein.

(b) Prior to sending, bringing, or causing any child to be sent or brought into a receiving state for placement in foster care or as a preliminary to a possible adoption, the sending agency shall furnish the appropriate public authorities in the receiving state written notice of the intention to send, bring, or place the child in the receiving state. The notice shall contain:

(1) the name, date, and place of birth of the child;

(2) the identity and address or addresses of the parents or legal guardian;

(3) the name and address of the person, agency, or institution to or with which the sending agency proposes to send, bring, or place the child;

(4) a full statement of the reasons for such proposed action and evidence of the authority pursuant to which the placement is proposed to be made.

(c) Any public officer or agency in a receiving state which is in receipt of a notice pursuant to Paragraph (b) of this article may request of the sending agency, or any other appropriate officer or agency of or in the sending agency's state, and shall be entitled to receive therefrom, such supporting or additional information as it may deem necessary under the circumstances to carry out the purpose and policy of this compact.

(d) The child shall not be sent, brought, or caused to be sent or brought into the receiving state until the appropriate public authorities in the receiving state shall notify the sending agency, in writing, to the effect that the proposed placement does not appear to be contrary to the interests of the child.

Article IV. Penalty for Illegal Placement

The sending, bringing, or causing to be sent or brought into any receiving state of a child in violation of the terms of this compact shall constitute a violation of the laws respecting the placement of children of both the state in which the sending agency is located or from which it sends or brings the child and of the receiving state. Such violation may be punished or subjected to penalty in either jurisdiction in accordance with its laws. In addition to liability for any such punishment or penalty, any such violation shall constitute full and sufficient grounds for the suspension or revocation of any license, permit, or other legal authorization held by the sending agency which empowers or allows it to place or care for children.

Article V. Retention of Jurisdiction

(a) The sending agency shall retain jurisdiction over the child sufficient to determine all matters in relation to the custody, supervision, care, treatment, and disposition of the child which it would have had if the child had remained in the sending agency's state, until the child is adopted, reaches majority, becomes self–supporting, or is discharged with the concurrence of the appropriate authority in the receiving state. Such jurisdiction shall also include the power to effect or cause the return of the child or its transfer to another location and custody pursuant to law. The sending agency shall continue to have financial responsibility for support and maintenance of the child during the period of the placement. Nothing contained herein shall defeat a claim of jurisdiction by a receiving state sufficient to deal with an act of delinquency or crime committed therein.

(b) When the sending agency is a public agency, it may enter into an agreement with an authorized public or private agency in the receiving state providing for the performance of one or more services in respect of such case by the latter as agent for the sending agency.

(c) Nothing in this compact shall be construed to prevent a private charitable agency authorized to place children in the receiving state from performing services or acting as agent in that state for a private charitable agency of the sending state; nor to prevent the agency in the receiving state from discharging financial responsibility for the support and maintenance of a child who has been placed on behalf of the sending agency without relieving the responsibility set forth in Paragraph (a) hereof.

Article VI. Institutional Care of Delinquent Children

A child adjudicated delinquent may be placed in an institution in another party jurisdiction pursuant to this compact but no such placement shall be made unless the child is given a court hearing on notice to the parent or guardian with opportunity to be heard, prior to his being sent to such other party jurisdiction for institutional care and the court finds that:

(1) equivalent facilities for the child are not available in the sending agency's jurisdiction; and

(2) institutional care in the other jurisdiction is in the best interest of the child and will not produce undue hardship.

Article VII. Compact Administrator

The executive head of each jurisdiction party to this compact shall designate an officer who shall be general coordinator of activities under this compact in his jurisdiction and who, acting jointly with like officers of other party jurisdictions, shall have power to promulgate rules and regulations to carry out more effectively the terms and provisions of this compact.

Article VIII. Limitations

This compact shall not apply to:

(a) the sending or bringing of a child into a receiving state by his parent, stepparent, grandparent, adult brother or sister, adult uncle or aunt, or his guardian and leaving the child with any such relative or nonagency guardian in the receiving state; or

(b) any placement, sending, or bringing of a child into a receiving state pursuant to any other interstate compact to which both the state from which the child is sent or brought and the receiving state are party, or to any other agreement between said states which has the force of law.

