The Texas Legislature convenes every two years, with 2019 being one of those. Each session, proposed new laws get introduced that will affect family law in Texas. It is expected that a bill will be introduced to remove no fault divorce and require proof of fault grounds for all Texas divorce and extend the waiting period to finalize a divorce (currently 60 days). Neither of these proposals are expected to gain much traction. Reform of the child protective services system will, however, be a hot topic for the legislative session given all of the litigation there has been criticizing how CPS handles matters ineffectively.
From 2018, most of the big changes in Texas family law came from the courts. The Texas Supreme Court clarified a conflict between the courts of appeals in various parts of the state on the right of a nonparent to intervene and ask for custody of a child. In re H.S. involved grandparents who sought standing to sue for custody due to the actual care, control and possession of the child for at least 6 months. The Texas Supreme Court gave a broader definition of “control” than some of the intermediate courts had been using, making it easier for a nonparent (like grandparent, step-parent, etc) to sue for custody.
Another significant change in 2018, also from the Texas Supreme Court, reinforced the binding nature of a premarital agreement. In re Marriage of I.C. determined that a clause allowing for forfeiture of all rights under a premarital agreement if a spouse challenged the agreement was a valid and enforceable provision.
The Texas Supreme Court has two justices with family law backgrounds, unusual in the history of the Court. The effect is that the justices are more comfortable hearing family law matters and are accepting discretionary review more often in family law cases. We expect this trend to continue for 2019.