Scales-of-Justice-Equal-Parenting-writing-smallThere is a bill pending before the Texas Legislature right now to create a presumption of equality between mothers and fathers in spending parenting time with their children after they separate. (2017 TX HB453) Other states have passed similar legislation in recent years.

For many years, there was a legal presumption that favored mothers to have custody of children after separation or divorce. That legal presumption was eliminated in 1974, leaving mothers and fathers on the same footing in the eyes of the law.

(Act of Jan. 1, 1974, 63d Leg., R.S. ch. 543, § 1, 1973 Tex. Gen. Laws 1413, repealed by Act of Apr. 6, 1995, 74th Leg., R.S. ch. 20, § 2, 1995 Tex. Gen. Laws 282, which required a court to disregard the sex of either parent in deciding custody.)

(See No Mommy Presumption for Custody in Texas.)

But, the law still presumes that one parent will be the primary parent, having the children the majority of the time. The other parent would have time with the children according to a standard schedule set out by the Texas Legislature – every other weekend, time during the summer and split of holidays. Even without a presumption in favor of mothers, most of the time, mothers are given the primary designation in Texas with fathers getting the standard weekend schedule.

For many fathers, that is not equal enough under the law.

Texas law does not have a provision for equal time shared between parents. Some judges will consider granting such a schedule in certain situations, but many others want. Some judges have a stated policy that an equal time schedule will never be considered, no matter the particular situation presented. That is the problem that 2017 House Bill 453 aims to prevent.

The Equal Parenting Orders bill was filed in November by state Rep. James White, R-Woodville. A similar bill died in the Texas House of Representatives two years ago.

The Texas Family Law Foundation, a trade group made up of Texas family lawyers, opposed the 2015 version of the bill. See reference here.

A father’s rights group will rally at the Capitol in Austin in support of HB 453 on March 13 starting at 8:30 a.m.

See prior article The trend of shared parenting laws https://www.dallastxdivorce.com/2016/09/articles/children-and-parenting/possession-scheduleparenting-times/the-trend-of-shared-parenting-laws/

See Heinkel-Wolfe, Peggy, Dad joins push for custody reform, Denton Record-Chronicle, February 11, 2017, http://www.dentonrc.com/local-news/local-news-headlines/20170211-dad-joins-push-for-custody-reform.ece

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Photo of Michelle O'Neil Michelle O'Neil

Michelle May O’Neil has 27 years’ experience representing small business owners, professionals, and individuals in litigation related to family law matters such as divorce, child custody, and complex property division. Described by one lawyer as “a lethal combination of sweet-and-salty”, Ms. O’Neil exudes…

Michelle May O’Neil has 27 years’ experience representing small business owners, professionals, and individuals in litigation related to family law matters such as divorce, child custody, and complex property division. Described by one lawyer as “a lethal combination of sweet-and-salty”, Ms. O’Neil exudes genuine compassion for her client’s difficulties, yet she can be relentless when in pursuit of a client’s goals. One judge said of Ms. O’Neil, “She cannot be out-gunned, out-briefed, or out-lawyered!”

Family Law Specialist

Ms. O’Neil became a board-certified family law specialist by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in 1997 and has maintained her certification since that time. While representing clients in litigation before the trial court is an important part of her practice, Ms. O’Neil also handles appellate matters in the trial court, courts of appeals and Texas Supreme Court. Lawyers frequently consult with Ms. O’Neil on their litigation cases about specialized legal issues requiring particularized attention both at the trial court and appellate levels. This gives her a unique perspective and depth of perception that benefits both her litigation and appellate clients.

Top Lawyers in Texas and America

Ms. O’Neil has been named to the list of Texas SuperLawyers for many years, 2011-2018, a peer-voted honor given to only about 5% of the lawyers in the state of Texas. In 2014-2018, Ms. O’Neil received the special honor of being named by Texas SuperLawyers as one of the Top 50 Women Lawyers in Texas, Top 100 Lawyers in Texas, and Top 100 Lawyers in DFW. She was named one of the Best Lawyers in America for 2016 and received an “A-V” peer review rating by Martindale-Hubbell Legal Directories for the highest quality legal ability and ethical standards.

Author and Speaker

A noted author, Ms. O’Neil released her second book Basics of Texas Divorce Law in November 2010, with a second edition released in 2013, and a third edition expected in 2015.  Her first book, All About Texas Law and Kids, was published in September 2009 by Texas Lawyer Press. In 2012, Ms. O’Neil co-authored the booklets What You Need To Know About Common Law Marriage In Texas and Social Study Evaluations.  The State Bar of Texas and other providers of continuing education for attorneys frequently enlist Ms. O’Neil to provide instruction to attorneys on topics of her expertise in the family law arena.