Article IX. Enactment and Withdrawal

This compact shall be open to joinder by any state, territory, or possession of the United States, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and, with the consent of congress, the government of Canada or any province thereof. It shall become effective with respect to any such jurisdiction when such jurisdiction has enacted the same into law. Withdrawal from this compact shall be by the enactment of a statute repealing the same, but shall not take effect until two years after the effective date of such statute and until written notice of the withdrawal has been given by the withdrawing state to the governor of each other party jurisdiction. Withdrawal of a party state shall not affect the rights, duties, and obligations under this compact of any sending agency therein with respect to a placement made prior to the effective date of withdrawal.

Article X. Construction and Severability

The provisions of this compact shall be liberally construed to effectuate the purposes thereof. The provisions of this compact shall be severable and if any phrase, clause, sentence, or provision of this compact is declared to be contrary to the constitution of any party state or of the United States or the applicability thereof to any government, agency, person, or circumstance is held invalid, the validity of the remainder of this compact and the applicability thereof to any government, agency, person, or circumstance shall not be affected thereby. If this compact shall be held contrary to the constitution of any state party thereto, the compact shall remain in full force and effect as to the remaining states and in full force and effect as to the state affected as to all severable matters.

[Contents]

Sec. 162.103. Financial Responsibility for Child.

(a) Financial responsibility for a child placed as provided in the compact is determined, in the first instance, as provided in Article V of the compact. After partial or complete default of performance under the provisions of Article V assigning financial responsibility, the commissioner of the Department of Family and Protective Services may bring suit under Chapter 154 and may file a complaint with the appropriate prosecuting attorney, claiming a violation of Section 25.05, Penal Code.

(b) After default, if the commissioner of the Department of Family and Protective Services determines that financial responsibility is unlikely to be assumed by the sending agency or the child's parents, the commissioner may cause the child to be returned to the sending agency.

(c) After default, the Department of Family and Protective Services shall assume financial responsibility for the child until it is assumed by the child's parents or until the child is safely returned to the sending agency.

[Contents]

Sec. 162.104. Approval of Placement. The commissioner of the Department of Family and Protective Services may not approve the placement of a child in this state without the concurrence of the individuals with whom the child is proposed to be placed or the head of an institution with which the child is proposed to be placed.

[Contents]

Sec. 162.105. Placement in Another State. A juvenile court may place a delinquent child in an institution in another state as provided by Article VI of the compact. After placement in another state, the court retains jurisdiction of the child as provided by Article V of the compact.

[Contents]

Sec. 162.106. Compact Authority.

(a) The governor shall appoint the commissioner of the Department of Family and Protective Services as compact administrator.

(b) The commissioner of the Department of Family and Protective Services shall designate a deputy compact administrator and staff necessary to execute the terms of the compact in this state.

[Contents]

Sec. 162.107. Offenses; Penalties.

(a) An individual, agency, corporation, or child–care facility that violates a provision of the compact commits an offense. An offense under this subsection is a Class B misdemeanor.

(b) An individual, agency, corporation, child–care facility, or general residential operation in this state that violates Article IV of the compact commits an offense. An offense under this subsection is a Class B misdemeanor. On conviction, the court shall revoke any license to operate as a child–care facility or general residential operation issued by the Department of Family and Protective Services to the entity convicted and shall revoke any license or certification of the individual, agency, or corporation necessary to practice in the state.

Subch. C. Interstate Compact on Adoption and Medical Assistance

[Contents]

Sec. 162.201. Adoption of Compact; Text. The Interstate Compact on Adoption and Medical Assistance is adopted by this state and entered into with all other jurisdictions joining in the compact in form substantially as provided under this subchapter.

Interstate Compact on Adoption and Medical Assistance

Article I. Findings

The legislature finds that:

(a) Finding adoptive families for children for whom state assistance is desirable, under Subchapter D, Chapter 162, and assuring the protection of the interest of the children affected during the entire assistance period require special measures when the adoptive parents move to other states or are residents of another state.

