Family law—like criminal law and education—is a body of law that primarily falls under state jurisdiction. While there are some exceptions to this, including may child welfare-related acts passed by Congress on a nationwide scale, for the most part, state courts are the ones who deal with the majority of these matters. Because of this, guidelines can sometimes vary from state to state, and in Texas, the statutory rules that govern the family can be found under the Texas Family Code.
But what is a statutory rule? It’s a fair question and one that bears answering here in relation to the Texas Family Code.
Understanding Statutory Law
The simple answer is that when deciding a case, courts will apply a combination of two different types of law to determine an outcome. One is called common law, which is comprised of the various verdicts made by other courts in similar situations and jurisdictions. The second type is called statutory law, and these are the formal rules and regulations laid down by legislative bodies in state and federal governments. Usually, they’re pretty dense, convoluted, and can sometimes feel like a different language to the general population—but don’t worry, they’re not, we promise!
The Texas Family Code is one such body of statutory law, and it contains all the formal rules that govern family law in Texas. As one might imagine, family law is quite broad, and as such, the Family Code covers quite a large range of topics. Some of these are intuitive and include things like marriage and divorce, children, and domestic violence. However, the Texas Family Code goes further than that, and even crosses over a bit with criminal law, with some of its sections addressing the juvenile justice system.
With five main sections and over a hundred and sixty different chapters, there’s no doubt that the Texas Family Code is a behemoth of a document! Below, we’ll keep it simple, and focus on giving an overview of the five main sections, and what kinds of issues can be found inside them.
Overview of the Texas Family Code
Broken into sections, the Texas Family Code’s five main topics are:
- The Marriage Relationship;
- Children in Relation to the Family;
- Juvenile Justice Code;
- Protective Orders and Family Violence; and
- The Parent-Child Relationship and the Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship.
Here’s a brief overview of what can be found under each of these titles.
Title 1: The Marriage Relationship
Under this section, people can expect to find topics related to pretty much every aspect relating to the contractual act of marriage. This includes marriage licensing, proof, validity, and the legal requirements to get married, as well as divorce, the division of property, liabilities of the individuals post-marriage, and much more.
Title 1 also includes provisions regarding Texas’s status as a common-law marriage state, which essentially means you do not have to have a formal marriage ceremony to be considered legally married. Couples who want a common-law marriage need only agree to be married, live together as husband and wife and represent to others that they’re married, in order to have the legal benefits of a married status. It’s also important to note, that same-sex marriage has been legal in Texas since 2015.
Title 2: Children in Relation to the Family
In this section, Texas legislators set out to define the limitations of minors, as well as parental responsibilities to their children in a family setting, including holding them accountable for the medical and psychological health of their offspring. Title 2 also addresses, immunizations, name changing, and abortion. While abortion is legal in Texas up to 20 weeks’ gestation, there are restrictions. Texas law requires at least two trips to the abortion provider, and mandatory paperwork about other alternatives, including adoption. There is also a twenty-four-hour waiting period for women who want to have an abortion.
Title 3: Juvenile Justice Code
Here, in Title 3, is one area where the family code crosses over with criminal law, and this is where provisions relating to the juvenile court system can be found. These sections largely focus on the technicalities of criminal proceedings involving minors, including jurisdictional requirements, types of crimes, age requirements, appeals, and appointing a guardian ad litem for those children who need one. There is also ample discussion of mental health and disabilities, the rights of victims, standard of care requirements for juveniles in custody, as well as the rights and responsibilities of parents in these situations.
Title 4: Protective Orders and Family Violence
Title 4 is another area that shares space with criminal law. Since the 1960’s feminist movements brought domestic violence to the forefront of political discussion, today, every state in the union now has some form of criminal punishment attached to family violence. Title 4 is Texas’s response to these issues, addressing a broad range of domestic violence-related areas, including applicability, protective orders, and law enforcement response. And like many states, Texas also extends such protective measures beyond household violence, and address crimes such as dating violence, and stalking, as well.
Title 5: The Parent-Child Relationship and the Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship
While Title 2 of the Texas Family code largely deals with parental responsibilities toward their children in a general sense, Title 5 differs, in that it focuses specifically on the lawsuits affecting the parent-child relationship. Naturally, a large portion of legal proceedings involving children relate to divorce, so that is what takes up the bulk of this section, with chapters that cover child support, custody arrangements, care responsibilities, conservatorship rights, as well as, health, and education when dealing with children of split households. This section also addresses foster children, child welfare services, and how to handle investigations of child abuse or neglect.
Texas Family Code Attorneys
As with other bodies of law, the Texas Family Code is constantly changing in order to keep on top of the growing number of issues related to the family. Between revisions and amendments, not to mention lengthy paragraphs filled with convoluted language, it might feel as though these statutory laws are purposefully designed to make your life difficult (don’t worry, all of us who survived law school feel the same way!) But while these rules can seem overwhelming and nit-picky, the truth is, that the entire purpose of Texas Family Code, is to help protect your family from harm.
If you or a loved one have questions about how these codes can help in your situation or want to speak to someone about a different family law related issue, don’t hesitate to reach out. We, at Neal Ashmore, know how important family is, and understand that resolving these matters can be daunting and stressful. Call us today at (972) 436-8000, or schedule a consultation online, and let our team of experienced family law attorneys help your family wherever we can.