‚ÄčTexas Association of Domestic  Relations Offices

   

     TEXAS FAMILY CODE


     TITLE 5. THE PARENT-CHILD RELATIONSHIP AND THE SUIT AFFECTING THE PARENT-                CHILD RELATIONSHIP
     SUBTITLE C. JUDICIAL RESOURCES AND SERVICES
     CHAPTER 203. DOMESTIC RELATIONS OFFICES


     Sec. 203.001. DEFINITIONS. In this chapter:

     (1) "Administering entity" means a commissioners court, juvenile board, or other entity                    responsible for administering a domestic relations office under this chapter.

     (2) "Domestic relations office" means a county office that serves families, county departments,      and courts to ensure effective implementation of this title.

     Added by Acts 1995, 74th Leg., ch. 20, Sec. 1, eff. April 20, 1995. Amended by Acts 1995, 74th          Leg., ch. 475, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1995.


     Sec. 203.002. ESTABLISHMENT OF DOMESTIC RELATIONS OFFICE. A commissioners court          may establish a domestic relations office.

     Added by Acts 1995, 74th Leg., ch. 20, Sec. 1, eff. April 20, 1995. Renumbered from Family              Code Sec. 203.003 and amended by Acts 1995, 74th Leg., ch. 475, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1995.

     Sec. 203.003. ADMINISTRATION. (a) A domestic relations office shall be administered:

     (1) as provided by the commissioners court; or

     (2) if the commissioners court does not otherwise provide for the administration of the office,        by the juvenile board that serves the county in which the domestic relations office is located.

     (b) The administering entity shall appoint and assign the duties of a director who shall be              responsible for the day-to-day administration of the office. A director serves at the pleasure

     of the administering entity.

     (c) The administering entity shall determine the amount of money needed to operate the              office.

     (d) A commissioners court that establishes a domestic relations office under this chapter may      execute a bond for the office. A bond under this subsection must be:
  
     (1) executed with a solvent surety company authorized to do business in the state; and

     (2) conditioned on the faithful performance of the duties of the office.

     (e) The administering entity shall establish procedures for the acceptance and use of a grant         or donation to the office.

      Added by Acts 1995, 74th Leg., ch. 20, Sec. 1, eff. April 20, 1995. Renumbered from Family               Code Sec. 203.004 and amended by Acts 1995, 74th Leg., ch. 475, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1995.

     Sec. 203.004. POWERS AND DUTIES. (a) A domestic relations office may:

     (1) collect and disburse child support payments that are ordered by a court to be paid                    through a domestic relations registry;

     (2) maintain records of payments and disbursements made under Subdivision (1);

     (3) file a suit, including a suit to:

     (A) establish paternity;

     (B) enforce a court order for child support or for possession of and access to a child; and

     (C) modify or clarify an existing child support order;

     (4) provide an informal forum in which alternative dispute resolution is used to resolve                     disputes under this code;

     (5) prepare a court-ordered child custody evaluation or adoption evaluation under Chapter           107;

     (6) represent a child as an amicus attorney, an attorney ad litem, or a guardian ad litem in a             suit in which:

     (A) termination of the parent-child relationship is sought; or

     (B) conservatorship of or access to a child is contested;

     (7) serve as a friend of the court;

     (8) provide predivorce counseling ordered by a court;

     (9) provide community supervision services under Chapter 157;

     (10) provide information to assist a party in understanding, complying with, or enforcing the          party's duties and obligations under Subdivision (3);

     (11) provide, directly or through a contract, visitation services, including supervision of court-        ordered visitation, visitation exchange, or other similar services;

     (12) issue an administrative writ of withholding under Subchapter F, Chapter 158; and

     (13) provide parenting coordinator services under Chapter 153.

     (b) A court having jurisdiction in a proceeding under this title, Title 3, or Section 25.05, Penal          Code, may order that child support payments be made through a domestic relations office.

     (c) A domestic relations office may:
 
     (1) hire or contract for the services of attorneys to assist the office in providing services under         this chapter; and

     (2) employ community supervision officers or court monitors.

     Added by Acts 1995, 74th Leg., ch. 20, Sec. 1, eff. April 20, 1995. Renumbered from Family              Code Sec. 203.005 and amended by Acts 1995, 74th Leg., ch. 475, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1995.              Amended by Acts 1997, 75th Leg., ch. 702, Sec. 10, eff. Sept. 1, 1997; Acts 1999, 76th Leg., ch.          859, Sec. 3, eff. Sept. 1, 1999; Acts 1999, 76th Leg., ch. 1191, Sec. 1, eff. June 18, 1999; Acts 2001,      77th Leg., ch. 1023, Sec. 50, eff. Sept. 1, 2001.

