As McKinney family attorneys, we stay up-to-date on developments and trends in family law that impact our clients.  Two significant developments in Texas family law came from the Supreme Court in 2018.  First, the Court applied a broad definition of “actual care and control” over a child,  thereby making it easier for a nonparent, such as a grandparent or step-parent, to sue for custody.  Second, the court reinforced the binding nature of premarital agreements.

Notably, the Supreme Court has been accepting discretionary review more often in family law cases.  This may be because the Court currently has two justices with family backgrounds (Justices Debra Lehrmann and Eva Guzman), which is unusual in the Court’s history, and are thus more comfortable hearing family law matters.  We expect this trend to continue in 2019. 

Several family law bills have already been introduced in the Texas legislature in 2019.  While a bill attempting to remove no fault divorce has already failed, a bill extending the waiting period to finalize a divorce from 60 days to 6 months is set for a House vote after clearing committee.  Stay tuned for further updates.

Texas Supreme Court Makes it Easier for Nonparents to Sue for Custody

The case involved the child’s maternal grandparents who sued for custody based on their “actual care, control, and possession of the child for at least six months.”  Reversing the court of appeals’ decision, the Court held that the grandparents had standing to sue because it was clear that they had, over time, developed and maintained a relationship with the child involving the “actual exercise of guidance, governance and direction similar to that typically exercised by parents with their children.”  Importantly, the Court also concluded that nonparent standing to sue should not be conditioned on parental abdication of their rights.  That is, the Court rejected an exclusivity requirement.

Texas Supreme Court Reinforces Binding Nature of Premarital Agreements

The Court determined that a clause in a premarital agreement allowing for forfeiture of all rights under the agreement in the event a spouse challenged the agreement was a valid and enforceable provision.  In the case, the wife sought rescission of a premarital agreement, and the trial court found that her attempt to rescind the agreement triggered a clause in the agreement under which she lost a $5 million payment otherwise due to her.  The Supreme Court affirmed the lower court’s ruling.

Bill Removing No Fault Divorce Fails in Committee

As expected, the latest attempt to remove no fault divorce failed.  On May 2, 2019, HB 922 failed to receive affirmative vote in the House Juvenile Justice & Family Issues Committee.

Bill Extending Waiting Period to Finalize a Divorce Awaiting House Vote

A bill extending the waiting period to finalize a divorce from 60 days to 6 months has made it out of the House Juvenile Justice & Family Issues Committee with a favorable report.  HB 926 will be voted on by the House before going to Senate Committee. 

How We Can Help

If you have any questions concerning any of these developments and trends, and how they may impact your divorce, we welcome you to contact the McKinney divorce attorneys at Nordhaus & Nordhaus at (214) 726-1450 or by email for a free consultation.