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Governor Greg Abbott signs bills for "community-based foster care" and other major CPS changes

Governor Greg Abbott has recently signed a number of bills aimed at improving child protection in Texas. After much controversy over the broken system, lawmakers have been working to target major issues, providing the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services the options and resources to do what needs to be done for these children.

Co-Parenting in Separation and/or Divorce

"Co-parenting" is used to describe parents that are separated or divorced that work together to raise their children. In co-parenting circumstances, parents usually share responsibility for raising their children even though the parents no longer live in the same home together. When parents have a cooperative and supportive relationship in regards to their children, it benefits the children and the family altogether.

How Does Texas Treat Gestational Agreements?

Over the past four decades there has been a steady rise of the average age of first time mothers. In 1970 the average age of a first-time mother was 21.4; this number grew to 24.9 in 2000, which increased again to 25.2 in 2009, and again to 26.3 in 2014. The National Center of Health Statistic released these statistics in a January 2016 Data Brief showing this trend. With couples deciding to start families later in life, actually becoming pregnant can often be a common complication. This, coupled with the long standing shortage of adoptable children in this country has led many couples to enlist a gestational mother (previously known as a surrogate) in order to have a child with their own genetic material. This form of assisted reproduction involves at least three people that enter into what is called a gestational agreement (previously known as a surrogacy contract). The terms that the Family Code uses for the parties of these gestational agreements include: "gestational mother" as the woman who gives birth to the child; "donor" as the person(s) who contribute the genetic material for the child; and "intended parents" as the couple intended to raise the child. As with any form of contracting, this has led to disputes and these disputes have led to new law.

Keeping Separate Property Separate

Texas is a community property state, which means that most property acquired during the marriage belongs to both spouses and must be divided between them if they get divorced. Everything from the house to the kitchen table, if it was acquired during the marriage then it is part of the community estate. However, the Texas Family Code recognizes three instances where property is considered separate from the community estate, and thus labelled separate property. The first is the property owned or claimed by one spouse before the marriage. This means that any property that one spouse bought, found, or had been given before the beginning of the marriage is considered separate from the community estate and shall not be divided between the couple during the divorce. The second is any property acquired by the spouse during the marriage by gift, devise, or descent. That's right, even if you acquire property during the marriage, it can still be characterized a separate property as long as someone gave it to you as a gift, willed the property to you, or you inherited the property. Finally, any recovery, except those for loss of earning capacity, for personal injuries you have sustained during the marriage. For example, if you got into a car wreck that broke your leg, any money that you received other than those for loss of earning capability would be considered your separate property.

Gifts Between Spouses

Most people don't realize the technicality of gift-giving between spouses, or to spouses, especially with regard to real property. Take the following examples:

Buyer Beware: Purchasing Real Property

It is commonplace for people to purchase a house or invest in real estate together. Whether purchasing with a sibling, significant other, or friend, people generally don't foresee their relationship with that person ending poorly-otherwise, they would not be making such a big purchase together in the first place.

Relationship Privacy Act - Revenge Porn

In Texas, over 1,200 new laws took effect in September 2015. Interestingly, Texas now imposes civil and criminal liability for "the unlawful disclosure or promotion certain intimate visual material" or what has been commonly termed as "revenge porn."

Facebook (& Social Media) As A New Method of Service

The notion that a defendant in a suit must have notice of a proceeding against him or her is fundamental to our justice system. To ignore the notice requirement would be a clear violation of our Constitutional right to due process. However, this essential rule makes things tricky when the defendant is intentionally avoiding service.