(b) The provision of medical and other necessary services for children, with state assistance, encounters special difficulties when the provision of services takes place in other states.

Article II. Purposes

The purposes of the compact are to:

(a) authorize the Department of Family and Protective Services, with the concurrence of the Health and Human Services Commission, to enter into interstate agreements with agencies of other states for the protection of children on behalf of whom adoption assistance is being provided by the Department of Family and Protective Services; and

(b) provide procedures for interstate children's adoption assistance payments, including medical payments.

Article III. Definitions

In this compact:

(a) "Adoption assistance state" means the state that signs an adoption assistance agreement in a particular case.

(b) "Residence state" means the state in which the child resides by virtue of the residence of the adoptive parents.

(c) "State" means a state of the United States, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, or a territory or possession of or a territory or possession administered by the United States.

Article IV. Compacts Authorized

The Department of Family and Protective Services, through its commissioner, is authorized to develop, participate in the development of, negotiate, and enter into one or more interstate compacts on behalf of this state with other states to implement one or more of the purposes of this compact. An interstate compact authorized by this article has the force and effect of law.

Article V. Contents of Compacts

A compact entered into under the authority conferred by this compact shall contain:

(1) a provision making the compact available for joinder by all states;

(2) a provision for withdrawal from the compact on written notice to the parties, with a period of one year between the date of the notice and the effective date of the withdrawal;

(3) a requirement that protections under the compact continue for the duration of the adoption assistance and apply to all children and their adoptive parents who on the effective date of the withdrawal are receiving adoption assistance from a party state other than the one in which they reside and have their principal place of abode;

(4) a requirement that each case of adoption assistance to which the compact applies be covered by a written adoption assistance agreement between the adoptive parents and the state child welfare agency of the state that provides the adoption assistance and that the agreement be expressly for the benefit of the adopted child and enforceable by the adoptive parents and the state agency providing the adoption assistance; and

(5) other provisions that are appropriate for the proper administration of the compact.

Article VI. Optional Contents of Compacts

A compact entered into under the authority conferred by this compact may contain the following provisions, in addition to those required under Article V of this compact:

(1) provisions establishing procedures and entitlement to medical, developmental, child–care, or other social services for the child in accordance with applicable laws, even if the child and the adoptive parents are in a state other than the one responsible for or providing the services or the funds to defray part or all of the costs thereof; and

(2) other provisions that are appropriate or incidental to the proper administration of the compact.

Article VII. Medical Assistance

(a) A child with special needs who resides in this state and who is the subject of an adoption assistance agreement with another state is entitled to receive a medical assistance identification from this state on the filing in the state medical assistance agency of a certified copy of the adoption assistance agreement obtained from the adoption assistance state. In accordance with rules of the state medical assistance agency, the adoptive parents, at least annually, shall show that the agreement is still in effect or has been renewed.

(b) The state medical assistance agency shall consider the holder of a medical assistance identification under this article as any other holder of a medical assistance identification under the laws of this state and shall process and make payment on claims on the holder's account in the same manner and under the same conditions and procedures as for other recipients of medical assistance.

(c) The state medical assistance agency shall provide coverage and benefits for a child who is in another state and who is covered by an adoption assistance agreement made by the Department of Family and Protective Services for the coverage or benefits, if any, not provided by the residence state. The adoptive parents acting for the child may submit evidence of payment for services or benefit amounts not payable in the residence state and shall be reimbursed for those amounts. Services or benefit amounts covered under any insurance or other third–party medical contract or arrangement held by the child or the adoptive parents may not be reimbursed. The state medical assistance agency shall adopt rules implementing this subsection. The additional coverage and benefit amounts provided under this subsection are for services for which there is no federal contribution or services that, if federally aided, are not provided by the residence state. The rules shall include procedures for obtaining prior approval for services in cases in which prior approval is required for the assistance.

