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New Law Changes Requirements of Child Custody Evaluations in Texas

Posted on in Child Custody

Texas divorce lawyer, Texas family attorneyLast month, a new law was enacted that will change how child custody evaluations are undertaken in the state, while also providing protection from liability to third party evaluators. These evaluations are often necessary before courts make child custody determinations and so can have serious implications on a court’s decision. To learn more about what child custody evaluations entail, please contact an experienced complex child custody attorney who can address your concerns.

Ordering a Child Custody Evaluation

Under the new law, the court can order a child custody evaluation regarding:

  • A child;
  • A party to the suit; and
  • The residence of any person requesting custody.

Once a decision has been reached, the order for a child custody evaluation must include specific information, such as:

  • The name of each party who will conduct the evaluation;
  • The purpose of the evaluation;
  • The basic elements of an evaluation;
  • The specific issues or questions that will be addressed in an evaluation; and
  • A list of any additional elements required by the court to be completed.

Before an evaluator can offer an official opinion regarding custody of a child, he or she must have satisfied each element of an evaluation, unless the failure to do so is satisfactorily explained.

Prior to the new changes, interviews could be conducted with children of any age. However, the amendments require that a child be at least four years old before he or she can be evaluated.

Access to Records

The new law, which was previously known as House Bill 1501 grants child custody evaluators access to other records that relate to any person residing in a residence that is subject to a child custody evaluation that are held by:

  • Local law enforcement;
  • A criminal justice agency;
  • A juvenile justice agency;
  • A community supervision and corrections department; or
  • Any other government entity.

However, all records viewed by an evaluator will be considered confidential and not subject to disclosure, even in response to a discover request or a subpoena. Information obtained during the evaluation can only be disclosed to the extent that the evaluator determines that the information is relevant to the evaluation or a recommendation. Reckless disclosure of confidential information can be charged as a Class A misdemeanor. The law does, however, protect child custody evaluators from being liable for civil damages arising out of:

  • Any action taken by the court in response to the guardian’s opinion;
  • The evaluator’s recommendation or opinion.

The law will go into effect on September 1, 2017.

Call Today to Schedule a Consultation with a Complex Child Custody Attorney

If you are a resident of Round Rock and have been ordered to undergo a child custody evaluation, feel free to contact The Law Offices of William D. Powers by completing one of our brief contact forms. Our dedicated Round Round child custody attorneys are eager to speak with you and address your custody-related questions or concerns.

 

Sources:

https://custom.statenet.com/public/resources.cgi?id=ID:bill:TX2017000H1501&ciq=ncsl2&client_md=c6a73aa5510a9726dee72af300112322&mode=current_text

https://legiscan.com/TX/research/HB1501

The Law Offices of William D. Powers

8911 N. Capital of Texas Highway, Building 2, Suite 2105, Austin, TX 78759