The Texas Legislature met again for the 2021 session. Below is a brief summary of the changes made at the 2021 session. 

  1. Changes to the Possession Schedule

In the past, the Family Code used two different possession schedules: one for conservators residing more than 100 miles away from each other and one for spouses residing less than 100 miles away from each other. The Texas Legislature added a third category for conservators residing less than 50 miles away from each other. The new category automatically triggers the expanded standard possession order but allows parties to opt out through a written agreement. The new possession schedule applies to all suits affecting he parent-child relationship pending in trial court or filed on or after September 1, 2021. 

The legislature also changed the duration of weekend possession that is extended by a student holiday or teacher’s in-service day that falls on a Monday. Before, a parent had to return the child at 6 p.m. on Monday. Now, a parent may keep the child until 8 a.m. the following Tuesday allowing the parent to end possession by dropping the child off at school. This provision applies to all suits affecting the parent-child relationship pending in trial court or filed on or after September 1, 2021. 

  1. Changes to Enforcement of Spousal Maintenance and Child Support. 

Having trouble collecting spousal maintenance or child support? The Texas Legislature has responded to this problem by enacting a provision that allows the obligee to enforce the maintenance or support order through a Qualified Domestic Relations Order. This allows the obligee to enforce the maintenance or support order against the obligor’s retirement. Therefore, the obligor can no longer hide assets and money in a retirement or employee benefit plan. Note, that federal law preempts state law, so the court will not be able to reach certain federal benefit plans. However, this provision broadens the scope and adds a layer of protection for people relying on maintenance or child support. 

On the other side of the coin, it is important to pay maintenance and support under the new provision. Withdrawing funds early from these types of accounts can result in hefty monetary penalties. To avoid these penalties, obligors should stay up to date on maintenance and support to avoid having to pay arrearages. 

Finally, this provision applies to all spousal maintenance and child support orders meaning that it even applies retroactively to orders given before the enactment of the statute. 

  1. Changes to Child Support Calculation

The maximum amount of monthly resources to which the child support calculation applies is now governed by the Title IV-D agency through its rulemaking authority to be published in the Texas Register. This means that the child support cap will no longer remain stagnant. Now, the agency can research the economic status of Texas and adjust the cap accordingly. This provides for greater flexibility and a more accurate system for determining child support. 

Also, the legislature created new child support guidelines for people making less than $1,000 a month. 

These provisions apply to any suit affecting the parent-child relationship filed on or after September 1, 2021.

If you have any questions about any of these topics, please contact our offices at (512) 746-7399 to speak with one of our experienced family lawyers today.