(d) The submission of a false, misleading, or fraudulent claim for payment or reimbursement for services or benefits under this article or the making of a false, misleading, or fraudulent statement in connection with the claim is an offense under this subsection if the person submitting the claim or making the statement knows or should know that the claim or statement is false, misleading, or fraudulent. A person who commits an offense under this subsection may be liable for a fine not to exceed $10,000 or imprisonment for not more than two years, or both the fine and the imprisonment. An offense under this subsection that also constitutes an offense under other law may be punished under either this subsection or the other applicable law.

(e) This article applies only to medical assistance for children under adoption assistance agreements with states that have entered into a compact with this state under which the other state provides medical assistance to children with special needs under adoption assistance agreements made by this state. All other children entitled to medical assistance under adoption assistance agreements entered into by this state are eligible to receive the medical assistance in accordance with the laws and procedures that apply to the agreement.

Article VIII. Federal Participation

Consistent with federal law, the Department of Family and Protective Services and the Health and Human Services Commission, in connection with the administration of this compact or a compact authorized by this compact, shall include the provision of adoption assistance and medical assistance for which the federal government pays some or all of the cost in any state plan made under the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980 (Pub. L. No. 96–272), Titles IV–E and XIX of the Social Security Act, and other applicable federal laws. The Department of Family and Protective Services and the Health and Human Services Commission shall apply for and administer all relevant federal aid in accordance with law.

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Sec. 162.202. Authority of Department of Family and Protective Services. The Department of Family and Protective Services, with the concurrence of the Health and Human Services Commission, may develop, participate in the development of, negotiate, and enter into one or more interstate compacts on behalf of this state with other states to implement one or more of the purposes of this subchapter. An interstate compact authorized by this subchapter has the force and effect of law.

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Sec. 162.203. Compact Administration. The commissioner of the Department of Family and Protective Services shall serve as the compact administrator. The administrator shall cooperate with all departments, agencies, and officers of this state and its subdivisions in facilitating the proper administration of the compact and any supplemental agreements entered into by this state. The commissioner of the Department of Family and Protective Services and the executive commissioner of the Health and Human Services Commission shall designate deputy compact administrators to represent adoption assistance services and medical assistance services provided under Title XIX of the Social Security Act.

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Sec. 162.204. Supplementary Agreements. The compact administrator may enter into supplementary agreements with appropriate officials of other states under the compact. If a supplementary agreement requires or authorizes the use of any institution or facility of this state or requires or authorizes the provision of a service by this state, the supplementary agreement does not take effect until approved by the head of the department or agency under whose jurisdiction the institution or facility is operated or whose department or agency will be charged with rendering the service.

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Sec. 162.205. Payments by State. The compact administrator, subject to the approval of the chief state fiscal officer, may make or arrange for payments necessary to discharge financial obligations imposed on this state by the compact or by a supplementary agreement entered into under the compact.

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Sec. 162.206. Penalties. A person who, under a compact entered into under this subchapter, knowingly obtains or attempts to obtain or aids or abets any person in obtaining, by means of a wilfully false statement or representation or by impersonation or other fraudulent device, any assistance on behalf of a child or other person to which the child or other person is not entitled, or assistance in an amount greater than that to which the child or other person is entitled, commits an offense. An offense under this section is a Class B misdemeanor. An offense under this section that also constitutes an offense under other law may be punished under either this section or the other applicable law.

Subch. D. Adoption Services by the Department of Family and Protective Services

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Sec. 162.301. Definitions. In this subchapter:

(1) "Adoption assistance agreement" means a written agreement, binding on the parties to the agreement, between the Department of Family and Protective Services and the prospective adoptive parents that specifies the nature and amount of any payment, services, or assistance to be provided under the agreement and stipulates that the agreement will remain in effect without regard to the state in which the prospective adoptive parents reside at any particular time.

(2) "Child" means a child who cannot be placed for adoption with appropriate adoptive parents without the provision of adoption assistance because of factors including ethnic background, age, membership in a minority or sibling group, the presence of a medical condition, or a physical, mental, or emotional disability.

(3) "Department" means the Department of Family and Protective Services.

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Sec. 162.304. Financial and Medical Assistance.

(a) The department shall administer a program to provide adoption assistance for eligible children and enter into adoption assistance agreements with the adoptive parents of a child as authorized by Part E of Title IV of the federal Social Security Act, as amended (42 U.S.C. Section 673).

