1998 Brings Changes To The Family Code


The Family Code sets forth factors that the court must consider in determining the best interests of the children. Included are allegations of abuse by one parent against the children, the other parent, or other specified adults, as well as allegations of habitual illegal use of controlled substances or the habitual abuse of alcohol by either parent.


If there are allegations of abuse and the court orders sole or joint custody to the abusive parent, the new subdivision of the Family Code requires the court to state its reasons, in writing, unless the order is based on a stipulated custody or visitation plan.


The Family Code sets forth the state’s declaration that it is in the best interests of the children to have frequent and continuing contact with both parents, with the stipulation that the health, safety and welfare of the children are the court’s primary concern, when making any orders regarding custody or visitation. The addition states the court is to find that perpetration of child abuse or domestic violence in a household where a child resides is detrimental to the child.



The Family Code was also updated to prohibit the court from awarding child custody or unsupervised visitation to specified sex offenders. This section was further amended to prevent a convicted rapist from being awarded custody or visitation with any child conceived as a result of the rape. The court may require those offenders ordered to pay child support to make payments through the District Attorney’s office.



Additionally, in the area of domestic violence, law enforcement officers are given immunity for enforcing temporary restraining orders and emergency protective orders. The immunity is for a cause of action of false arrest or imprisonment when the officer acts in good faith making an arrest pursuant to a protective or restraining order.



The Family Code was amended to deny visitation requests, on an ex-parte application, under the Domestic Violence Prevention Act, unless a party offers proof to establish a parent-child relationship. It further prevents a non-parent party from seeking custody and visitation under the act.



Sections of the Family Code known as the Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act (URESA) have been repealed and replaced with the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA).



This new federal legislation is required to be enacted by each state, or a portion of the nonenacting state’s federal family assistance funding will be lost. UIFSA is, in many respects, similar to the repealed legislation, but has some significant technical differences.



District attorney enforcement of child support amendments were made requiring further disclosures from a support-paying party as well as technical provisions relating to centralizing information collected. Further requirements were placed on employers and health insurance providers with respect to coverage of dependent children.



Enforcement provisions were also amended to make it easier for the District Attorney’s office to collect back-owed child support payments, both in state and out of state.



Any questions concerning the amended family law code should be directed to an experienced family law attorney.

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