     Amended by:

      Acts 2005, 79th Leg., Ch. 172 (H.B. 307), Sec. 20, eff. September 1, 2005.

      Acts 2005, 79th Leg., Ch. 199 (H.B. 1182), Sec. 5, eff. September 1, 2005.

     Acts 2007, 80th Leg., R.S., Ch. 832 (H.B. 772), Sec. 7, eff. September 1, 2007.

     Acts 2015, 84th Leg., R.S., Ch. 1252 (H.B. 1449), Sec. 3.05, eff. September 1, 2015.

     Sec. 203.005. FEES AND CHARGES. (a) The administering entity may authorize a domestic            relations office to assess and collect:

     (1) an initial operations fee not to exceed $15 to be paid to the domestic relations office on             each filing of an original suit, motion for modification, or motion for enforcement;

     (2) in a county that has a child support enforcement cooperative agreement with the Title IV-         D agency, an initial child support service fee not to exceed $36 to be paid to the domestic             relations office on the filing of an original suit;

     (3) a reasonable application fee to be paid by an applicant requesting services from the office;

     (4) a reasonable attorney's fee and court costs incurred or ordered by the court;

     (5) a monthly service fee not to exceed $3 to be paid annually in advance by a managing              conservator and possessory conservator for whom the domestic relations office provides              child support services;

     (6) community supervision fees as provided by Chapter 157 if community supervision officers        are employed by the domestic relations office;

     (7) a reasonable fee for preparation of a court-ordered child custody evaluation or adoption          evaluation;

     (8) in a county that provides visitation services under Sections 153.014 and 203.004 a                      reasonable fee to be paid to the domestic relations office at the time the visitation services            are provided;

     (9) a fee to reimburse the domestic relations office for a fee required to be paid under Section      158.503(d) for filing an administrative writ of withholding;

     (10) a reasonable fee for parenting coordinator services; and

     (11) a reasonable fee for alternative dispute resolution services.

     (b) The first payment of a fee under Subsection (a)(5) is due on the date that the person                   required to pay support is ordered to begin child support, alimony, or separate maintenance         payments. Subsequent payments of the fee are due annually and in advance.

      (c) The director of a domestic relations office shall attempt to collect all fees in an efficient             manner.

      (d) The administering entity may provide for an exemption from the payment of a fee                     authorized under this section if payment of the fee is not practical or in the interest of justice.       Fees that may be exempted under this subsection include fees related to:

     (1) spousal and child support payments made under an interstate pact;

     (2) a suit brought by the Texas Department of Human Services;

     (3) activities performed by the Department of Protective and Regulatory Services or another        governmental agency, a private adoption agency, or a charitable organization; and

     (4) services for a person who has applied for or who receives public assistance under the               laws of this state.

     (e) A fee authorized by this section for providing child support services is part of the child              support obligation and may be enforced against both an obligor and obligee by any method        available for the enforcement of child support, including contempt.

     Added by Acts 1995, 74th Leg., ch. 20, Sec. 1, eff. April 20, 1995. Renumbered from Family              Code Sec. 203.009 and amended by Acts 1995, 74th Leg., ch. 475, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1995.              Amended by Acts 1999, 76th Leg., ch. 556, Sec. 48, eff. Sept. 1, 1999; Acts 2001, 77th Leg., ch.        1023, Sec. 51, eff. Sept. 1, 2001; Acts 2003, 78th Leg., ch. 707, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 2003; Acts 2003,      78th Leg., ch. 1076, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 2003.

      Amended by:

     Acts 2005, 79th Leg., Ch. 199 (H.B. 1182), Sec. 6, eff. September 1, 2005.

     Acts 2007, 80th Leg., R.S., Ch. 832 (H.B. 772), Sec. 8, eff. September 1, 2007.

     Acts 2009, 81st Leg., R.S., Ch. 767 (S.B. 865), Sec. 26, eff. June 19, 2009.

     Acts 2009, 81st Leg., R.S., Ch. 1035 (H.B. 4424), Sec. 2, eff. June 19, 2009.

     Acts 2011, 82nd Leg., R.S., Ch. 1341 (S.B. 1233), Sec. 10, eff. June 17, 2011.

     Acts 2015, 84th Leg., R.S., Ch. 1252 (H.B. 1449), Sec. 3.06, eff. September 1, 2015.