(b) The adoption of a child may be subsidized by the department. The need for and amount of the subsidy shall be determined by the department under its rules.

(b–1) Subject to the availability of funds, the department shall pay a $150 subsidy each month for the premiums for health benefits coverage for a child with respect to whom a court has entered a final order of adoption if the child:

(1) was in the conservatorship of the department at the time of the child's adoptive placement;

(2) after the adoption, is not eligible for medical assistance under Chapter 32, Human Resources Code; and

(3) is younger than 18 years of age.

(b–2) The executive commissioner of the Health and Human Services Commission shall adopt rules necessary to implement Subsection (b–1), including rules that:

(1) limit eligibility for the subsidy under that subsection to a child whose adoptive family income is less than 300 percent of the federal poverty level;

(2) provide for the manner in which the department shall pay the subsidy under that subsection; and

(3) specify any documentation required to be provided by an adoptive parent as proof that the subsidy is used to obtain and maintain health benefits coverage for the adopted child.

(c) [Repealed]

(d) [Repealed]

(e) [Repealed]

(f) Subject to the availability of funds, the department shall work with the Health and Human Services Commission and the federal government to develop a program to provide medical assistance under Chapter 32, Human Resources Code, to children who were in the conservatorship of the department at the time of adoptive placement and need medical or rehabilitative care but do not qualify for adoption assistance.

(g) The executive commissioner of the Health and Human Services Commission by rule shall provide that the maximum amount of the subsidy under Subsection (b) that may be paid to an adoptive parent of a child under an adoption assistance agreement is an amount that is equal to the amount that would have been paid to the foster parent of the child, based on the child's foster care service level on the date the department and the adoptive parent enter into the adoption assistance agreement. This subsection applies only to a child who, based on factors specified in rules of the department, the department determines would otherwise have been expected to remain in foster care until the child's 18th birthday and for whom this state would have made foster care payments for that care. Factors the department may consider in determining whether a child is eligible for the amount of the subsidy authorized by this subsection include the following:

(1) the child's mental or physical disability, age, and membership in a sibling group; and

(2) the number of prior placement disruptions the child has experienced.

(h) In determining the amount that would have been paid to a foster parent for purposes of Subsection (g), the department:

(1) shall use the minimum amount required to be paid to a foster parent for a child assigned the same service level as the child who is the subject of the adoption assistance agreement; and

(2) may not include any amount that a child–placing agency is entitled to retain under the foster care rate structure in effect on the date the department and the adoptive parent enter into the agreement.

(i) A child for whom a subsidy is provided under Subsection (b–1) for premiums for health benefits coverage and who does not receive any other subsidy under this section is not considered to be the subject of an adoption assistance agreement for any other purpose, including for determining eligibility for the exemption from payment of tuition and fees for higher education under Section 54.367, Education Code.

(j) The department shall keep records necessary to evaluate the adoption assistance program's effectiveness in encouraging and promoting the adoption of children.

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Sec. 162.3041. Continuation of Assistance After Child's 18th Birthday.

(a) The department shall, in accordance with department rules, offer adoption assistance after a child's 18th birthday to the child's adoptive parents under an existing adoption assistance agreement entered into under Section 162.304 until:

(1) the first day of the month of the child's 21st birthday if the department determines, as provided by department rules, that:

(A) the child has a mental or physical disability that warrants the continuation of that assistance;

(B) the child, or the child's adoptive parent on behalf of the child, has applied for federal benefits under the supplemental security income program (42 U.S.C. Section 1381 et seq.), as amended; and

(C) the child's adoptive parents are providing the child's financial support; or

(2) if the child does not meet the requirements of Subdivision (1), the earlier of:

(A) the date the child ceases to regularly attend high school or a vocational or technical program;

(B) the date the child obtains a high school diploma or high school equivalency certificate;

(C) the date the child's adoptive parents stop providing financial support to the child; or

(D) the first day of the month of the child's 19th birthday.

