Many newly divorced parents find out the hard way that “joint custody” doesn’t mean “equal custody.”
To address this issue, Texas House Bill 803 was introduced to the state legislature on April 26th, 2021. This bill has been called the “equal parenting bill” or “shared parenting bill” because it proposes 50/50 custody as a part of family law reform. Father’s rights groups are lending full support to this piece of legislation as mothers have traditionally received full or majority custody of minor children in a divorce.
Does this bill guarantee 50/50 custody?
No. HB 803 only opens the doors to the possibilities of equal or shared custody and does not mandate it. The other parent must agree to the equal parenting plan. Even if both parents agree to 50/50 custody, the court can deny the parents’ wishes if the judge decides the best interest of the minor child is not being served.
What is the current status of the bill?
HB 803 has been left “pending in committee” or “adjournment sine die”. This means that it has been introduced but has been placed on hold while the state legislature is not in session.
Can parents go back to court to modify their existing court-ordered custody?
No. This proposed law is not retroactive and only current or future cases would be affected. This doesn’t mean that parents can’t go back to court to modify their custody orders, but it does mean that the passage of this law can not be used as justification to do so.
This law would go into effect on September 1, 2021.
Keep in mind that the passage of a bill has many steps before becoming law. Although seven similar proposed bills have been killed, this one seems as if it has a good chance of passing. When and if it does, legal representation that is experienced in child custody cases would be best qualified to help navigate these unchartered waters.