• February 23, 2017 2:02 AM | Anonymous

    Representative Dutton, chair of the Committee on Juvenile Justice & Family Issues, explained that the Juvenile Justice & Family Issues committee was created in 1995 during the 74th session under Speaker Pete Laney. Prior to that time the family code was addressed by the Judicial Affairs Committee. In 2009 this committee was abolished. Then in 2015 the speaker re-created this committee. A couple of weeks ago, we thought that the committee might be getting abolished again when the entire committee except the Chair was wiped off. Shortly after new members were appointed to this committee.

    The JJ committee has jurisdiction to hear the following: 

    "Sec. 24. JUVENILE JUSTICE AND FAMILY ISSUES. The committee shall have seven members, with jurisdiction over all matters pertaining to: (1) the commitment and rehabilitation of youths; (2) the construction, operation, and management of correctional facilities of the state and facilities used for the commitment and rehabilitation of youths; (3) juvenile delinquency and gang violence; (4) criminal law, prohibitions, standards, and penalties as applied to juveniles; (5) criminal procedure in the courts of Texas as it relates to juveniles; (6) civil law as it relates to familial relationships, including rights, duties, remedies, and procedures; and (7) the following state agencies: the Texas Juvenile Justice Board, the Texas Juvenile Justice Department, the Office of Independent Ombudsman for the Texas Juvenile Justice Department, and the Advisory Council on Juvenile Services."

    Rep. Dutton said that the Juvenile Justice & Family Issues committee will meet on Wednesdays. If you cannot attend in person you can access the archived videos here.

    The Committee invited testimony from the Texas Family Law Foundation (TFLF). Joelle Cannon Sheridan, President of the Texas Family Law Foundation, Mr. Steve Naylor, Commissioner Hank Whitman, and Lisa.

    The Texas Family Law Foundation’s speech to Representative Dutton and the rest of the new members started with an introduction of the structure of TFLF. Ms. Sheridan, President of TFLF, introduces TFLF as the lobbying arm of the Texas State Bar Family Law Section. The Family law section is made up of 6000 lawyer members and the Family law foundation has about 800 lawyer members.

    Mr. Steve Naylor introduced himself as a board-certified family attorney for over 20 years and married to a board certified family law attorney. He is the current vice chair of the Family Law Section for the State Bar of Texas and is also a member of the Texas Family Law Foundation.

    He says that TFLF’s goal is “good solid even public policy.”

    He says that they are asking the committee to support several bills and to oppose some bills. He states that the bills they are asking the committee to support “are very small tweaks…tune ups.” He starts with HB 1480 sponsored by Chairwoman Thompson. This bill allows the parties to request a writ of mandamus on the associate judge’s ruling. Right now parties have to file for a de novo with the referring judge, have a hearing on that, get a ruling from the main judge, before they can appeal. He wants them to be able to file a writ of mandamus on the associate judge’s ruling.

    Mr. Naylor continues with stating that their next issue is regarding a geographic restriction. (Since he cannot mention the actual bills he is just referring to the issues that the bill addresses because Rep. Dutton said it would prejudice a bill when they are not there hearing bills today.) He says that TFLF wants geographic restrictions to be required to remain in place until a final order on modifications. They do not want any moves outside of what is already in the geographic restricted area for the parents until the court makes a final order.

    The other bill issues that he mentioned had to do with child custody evaluation where they would further narrow what a child custody evaluator is required to do, a birthday possession bill where it would be specified the time each parent is entitled to on birthdays, the bill mentioned earlier on allowing a writ of mandamus of an administrative law judge orders, and a bill that would put limits and clarify what happens with property when an order is appealed that addressed property.

    Mr. Naylor says that a situation came up recently in three cases where an associate judge would sign a final decree. He says that parties can agree to waive their right to a de novo appeal and allow associate judge to sign the final. The question is that a final order? This bill will clarify that.

    Mr. Naylor recommends that the family code be brought into alignment with supreme court decisions.

    He also says that TFLF will be opposing some bills.

    Attorney Naylor states that TFLF will oppose any legislation “that interferes with a person’s right to file for divorce or drastically increase litigation.”

    He reminds the representatives that TFLF has been the largest active section in the state and that they always have two people at the Capitol ready to answer any of their questions regarding bills affecting family law. He also said that they could seek answers from lobbyists, Steve and Amy Bresnen.

    Just before they wrapped up their speech to the committee Representative Dutton asks “Should we convert best interest of the child from a factual issue to a legal issue?” He inquires as to whether it is “a legal standard or a factual standard” and wondered if TFLF has ever considered that path. Naylor says they have never considered this and that they tend to rely on the case law and common law. Dutton then clarifies, the Holley standard as the standard that best interest follows. Naylor agreed and they left it at the comment that “that kind of permeates the whole thing.”

