In Texas, a bill has been proposed that would change several aspects of the law concerning the parent child relationship. House Bill 453 proposes an equal parenting order which differs from the current law that is in place. Let us take a look at the differences between the current law and the proposed law.

1. The first proposed change is under Texas Family Code Section 153.001(a)(3) which addresses the public policy of the rights and duties of the parents. The change here is the addition of the word “equally”. Both the current and proposed policy encourages parents to share in the rights and duties with respect to children however, the proposed policy puts emphasis on equal sharing of the rights and duties. Currently, both parents can be listed as joint managing conservators of a child but that does not mean that both parents have equal rights and duties. In Section 153.135, parents who are appointed joint managing conservators are not required to have equal possession time. Surprisingly, the proposed bill does not address Section 153.135 with regards to equal possession of the child.

2. The second proposed change is under Texas Family Code Section 153.134. This section deals specifically with Joint Conservatorship. The current section has two subsections listed as subsection “a” and subsection “b”. The proposal seeks to include a third subsection entitled subsection “c”. This proposed subsection seeks to make the default standard possession schedule a secondary option only for those parents who do not act in the best interest of the child. The parents who are appoint joint managing conservators that act in the best interest of the child will receive an equal possession schedule as a default.

3. The third proposed change is under Subchapter F of the Texas Family Code which deals with the Standard Possession Order. This change seeks to include an additional subchapter entitled “Subchapter F-1. Equal Parenting Order”. What stands out about this proposed change is that the total number of days in the possession schedule must not exceed more than five days between the two parents. Furthermore, the parents will be required to alternate the possession schedule every other year to compensate for the difference in possession days.

For example: In Year 1, Parent A receives 183 total days of possession while Parent B receives 182 total days of possession. In Year 2, Parent B would receive 183 total days of possession while Parent A would receive 182 total days of possession. The possession would alternate every year.

The proposed bill is due for a vote later this year and if passed will become law on September 1, 2017. If the proposed bill is passed into law, it would change how family law attorneys approach cases involving children. Cases pending in court or filed after the bill becomes a law will benefit from the equal parenting provision whereas, cases finalized before the bill becomes a law will not.

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