(a–1) Notwithstanding Subsection (a), if the department first entered into an adoption assistance agreement with a child's adoptive parents after the child's 16th birthday, the department shall, in accordance with rules adopted by the executive commissioner of the Health and Human Services Commission, offer adoption assistance after the child's 18th birthday to the child's adoptive parents under an existing adoption agreement until the last day of the month of the child's 21st birthday, provided the child is:

(1) regularly attending high school or enrolled in a program leading toward a high school diploma or high school equivalency certificate;

(2) regularly attending an institution of higher education or a postsecondary vocational or technical program;

(3) participating in a program or activity that promotes, or removes barriers to, employment;

(4) employed for at least 80 hours a month; or

(5) incapable of doing any of the activities described by Subdivisions (1)–(4) due to a documented medical condition.

(b) In determining whether a child meets the requirements of Subdivision (a)(1), the department may conduct an assessment of the child's mental or physical disability or may contract for the assessment to be conducted.

(c) The department and any person with whom the department contracts to conduct an assessment under Subsection (b) shall:

(1) inform the adoptive parents of the child for whom the assessment is conducted of the application requirement under Subsection (a)(1)(B) for federal benefits for the child under the supplemental security income program (42 U.S.C. Section 1381 et seq.), as amended;

(2) provide assistance to the adoptive parents and the child in preparing an application for benefits under that program; and

(3) provide ongoing consultation and guidance to the adoptive parents and the child throughout the eligibility determination process for benefits under that program.

(d) The department is not required to provide adoption assistance benefits under Subsection (a) or (a–1) unless funds are appropriated to the department specifically for purposes of those subsections. If the legislature does not appropriate sufficient money to provide adoption assistance to the adoptive parents of all children described by Subsection (a), the department shall provide adoption assistance only to the adoptive parents of children described by Subsection (a)(1).

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Sec. 162.306. Postadoption Services.

(a) The department may provide services after adoption to adoptees and adoptive families for whom the department provided services before the adoption.

(b) The department may provide services under this section directly or through contract.

(c) The services may include financial assistance, respite care, placement services, parenting programs, support groups, counseling services, crisis intervention, and medical aid.

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Sec. 162.3085. Adoptive Placement in Compliance with Federal Law Required. The department or a licensed child–placing agency making an adoptive placement shall comply with the Multiethnic Placement Act of 1994 (42 U.S.C. Section 1996b).

Subch. E. Voluntary Adoption Registries

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Sec. 162.401. Purpose. The purpose of this subchapter is to provide for the establishment of mutual consent voluntary adoption registries through which adoptees, birth parents, and biological siblings may voluntarily locate each other. It is not the purpose of this subchapter to inhibit or prohibit persons from locating each other through other legal means or to inhibit or affect in any way the provision of postadoptive services and education, by adoption agencies or others, that go further than the procedures set out for registries established under this subchapter.

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Sec. 162.402. Definitions. In this subchapter:

(1) "Administrator" means the administrator of a mutual consent voluntary adoption registry established under this subchapter.

(2) "Adoptee" means a person 18 years of age or older who has been legally adopted in this state or another state or country.

(3) "Adoption" means the act of creating the legal relationship of parent and child between a person and a child who is not the biological child of that person. The term does not include the act of establishing the legal relationship of parent and child between a man and a child through proof of paternity or voluntary legitimation proceedings.

(4) "Adoption agency" means a person, other than a natural parent or guardian of a child, who plans for the placement of or places a child in the home of a prospective adoptive parent.

(5) "Adoptive parent" means an adult who is a parent of an adoptee through a legal process of adoption.

(6) "Alleged father" means a man who is not deemed by law to be or who has not been adjudicated to be the biological father of an adoptee and who claims or is alleged to be the adoptee's biological father.

(7) "Authorized agency" means a public agency authorized to care for or to place children for adoption or a private entity approved for that purpose by the department through a license, certification, or other means. The term includes a licensed child–placing agency or a previously licensed child–placing agency that has ceased operations and has transferred its adoption records to the vital statistics unit or an agency authorized by the department to place children for adoption and a licensed child–placing agency that has been acquired by, merged with, or otherwise succeeded by an agency authorized by