Noncustodial parents have been having difficulty enforcing their possession time with their children. It’s expensive and they couldn’t get help from law enforcement or the D.A. A few months ago, Michael Turi contacted Fix Family Courts to assist him and Bret Hohenberger with correcting this problem and writing this bill. If you are not familiar with Bret’s story. His children were abducted and he had to hire his own private investigator, spend his own money, and almost a year later was finally able to retrieve his children and bring them back. Bret was told numerous times as was the Denton Record Chronicle when they tried to find out why it was so difficult for Bret to enforce his custody order that they “…did everything within the law,” said Lt. Carrie West, that “…the children did not meet Amber Alert criteria when they went missing. She said the FBI, when contacted, said the same thing.” and that “We really had our hands tied on what we were able to do,” she said.”
The Bill that was filed today is an attempt to fix this. The bill filed kept almost everything that Sherry Palmer with Fix Family Courts wrote into the proposed bill. Sherry took the information that Mike had provided her regarding his research on why police and district attorneys were not enforcing. Sherry also spoke with some investigators and attorneys herself to find out what language was creating the reluctance to enforce the criminal laws against violating parents. Her goal with the language in this bill was to eliminate some of the reasons that some parents were not able to get their orders enforced.
This bill changes the procedure for how parents get their custody orders enforced. It adds a simplified, less expensive, and sped up process to enforcement. This bill makes it clear that the criminal code applies to parents violating custody, not just parents failing to pay child support. In the past, the only enforcement has been against parents behind in child support. We hope that this bill will change that.
You can register to follow this bill and others here.
And register to testify on the bill here.
Of particular note, this bill removes the bias against noncustodial parents in enforcement, provides an easy fill in the blank form that will be provided by the clerks for parents to enforce without the use of an attorney, and provides penalties to the violating parent and make-up time and other relief and remedies to the parent who suffered the loss of time with their child. See this excerpt from the bill:
The form in this bill was copied from the Oklahoma bill that went into effect on November 1, 2014.
Here is what Senator Sharp’s page had to say about the bill when it passed in Oklahoma:
“Law-abiding noncustodial parents will no longer have to deal with having their visitation rights ignored or violated thanks to legislation signed into law Tuesday. Senate Bill 1612, by Sen. Ron Sharp and Rep. Jon Echols, will ensure that custodial parents honor court-ordered visitation schedules for noncustodial parents or face punishment.” We hope that on September 1, 2017 that the same will happen for Texas parents.