(Last Updated On: May 1, 2021)

Text of the Citation Bill HB4240

Updated on May 1, 2021

This Bill is scheduled on the General State Calendar for May 3, 2021! It made it through the committee hearing unanimously. I think you are going to be surprised about who has sponsored this proposed bill to ticket parents who refuse to send their children with the other parent, especially after you hear their comments made to the parents testifying for the bill!

 

What you Should know about this Bill.

 

 

HB4240, the Texas citation bill would allow police officers to issues tickets to parents interfering with a child custody order. The city of Laredo Texas City Council a few years back decided to pass a local code that allows their peace officers to issue misdemeanor tickets to parents refusing to relinquish a child to the other parent entitled to possession of that child.

So why is a bill needed you might ask if cities can already direct their police officers to issues tickets you might ask? Well it would bring awareness to other cities that this can be done and that the law does allow it if they were unsure. This bill does not require a city pass an ordinance requiring their police officers to do this, and even with the passage of this bill, police officers are not required to do anything and can still tell a parent that it is a civil matter and to go to court and have their judge decide the issue of enforcement.

Does this bill prevent a parent from going to jail?

Under the current Texas Family Code 157.003 a parent may still enforce their parenting time order even if they have sought other civil remedies enforcing their order under any other law. The Committee also just submitted its Analysis Report on this and it too appears to have come to the conclusion that HB 4240 does not appear to impact the criminal justice track. Interestingly, however, it does not specifically mention that it does not change the eligibility of a person to also be prosecuted under Texas 25.03 as a state jail felony. The analysis says that “It is the committee’s opinion that this bill does not expressly create a criminal offense, increase the punishment for an existing criminal offense or category of offense, or change the eligibility of a person for community supervision, parole, or mandatory supervision. It does not address the civil penalty remedies that constitute quasi-criminal penalties under the family code. So it is not clear if that was taken into consideration or how. And it is also not clear how this doesn’t increase the penalty a parent may face if violating the order if they can receive a $500 ticket for the violation and be taken to court for the same violation.

So if this bill does not expressly create a criminal offense and if it does not increase the penalty a person may face under the family court orders, but a parent can face a fine in the local municipalities and city courts, is double jeopardy going to be a factor? Rep. Raymond did bring up in the Juvenile Justice & Family Issues committee hearing on April that 25.03 does also allow fines. So does the Texas Family Code under its enforcement and contempt statutes.

Sec. 157.003. JOINDER OF CLAIMS AND REMEDIES; NO ELECTION OF REMEDIES. (a) A party requesting enforcement may join in the same proceeding any claim and remedy provided for in this chapter, other provisions of this title, or other rules of law.

(b) A motion for enforcement does not constitute an election of remedies that limits or precludes:

(1) the use of any other civil or criminal proceeding to enforce a final order; or

(2) a suit for damages under Chapter 42.

As Rep. Raymond smartly put it, they’ll just have to see what happens and re-visit how it is working in two years. It could be the answers to alienated parent’s and children’s prayers. We sure think so. If a child is able to receive relief and rely on the court ordered parenting time in the order right away, and the parent stops violating the order after a warning or after a citation or two, does it really matter if a person loses their ability to ask the family court to throw that parent in jail? Isn’t it the goal of any enforcement or contempt proceedings in this space to get the parents to comply with the orders? Yep. In fact in contempt proceedings a parent is supposed to hold the keys to their own jail cell. Compliance with the order would certainly be one of them.

This bill gives the police a way to help parents who cannot afford to go to court and a way to help children who don’t get to see the other parent.

Read the citation bill idea that Ron and Sherry published back in May of 2013 below.

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Ron and Sherry Palmer came up with the original idea to propose that a ticket be issued to parents who interfere with custody orders after he and Sherry experienced difficulty getting the police to enforce Texas Penal Code 25.03. Sherry even got a writ for the police to go and retrieve her children after going through expensive court proceedings, and still had difficulty getting her children. She had police standing at her home with the other parent standing outside with the children refusing to surrender them to her where the police let him walk away with the children. After that Sherry didn’t see them for an entire summer, and the police told her that it was a civil matter and that she would have to take the father back to court to get enforcement of the order by the judge.

Additional enforcement took years! Remember, Sherry had already taken it back to court and had gotten a writ to have the children retrieved and that failed.

