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 Laws 1413, repealed by Act of Apr. 6, 1995, 74th Leg., R.S. ch. 20, § 2, 1995 Tex.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

See Heinkel-Wolfe, Peggy, Dad joins push for custody reform, Denton Record-Chronicle, February 11, 2017,