Yup! The Texas Legislature has been back in Austin for its 86th Regular Session. Ended May 27th. As the saying goes: “The only constant is change.” There is another saying that ole’ timer’s like: “When the legislature is in town, hide your daughters and your gold!”
Meanwhile, your elective representatives have been playing around with the Texas Family Code. Let’s take a peak at some changes that may be of interest. We’ll add some tips for sauce. Most of the changes will take effect September 1, 2021, unless noted otherwise.
Application for Marriage License: So, you have decided to tie the knot. The formal way is to get a marriage license and have a wedding ceremony. The Clerks of Counties now have the option to issue a marriage license “through the use of remote technology” [that means “on-line”]. But, Clerks who choose to do so have to jump through some hoops [qualify], now all will choose to do so. Of course, some couples do not want to bother with “formalities” so the old “common-law” way is still available; just live together and tell others you are husband and wife. No forms to fill-out; no fees to pay. A step up is to complete a Declaration of Information Marriage and file it with the County Clerk. Of course, if you want to have a party, plan a wedding. Wedding planners, hotels, and other venues just love this! Some relatives may smile and then in private, wring their hands and pull their hair.
New Requirement for Decrees of Divorce: The party is over and now divorce rears its ugly head. The law now requires a court granting the divorce to “state the date of the marriage in the decree of divorce.” However, there is a “but” clause [there always seems to be a “BUT” in the law]. This does not apply to a common law marriage ending in divorce. Why? A bolt of common sense flashed through the Legislative body. Who knows exactly when a common law marriage begins. At least, let’s not have an argument over that!
Post Divorce Spousal Maintenance: As you know, Texas is proudly independent. There are some words that no self-respecting Legislator would use – ever – such as “alimony”. No, indeed! In Texas we have “maintenance” if you can get it. The 86th made a few changes that might help some folks. Here they are:
- a court may allow payments to come out of various types of pension, retirement plans, or employee benefits that require a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO).
- Courts can do this in the original Decree after September 1, 2021.
- Courts with jurisdiction can do this by “modification” even if the Decree was dated prior to September 1, 2021.
- Maintenance payments may now be made through the State Disbursement Unit for independent record keeping.
- a court may make adjustments to the amount or frequency of payments to comply with pension, retirement plans, or employee benefits that have a formula built into the plan for payouts.
- other technical provisions provide due process and make the changes fit existing law.
A Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) is required for pension, retirement plans, or employee benefits covered by federal laws. A Plan Administrator is required to approve the QDRO before money may be paid out to the spouse receiving the “maintenance”.
If this law change might help you, check with a competent family law attorney. SHANNON FAMILY LAW could be glad to consult with you. First 30 minutes is free.
Sine until next time. This is enough for one tobacco chew. We will follow up with additional Blogs on the good ole Texas Legislature and its law changes. Give you something more to chew on.