Some parents never get enforcement at all, the process is long and arduous, expensive, and the children age out. Two of Sherry’s children did age out. And for parents going through it right now, because of COVID-19, Rep. Ramos says that the courts are behind three years and so this kind of enforcement could be delayed considerably.

The reason that Ron and Sherry suggested a citation from the local police as the solution in their book is because none of the police or the D.A.s wanted to put a parent in jail for withholding children when they addressed this issue with the District Attorney back in 2007 through 2010. There wasn’t enough momentum yet for the legislators to write a bill on it at that time, and that wasn’t the only problem. Jane Nelson’s response back then was to come back if we found that a statute was causing the problem or if they needed additional statutes to correct the problem. Since that time we have increased awareness and worked with parents that have born out of the issues and taken lead on some of these issues. We weren’t going to be able to do it all on our own and we have had our hands full continuing to create content that parents and organization leaders could use to help them communicate the issues and know the right solutions. We have since published three more books and Ron is working on a fifth.

Why use the Police to Enforce Child Custody Orders?

The police are the first ones to hear about it when a custody order is being violated. A parent will call the police to force the other parent toc omply with the order. But parents have found out that police have felt like their hands were tied. They knew that if they arrested, the D.A. was unlikely to prosecute. Many of them felt their hands were tied. They were just as frustrated as the parents.

The City of Laredo Texas agrees that providing the police with an option to write a ticket to a parent refusing to follow court orders would prevent the police from feeling so helpless.

A ticket option is easier for the police to accept, the city would make some money for their efforts, and the parents and children would have immediate resolution. Additionally, the violating parent would have opportunity to correct their behaviors before facing the threat of jail and getting a felony on their record. It’s a win-win-win for everybody.

How Would Children Benefit from this Bill?

Children would have more confidence that they could rely on court orders. The children could make plans at each parent’s house and not worry that their plans would just get ruined when the violating parent didn’t let them go.

Children would be able to depend on the orders the judge deemed to be in the best interest of the child. Children would not have to worry as much about whether the orders would be followed. This would reduce stress and anxiety over schedules.

There will be less incentive to alienate the child knowing that immediate action could be taken by the local authorities. Children will be less likely to be placed in the middle of their parent’s dispute as they will be less likely to be pressured to refuse to go with the other parent. It will be clear what the law is and that orders mean something and will be enforced.

This teaches children to respect authority and respect court orders. They would know that orders were taken seriously by the authorities.

Judges orders truly would protect the parent-child relationship with both parents when a judge orders equal custody and one of the parents was dead set against it.

Children would have security that they would get their time with their father and their mother.

Since this bill does not make it mandatory for the police to enforce your order however, as Rep. Raymond said, we will have to see how this bill plays out in practice. My guess is that any enforcement is going to be better than what children have gotten in the past.

Do the Police have to Write a Ticket?

It is still at the discretion of the police officer as to whether or not they issue a citation. The police can still refuse to write a ticket. They can also still tell you that it is a civil matter and to get a lawyer and take it to court. Although I believe that this will be reduced greatly. This bill gives peace officers options they did not have before. They can write a ticket. And this bill does not prevent them from making an arrest if they feel that they need to escalate this to that point.

So really it is going to depend on the parents at the scene and probably how many times they have been called on the same thing.

If a the officer believes that a child or a parent refusing to go has a legitimate reason, this bill does not require the officer to write a ticket. They might decide that the child and the other parent has legitimate grounds for denying the children to you.

What Would be Some Examples of Reasons the Police Might Refuse to Issue a Citation?

If the other parent says that they have been instructed by CPS to keep the children and just haven’t had opportunity to file in court yet because the incident just occurred.

If the other parent says that their attorney has filed an ex parte emergency hearing with the court and the hearing has not happened yet to review the order and is requesting that your time be suspended based on some new allegation.

If the order is not clear. Your order might not have exact dates or times that you are to pick up your children, it could say every other weekend, but not be clear which weekend that is in the grand scheme of things. For instance, they might not know when your every other weekends started so they aren’t able to track the dates confidently. Or the time that you are trying to get is outside the ordered time because the two of you were exercising your parenting time different than what is printed in the order.  Or your order might not have exact times or days you pick up. It is extremely important that when you get a final order you make sure that it is written in clear enforceable language with specific days and times. Think of it this way, when you are writing your final order or reading through one that you are presented from the other parent or opposing counsel, go back to what the law requires for enforcement and make sure that your order contains the specifics needed if you were ever needing to enforce. For example, Texas Enforcement statute requires the following:

If the police department or your city believes that the family court judge has exclusive jurisdiction over your final decree that has incorporated your parenting time order, then they might still tell you that it is a civil issue and tell you to go back to court for resolution.