     Sec. 203.006. FUND. (a) As determined by the administering entity, fees collected or received      by a domestic relations office shall be deposited in:

     (1) the general fund for the county in which the domestic relations office is located; or

     (2) the office fund established for the domestic relations office.

     (b) The administering entity shall use the domestic relations office fund to provide money for        services authorized by this chapter.

     (c) A domestic relations office fund may be supplemented as necessary from the county's            general fund or from other money available from the county.

     Added by Acts 1995, 74th Leg., ch. 20, Sec. 1, eff. April 20, 1995. Renumbered from Family              Code Sec. 203.010 and amended by Acts 1995, 74th Leg., ch. 475, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1995.              Amended by Acts 1997, 75th Leg., ch. 702, Sec. 11, eff. Sept. 1, 1997.

      Sec. 203.007. ACCESS TO RECORDS; OFFENSE. (a) A domestic relations office may obtain the       records described by Subsections (b), (c), (d), and (e) that relate to a person who has:

     (1) been ordered to pay child support;

     (2) been designated as a conservator of a child;

     (3) been designated to be the father of a child;

     (4) executed an acknowledgment of paternity;

     (5) court-ordered possession of a child; or

     (6) filed suit to adopt a child.

     (b) A domestic relations office is entitled to obtain from the Department of Public Safety                records that relate to:

     (1) a person's date of birth;

     (2) a person's most recent address;
     
     (3) a person's current driver's license status;

     (4) motor vehicle accidents involving a person;

     (5) reported traffic-law violations of which a person has been convicted; and

     (6) a person's criminal history record information.

     (c) A domestic relations office is entitled to obtain from the Texas Workforce Commission              records that relate to:

     (1) a person's address;

     (2) a person's employment status and earnings;

     (3) the name and address of a person's current or former employer; and

     (4) unemployment compensation benefits received by a person.

     (d) To the extent permitted by federal law, a domestic relations office is entitled to obtain from      the national directory of new hires established under 42 U.S.C. Section 653(i), as amended,            records that relate to a person described by Subsection (a), including records that relate to:

     (1) the name, telephone number, and address of the person's employer;

     (2) information provided by the person on a W-4 form; and

     (3) information provided by the person's employer on a Title IV-D form.

     (e) To the extent permitted by federal law, a domestic relations office is entitled to obtain from      the state case registry records that relate to a person described by Subsection (a), including        records that relate to:

     (1) the street and mailing address and the social security number of the person;

     (2) the name, telephone number, and address of the person's employer;

     (3) the location and value of real and personal property owned by the person; and

     (4) the name and address of each financial institution in which the person maintains an                  account and the account number for each account.

     (f) An agency required to provide records under this section may charge a domestic relations      office a fee for providing the records in an amount that does not exceed the amount paid for        those records by the agency responsible for Title IV-D cases.

     (g) The Department of Public Safety, the Texas Workforce Commission, or the office of the            secretary of state may charge a domestic relations office a fee not to exceed the charge paid      by the Title IV-D agency for furnishing records under this section.

     (h) Information obtained by a domestic relations office under this section that is confidential          under a constitution, statute, judicial decision, or rule is privileged and may be used only by          that office.

     (i) A person commits an offense if the person releases or discloses confidential information          obtained under this section without the consent of the person to whom the information                relates. An offense under this subsection is a Class C misdemeanor.
 
     (j) A domestic relations office is entitled to obtain from the office of the secretary of state the        following information about a registered voter to the extent that the information is available:

     (1) complete name;

     (2) current and former street and mailing address;

     (3) sex;

     (4) date of birth;

     (5) social security number; and

     (6) telephone number.
  
     Added by Acts 1995, 74th Leg., ch. 20, Sec. 1, eff. April 20, 1995. Renumbered from Family              Code Sec. 203.012 and amended by Acts 1995, 74th Leg., ch. 475, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1995.                Amended by Acts 1995, 74th Leg., ch. 803, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1995; Acts 1997, 75th Leg., ch.            165, Sec. 7.18, eff. Sept. 1, 1997; Acts 1999, 76th Leg., ch. 556, Sec. 49, eff. Sept. 1, 1999; Acts            1999, 76th Leg., ch. 859, Sec. 4, eff. Sept. 1, 1999; Acts 1999, 76th Leg., ch. 1191, Sec. 2, eff. June      18, 1999.

     Amended by:

     Acts 2007, 80th Leg., R.S., Ch. 832 (H.B. 772), Sec. 9, eff. September 1, 2007.