    The National Family Law Policy Center can clarify something for Representative Dutton. The best interest of the child standard is neither a fact issue nor a law issue. It is an opinion of a sole government official that is used to deprive parents and children of their natural fundamental rights.

    Think about this, fundamental constitutional rights can be taken away based on nothing more than an opinion of a government official. Where else in our legal system does that happen? Nowhere.

  • February 03, 2017 1:20 PM | Ron Palmer (Administrator)

    “Up until now, Illinois has followed the “Percentage of Income” model of child support, calculating support based on a flat percentage of only the non-residential parent’s income without any consideration of the residential parent’s income.”

    Illinois is getting ready to join 39 other states where income calculations will not be based on both custodial and noncustodial parent incomes.

    Both the Illinois House and Senate passed House Bill 3982 and and goes into effect on July 1, 2017. Signed by the Governor Rauner and effective July 1, 2017

    Here is some of what the Bill says:

    (A) to establish as State policy an adequate
            standard of support for children, subject to the
            ability of parents to pay;
                (B) to make awards more equitable by ensuring more
            consistent treatment of persons in similar
                (C) to improve the efficiency of the court process
            by promoting settlements and giving courts and the
            parties guidance in establishing levels of awards;
                (D) to calculate child support based upon the
            parents' combined adjusted net income estimated to
            have been allocated to the child if the parents and
            children were living in an intact household;
                (E) to adjust the child support based upon the
            needs of the children; and
                (F) to allocate the amount of child support to be

            paid by each parent based upon the child support and
            the child's physical care arrangements.

    What does this mean for you? The State will now consider the custodial parent’s income in their calculations.

    Here is a model by the National Conference of State Legislatures:

    child support GuidelineModels

    That is a national graph. Make sure you check with an attorney in your state to interpret precisely how your statute will be interpreted in your courts.

    It appears that the statutes going to this model are attempting to get closer to what we have discussed in my book, “NOT in The Child’s Best Interest” that child support should be applied equally to all parents, married or not. You should not be held to different standards of support just because you are no longer married. And looks like these states are starting to recognize that the cost of raising a child doesn’t change just because you get divorced.

    Before you rush off on July 1st to ask the court to modify your order because of this Bill, HB 3982 states that enactment of the Bill in and of itself does not constitute a substantial change in circumstances for purposes of modifying past-ordered support.

    If you are currently in child support proceedings right now, you might want to ask your attorney to make the judge aware of this law by making the judge aware that the house and senate just passed HB 3982 and that it is now the legislators intent that child support be calculated as income sharing between the two parents. Since the judges can provide reasons they deviate from the current child support calculation standards, by providing this to your judge, you provide your judge with a reason to deviate from the old way of calculating child support, and add more weight to your arguments. For instance, if you are arguing that the other parent makes far more than you, and that the child’s needs are being met, and therefore your portion should be much lower. Or if you are arguing that the other parent does not require as much of your high income because the child’s needs are being met, you now have something more for the judge to use to add weight to your argument.**

    If you are planning to have child support reviewed, you just might want to wait until after July 1, 2017, so that you can benefit from this law.

    In addition, did you know that if you are the noncustodial parent in Illinois that you can ask for child support to be paid to you? Keep an eye out for our blog post on that topic next.

    Check back to our blog every day for new and continuing information about this and other topics related to family rights.


    **I am not an attorney and do not practice law. Please check with an attorney or questions of law.


    *Upcoming Changes to Illinois Child Support Law by Stephanie Tang in YLD News August 2016

    *National Conference of State Legislatures – Child Support Guideline Models by State.

  • February 03, 2017 12:30 PM | Ron Palmer (Administrator)

    I was reading a new proposed bill in Iowa that changes a current statute to require joint custody and was again struck with how desperately unconstitutional family law statutes are in many states. In Texas, the statutes are written very craftily to avoid direct contradictions of well-established constitutional principles. 

    One of those constitutional principles is that the state may not discriminate based on marital status. In Texas, there are three separate statutes in the family code with the title "NO DISCRIMINATION BASED ON MARITAL STATUS." The statutes are written in a way to appear to apply to all parents regardless of marital status even though in reality they apply only to single and divorced parents. The divorce code and child custody codes are separate codes.

    When parents have individual parental rights based on an established parent-child bond and not based on the marital relationship, states may not presume that parents lose these rights simply by divorcing.

    The Iowa bill says " The court... shall order the custody  award... after the parents have separated or dissolved the marriage."

    Where Iowa presumes away parental rights specifically because of divorce and assumes authority to grant those rights back to parents any way the state chooses, Iowa is clearly discriminating against fit parents based on marital status.

    How is it that we can know that parental rights are individual rights and also know that the state may not discriminate based on marital status but still tolerate statutes that presume individual fundamental rights away based on nothing more than a change in marital status?

    This connection seems to be very hard for parents, attorneys, and governments to grasp but parental rights can no longer be based on marriages and this means that states may not steal parental rights simply because parents divorce.

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