If the police officer does not understand parental alienation and believes the child has a legitimate reason for refusing to go with you.

In the past, I have seen and heard police discuss situations where the child refuses to go and the police tell the parent there to pick up the children that they will have to take it back to court. The police still have that option here so parents being alienated might not find as much relief in this bill as they hope. However, the violating parent doesn’t know when a police officer shows up to the door what decision that police officer will make. It could be a police officer that has been alienated or known someone who has and won’t be fooled by that. And remember the first responder can decide to use Texas Penal Code 25.03 and can arrest that parent instead. The police are not restricted to issuing a citation, it is just another option for police to resolve an issue that has been plaguing police departments throughout the United States.

 

 

Texas Citation Bill for Interference with Child Custody HB 4240 picks up Bipartisan Support - and It is Headed to the House Floor!

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This bill has been scheduled on the General State Calendar giving the entire House floor opportunity to hear this bill and vote on it. The bill has to be read two more times before it passes on to the Senate.

On April 19, 2021 this bill was heard in the JJFI committee. The legislators were supportive. In fact several of them joined the bill as authors, not just co-sponsors of the bill, giving the bill bipartisan support.

The Texas Family Law Foundation also testified in support of this bill as well, with the attorney representing TFLF stating that their support was because it takes too much time to enforce an order through the court.

And surprisingly TFLF didn’t bring up the issues that we have raised in this blog post. They are a body made up of attorneys and claim to provide the judiciary with their legal wisdom and input. Still a prime example of why we complain about the state of affairs with the legal industry. These are simple things that they could raise and address to ensure that the Texas laws are being reviewed properly and no conflicts exist in the code.

Even though this Bill was passed unanimously in the JJFI Committee the legislation was sent to the general Calendars Committee before setting a full House vote because research needed to be done on whether this bill had any conflicts in the law. A Comte report was issued and it came back favorable allowing the bill to move forward.

There are two Calendars committees, if a Bill is expected to pass unanimously through the full House, legislation is sent to the Local & Consent Calendars Committee.

But when there is expected debate or something that needs to be researched it gets sent to regular calendars.

HB4240 was sent to the regular Calendars committee, a report was done, and the bill is now moving full steam ahead.

In the past, family law bills that parents wanted passed have died in this committee. But none of them have passed unanimously out of the JJFI committee before either.

There is still no guarantee that this bill gets passed, and not even a guarantee that the house floor will even do the second reading. So it would be great if you are a Texas resident to send an email over this weekend to all of the legislators and let them know that you want this bill to be passed. If they go into their office on Monday and find a bunch of emails and phone calls asking them to encourage the second and third reading of this bill, they can go into the hearing with confidence and their mind made up. When enough people want something, they are more likely to pass it through. So if they are on the fence, you can help them over it.

How was this Bill Born?

This legislation grew out of a round table group organized by Rep. Raymond in July of 2018. Michael Turi and Mike Clifton were present for this meeting and reported that “the district attorneys present were very much in approval of this approach, in part because it took the burden off them for prosecuting a parent for the felony charge for interfering with visitation.” While some parents certainly deserve to be prosecuted, district attorneys tell Michael Turi “they would rather use their courtroom time and budget on murderers and rapists.”

But this bill and idea go back even further than that. Michael Turi has been meeting with Sherry and Ron Palmer since 2014 about many family law. Sherry introduced him to Chapter 18 of her book and showed him the citation idea that she and Ron had written about in their book  for fixing family law problems. Michael wanted to know how to turn the idea of a citation into a legislative bill. We discussed options for enforcing Texas Penal Code 25.03 and Sherry and Michael worked together on language for a bill. Sherry put it into bill format, and Michael took the proposed bill to the legislators. They told him that if he could get the support of the D.A.s and the Chiefs of Police, etc. that this would be necessary to get something like this through.

After that time, Mike Clifton and Michael Turi spent years refining the citations bill with a lt. and detective from the Missing Persons dept. of the Houston PD. A lot was taken out of the bill, the full tiered approach of the Citations Bill was cut by Rep. Raymond into something simpler, as a “foot in the door” approach with the idea that an expansion of the bill could be considered next session. Michael says that “[u]nless, the entire county, or entire state adopts this law police and sheriffs will not be able to work together.”

Texans are very lucky to have so many dedicated parents who continue to make sure that these ideas become reality. And we are very grateful for everyone that has stepped up and carried the torch in this matter as well. Everybody’s efforts have made a difference. But most of all, none of our material in out books mean anything if parents like you and Michael Turi didn’t take action and use it. It would just sit on the pages and collect dust like the Constitution. Well sort of, we wouldn’t let that happen. We watch and check and make sure that we are helping to support the parents who are taking leads and making sure that efforts are continuing. Whenever they slow or stall, we give them all a kick.

So never worry, we will always be there making sure that our education is getting out there. Because as you can see, it just takes an idea for things to grow into real change. After all, that’s all any of our rights were at one time, just an idea — like Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense” advocating independence from Great Britain.

 

Text of the Laredo Texas City Council Resolution Testimony Meeting Minutes from July 2020

 

 

Representative Raymond introduced this resolution during the testimony on HB4240 to demonstrate to the Juvenile Justice & Family Issues committee that city councils also support this bill, want a bill like this, and need a bill like this.

Testimony Video on HB 4240 in Texas 87th Legislative Session Juvenile Justice & Family Issues Committee Hearing

The parents that testify on this bill in this video provide some statistics on how many calls are made to a couple of the major cities in Texas, and how many of those go unaddressed. It gives you a better perspective on why interference with child custody is happening so often and why there is so much parental alienation in the state of Texas alone. It’s just like the broken window theory. Custody violations going unpunished have grown into child abduction and complete estrangement from the noncustodial parents. The Texas Father’s Rights Movement representative testifies that this is bad for kids and that this is a father rights issue because more than 90% of the primary parents are mothers. We only annotated the video, we did not alter anyone’s testimony.

You can access the full un-annotated video from this link here: 

https://tlchouse.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=46&clip_id=20227 

The testimony on this bill starts about 1 hour 16 minutes in.

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Does notice need to be added to the final order issued by the family court warning the parent that they may face being issued a ticket for violating this order?

Is the parent receiving proper notice about this new law? If this becomes law or if a police department starts issuing citations to parents they believe are violating orders.

Will this become another family court conflict in the local courts?

Will parents go to ticket court and start arguing over the children like they do in family court? They are probably going to try, so the local municipalities will need to be prepared for this. Child custody orders are fraught with confusion and disagreement. This bill does not address any of that, so it will be interesting to see what other guidance the code might need to make.

Will there be a notice requirement needed?

The Family Code has a notice requirement that must be placed in the final orders before the court can enforce it. Will this bill require a notice be added to the final orders or will the current notice be sufficient where it states that the police can enforce through all means available to them.

Will the local courts even have jurisdiction to render sanctions on an order that says the family court has jurisdiction over?

The Family Code states that (d) A motion for enforcement shall be filed in the court of continuing, exclusive jurisdiction. Isn’t the court that rendered the order the one that has been interpreted to have jurisdiction? And is there concurrent jurisdiction in the local courts. There is a section in the order that states that the police can use all remedies available to them to enforce the court order, but will this be interpreted as conveying jurisdiction to the local judge in the city or municipality traffic court where these citations will be heard? So we would suggest that the bill be amended to include to add in a notice requirement into the family court orders just like they do now for family court enforcement and a section addressing jurisdiction.

Will a parent be able to use the traffic court testimony in family court tand get that parent punished again in the family court for the same violation?

Will the parent be thrown in jail or sanctioned further if they admit to the infraction at the local level? Will this be enough to hold that person in contempt in family court. And if the traffic court finds the parent guilty of violating the order, can this be used by the family court as fact proven now and just move right to the sentencing phase of contempt?

Does the Supreme Court of Texas need to be notified and provided opportunity to issue their own statement or report regarding this law?

Since Rep. Ramos raised the accessibility issues regarding COVID-19 delays. Is there any guidance from the chief justice in the State of Judiciary Message that would also be helpful?

There are some accessibility issues that were raised in the testimony related to COVID-19 and before. Long before the novel coronavirus it is clear that several of the parents that testified on this bill stated that they were not getting enforcement, were unable to afford enforcement, and now the courts are three years behind on enforcement.

Under Texas law, the Supreme Court of Texas the chief justice is supposed to be providing guidance to the legislative body on its judicial needs.  Enforcement was a huge problem long before COVID-19 and now COVID has just made it much worse. Since these orders are issued in the best interf of the children, it is imperative that the state hold up their end of their duty and that is to ensure access to justice for Texas parents and children.

Sec. 21.004. STATE OF JUDICIARY MESSAGE. (a) At a convenient time at the commencement of each regular session of the legislature, the chief justice of the supreme court shall deliver a written or oral state of the judiciary message evaluating the accessibility of the courts to the citizens of the state and the future directions and needs of the courts of the state.

(b) It is the intent of the legislature that the state of the judiciary message promote better understanding between the legislative and judicial branches of government and promote more efficient administration of justice in Texas.

We are suspecting that next session if these legislators do not resolve these issues that they will be visiting some of these next session,

What will be the Defenses Allowed in the Local Ticket Court?

Some guidance on what defenses will be allowed to the parent receiving the ticket will be needed. Will the Texas Family Code defenses under Section 157.007 affirmative defenses to Enforcement of Possession or Access apply here?

What defenses will be allowed in the local courts? Where will parents find this information? Under the current Family Code Sec. 157.007 specifies that an AFFIRMATIVE DEFENSE TO MOTION FOR ENFORCEMENT OF POSSESSION OR ACCESS includes (a) The respondent may plead as an affirmative defense to contempt for failure to comply with an order for possession or access to a child that the movant voluntarily relinquished actual possession and control of the child.

This however is not the only defense. A person could argue that the order was not clear, that they were not following the order the way it was written and that the parent didn’t even let them know that they were changing that now. The law does not make it clear what will be required of the complaining parent to prove that the order is being violated. These can be lengthy arguments in the family courts and to present the evidence and witnesses necessary for this defense.

There could be dispute as to what order is in force. It is not unheard of for a parent to state that a new order was issued by the court but that they have nothing in writing yet.

And this bill does not specify what will happen if anything to a parent who makes false claims about it being their time or presents an order that is not the current order or not in force, an order that is unclear to the other parent, or is under review or clarification but the parent has nothing to show for it at the time or is unable to get the information from their attorney on time. 

What about the parents told by their attorneys or CPS to withhold the child and are waiting for their attorney to file for a hearing on the issues that created the circumstances they believe will warrant a modification of the order?

 

This bill does not take into consideration that parents who are served with notice that they are being sued for contempt of a court order and brought back to family court can argue the defenses in the law under the family court codes, but that these codes don’t apply to the municipalities or local city courts. So it is unclear what jurisdiction the local courts will have over these orders and we probably won’t know this unless someone challenges one of these actions under this bill on appeal.

It is no doubt that the first parents arguing this in their local traffic ticket court will be expecting to use the same defenses and tactics they use in family courts. This pathway certainly limits their opportunity to make some of those arguments. 

So we propose that this bill be amended to include a NOTICE REQUIREMENT be incorporated into the final orders and that the family code enforcement code be amended to include the local and municipality ticket remedy as an additional remedy just to make the law clear for everyone involved and so that this remedy is as strong as it can be.

We also recommend that the bill include clarification that a ticket for up to $500 can be issued for each violation, as well as a notice requirement on the ticket that after three violations the police department may arrest and charge the person under the Texas criminal code 25.03 and face being charged with a felony.

And that this bill also include a statement that this method of issuing a ticket for noncompliance with a valid order is part of the “coercive” attempt to get a parent to follow orders.

And lastly the bill should state that the local “traffic ticket” judge has jurisdiction to enforce the order in this way.

We know that parents set on violating orders and alienating children from a fit and loving parent can go to extreme ends to make sure that they destroy the parent-child relationship. So while we appreciate Representative Raymond’s attempt at simplifying this issue and presenting a bill that reflects what we believe in and published in our book in 2013, the law requires proper notices, jurisdiction, and clarity in order to render those laws effective and enforceable. Any person that has dealt with an alienator and a narcissist knows that they exploit loopholes and will make it even more expensive for the enforcing parent any opportunity that they get. So in an effort to help guide our legislators and legislative council, and improve the outcomes for children and parents, we provide this information.

.

Does notice need to be added to the final order issued by the family court warning the parent that they may face being issued a ticket for violating this order?

Is the parent receiving proper notice about this new law? If this becomes law or if a police department starts issuing citations to parents they believe are violating orders.

Will this become another family court conflict in the local courts?

Will parents go to ticket court and start arguing over the children like they do in family court? They are probably going to try, so the local municipalities will need to be prepared for this. Child custody orders are fraught with confusion and disagreement. This bill does not address any of that, so it will be interesting to see what other guidance the code might need to make.

Will there be a notice requirement needed?

The Family Code has a notice requirement that must be placed in the final orders before the court can enforce it. Will this bill require a notice be added to the final orders or will the current notice be sufficient where it states that the police can enforce through all means available to them.

Will the local courts even have jurisdiction to render sanctions on an order that says the family court has jurisdiction over?

The Family Code states that (d) A motion for enforcement shall be filed in the court of continuing, exclusive jurisdiction. Isn’t the court that rendered the order the one that has been interpreted to have jurisdiction? And is there concurrent jurisdiction in the local courts. There is a section in the order that states that the police can use all remedies available to them to enforce the court order, but will this be interpreted as conveying jurisdiction to the local judge in the city or municipality traffic court where these citations will be heard? So we would suggest that the bill be amended to include to add in a notice requirement into the family court orders just like they do now for family court enforcement and a section addressing jurisdiction.

Does the Supreme Court of Texas need to be notified and provided opportunity to issue their own statement or report regarding this law?

Since Rep. Ramos raised the accessibility issues regarding COVID-19 delays, if there is some guidance from the chief justice in the State of Judiciary Message that could support the passage of this bill that would also be helpful.

There are some accessibility issues that were raised in the testimony related to COVID-19 and before. Long before the novel coronavirus it is clear that several of the parents that testified on this bill stated that they were not getting enforcement, were unable to afford enforcement, and now the courts are three years behind on enforcement.

Under Texas law, the Supreme Court of Texas the chief justice is supposed to be providing guidance to the legislative body on its judicial needs.  Enforcement was a huge problem long before COVID-19 and now COVID has just made it much worse. Since these orders are issued in the best interf of the children, it is imperative that the state hold up their end of their duty and that is to ensure access to justice for Texas parents and children.

Sec. 21.004. STATE OF JUDICIARY MESSAGE. (a) At a convenient time at the commencement of each regular session of the legislature, the chief justice of the supreme court shall deliver a written or oral state of the judiciary message evaluating the accessibility of the courts to the citizens of the state and the future directions and needs of the courts of the state.

(b) It is the intent of the legislature that the state of the judiciary message promote better understanding between the legislative and judicial branches of government and promote more efficient administration of justice in Texas.

We are suspecting that next session if these legislators do not resolve these issues that they will be visiting some of these next session,

What will be the Defenses Allowed in the Local Ticket Court?

Some guidance on what defenses will be allowed to the parent receiving the ticket will be needed. Will the Texas Family Code defenses under Section 157.007 affirmative defenses to Enforcement of Possession or Access apply here?

What defenses will be allowed in the local courts? Where will parents find this information? Under the current Family Code Sec. 157.007 specifies that an AFFIRMATIVE DEFENSE TO MOTION FOR ENFORCEMENT OF POSSESSION OR ACCESS includes (a) The respondent may plead as an affirmative defense to contempt for failure to comply with an order for possession or access to a child that the movant voluntarily relinquished actual possession and control of the child.

This however is not the only defense. A person could argue that the order was not clear, that they were not following the order the way it was written and that the parent didn’t even let them know that they were changing that now. The law does not make it clear what will be required of the complaining parent to prove that the order is being violated. These can be lengthy arguments in the family courts and to present the evidence and witnesses necessary for this defense.

There could be dispute as to what order is in force. It is not unheard of for a parent to state that a new order was issued by the court but that they have nothing in writing yet.

And this bill does not specify what will happen if anything to a parent who makes false claims about it being their time or presents an order that is not the current order or not in force, an order that is unclear to the other parent, or is under review or clarification but the parent has nothing to show for it at the time or is unable to get the information from their attorney on time. 

 

What about the parents told by their attorneys or CPS to withhold the child and are waiting for their attorney to file for a hearing on the issues that created the circumstances they believe will warrant a modification of the order?

This bill does not take into consideration that parents who are served with notice that they are being sued for contempt of a court order and brought back to family court can argue the defenses in the law under the family court codes, but that these codes don’t apply to the municipalities or local city courts. So it is unclear what jurisdiction the local courts will have over these orders and we probably won’t know this unless someone challenges one of these actions under this bill on appeal.

It is no doubt that the first parents arguing this in their local traffic ticket court will be expecting to use the same defenses and tactics they use in family courts. This pathway certainly limits their opportunity to make some of those arguments. 

So we propose that this bill be amended to include a NOTICE REQUIREMENT be incorporated into the final orders and that the family code enforcement code be amended to include the local and municipality ticket remedy as an additional remedy just to make the law clear for everyone involved and so that this remedy is as strong as it can be.

We also recommend that the bill include clarification that a ticket for up to $500 can be issued for each violation, as well as a notice requirement on the ticket that after three violations the police department may arrest and charge the person under the Texas criminal code 25.03 and face being charged with a felony.

And that this bill also include a statement that this method of issuing a ticket for noncompliance with a valid order is part of the “coercive” attempt to get a parent to follow orders.

And lastly the bill should state that the local “traffic ticket” judge has jurisdiction to enforce the order in this way and upon Rep. Swanson’s suggestion, a line addeed to the bill that states that the person cannot be punished again in family court for the same incident.

Final Thoughts on this Bill

We know that parents set on violating orders and alienating children from a fit and loving parent can go to extreme ends to make sure that they destroy the parent-child relationship. So while we appreciate Representative Raymond’s attempt at simplifying this issue and presenting a bill that reflects what we believe in and published in our book in 2013, the law requires proper notices, jurisdiction, and clarity in order to render those laws effective and enforceable. Any person that has dealt with an alienator and a narcissist knows that they exploit loopholes and will make it even more expensive for the enforcing parent any opportunity that they get. So in an effort to help guide our legislators and legislative council, and improve the outcomes for children and parents, we provide this information.

If you have comments and thoughts on this bill, please post your comments below.

Currently, as of April 30, 2021 this bill is scheduled on the general state calendar and can be read for a second time as early as May 3, 2021.On April 26th the bill received a unanimous vote and was sent to the general calendars committee. On April 26, 2021 the committee submitted its analysis on the bill.

Where Does the Bill go from Here?

The full house members will consider the bill if it is presented. The bill needs a second and third reading before it can pass to the Senate. May is the last month and all business must be completed in the House and Senate by May 30th. This bill is well on its way to passing. True, there is just one month left, but if you’ve ever watched how quickly these bills get read into the record, as long as there isn’t a bunch of debate needed on the bill, they barely mention the name of the bill and the sponsor and the detail of the bill before the gavel recognizes the reading of the bill. You can read a lot of bills into the record that way in a short period of time. So we are very hopeful that this bill will get the opportunity to become law and not have to wait another two years.

As for the questions and comments that Representative Swanson and Representative Ramos had, it appears that they are content to go ahead with the bill as Rep Raymond recommends and tweak it as necessary if the bill gets used in ways that it was not intended.

The questions that I heard that have yet to be addressed and probably won’t be able to be addressed until the bill becomes law and one of the instances happens are the following:

1. Swanson asked whether this bill can be used to hold someone in contempt after they receive a citation from the police if they admit guilt and want the no contest option offered to them at the city level? (This response is summarized. You can listen to the full response on our annotated video above.)

2. Ramos asked will parents behind in child support be served a penalty at the time they pick up the child while using the police to force compliance from that parent, but are out of compliance themselves. (This response is summarized. You can listen to the full response on our annotated video above.)

 

Resources

Texas State Library has compiled a nice page with enforcement information and articles on it.

Texas Law Help has an excellent page with all of the resources you need to enforce your order pro se.

 

Enforcement of Parenting Plans Excerpt from book Not in the Child’s Best Interest

Why is this Bill Needed?

As you have heard in the video above:

1. Parents are not able to enforce their parenting time (or as so many still refer to it as “visitation” time) even after they go to court for contempt.

2. Many cannot afford to go to court for contempt.

3. Court proceedings take too long and coercive punishment is much more effective when it is done immediately.

4. Children are put in the middle when there are no consequences.

5. Children are more frequently and more easily alienated when they don’t get their time with the other parent.

6. Children are more likely to suffer from the deleterious effects of an absent parent when they are  withheld.

7. Children are more likely to believe lies about the other parent when they don’t get to see the other parent.

8. The best interest of the child is violated when orders take too long to enforce and many times can never be corrected by the court and are longer lasting than the lenth of the orders; as you heard testimony from one adult child who was alienated for 20 years.

9. Police have not been enforcing Texas Penal Code 25.03 and tell parents they are helpless.

10. Parents showing up to see their child want to be with their child and will support their child.

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