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What goes into an award of spousal support here in Texas?

What goes into an award of spousal support here in Texas?

Originally published by On behalf of Laura Dale.

Very few people come out of a divorce without some financial impact. Any time the same income must stretch over two households instead of one, both parties will experience some adjustments to their finances.

What the courts want to make sure of is that one of you doesn’t experience a significant drop in income while the other party receives an unfair financial advantage. Under these circumstances, spousal support may be appropriate.

How do the courts come up with the amount needed?

Of course, the first hurdle for anyone requesting spousal support is to prove a need exists. After you show that you do not earn enough to support yourself without help, the court will then assess how much you need in order to make up for the difference between what you bring in and what you need for support. Below are generalities regarding what the law says about amount and how long you will receive spousal support:

  • You could receive either up to 20% of your former spouse’s gross income or $5,000, whichever is less.
  • If you or one of your children who resides primarily with you has a disability, you could receive spousal support indefinitely since your need may not end.
  • If you were married for at least 30 years, you could receive alimony for up to 10 years.
  • If you were married between 20 and 30 years, your alimony will more than likely end after a maximum of seven years.
  • If your marriage lasted between 10 and 20 years, you may receive spousal support for up to five years.
  • If your spouse was abusive and you were married less than 10 years, you could receive alimony for no more than five years.

Within the confines of these limits, you and your future former spouse may not agree on duration and amount. If that happens, you will need to present evidence to the court to support your position, whether you are the one needing spousal support or the one who may end up paying it.

You don’t have to go it alone

Nothing less than your financial future is at stake regardless of which side of the issue you are on, so it would be wise to enlist some experienced legal assistance for help. An attorney knowledgeable in Texas law will provide you with an understanding of your rights and an explanation of what you face, along with your legal options.

Curated by Texas Bar Today. Follow us on Twitter @texasbartoday.



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Central Texas Family Court Corruption

Central Texas Family Court Corruption

Topic: Host Mike Lee and guests discuss the unfair and oftentimes damaging outcomes handed down in family court cases that involve minor children.

If you have issues that you feel are unjustified or corrupt please email txfamilycourtcorruption@gmail.com

TSBEP / TBHEC Complaint Process – Texas Psychologists / Custody Evaluators

www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL2ghWdA_RadcHJWooUyzDH-vrCPbBUzUY

TSBEP / TBHEC Complaint Process – Texas Psychologists / Custody Evaluators
TSBEP Complaint Process Issues – TBHEC Texas Family Courts – Gloria Canseco, Darrel Spinks, Texas Board of Psychology, Texas Behavioral Health Executive Committee
TSBEP, Custody Evaluation, Forensic Psychology, Texas Family Courts, TBHEC, Gloria Canseco, Darrel Spinks, #TSBEP, #CustodyEvaluation, #ForensicPsychology, #TexasFamilyCourts, #TBHEC
Texas Court Denies New Qualified Domestic Relations Order More Than 20 Years After Divorce

Texas Court Denies New Qualified Domestic Relations Order More Than 20 Years After Divorce

Originally published by Francesca Blackard.

By

A court generally may not amend or change the property division made in a Texas divorce decree.  The court may issue an order to enforce the property division, but such an order may only clarify the prior order or assist in its implementation.  If a court improperly amends or modifies the substantive property division in the final divorce decree, it is acting beyond its power and that order is unenforceable. Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 9.007.  Qualified Domestic Relations Orders (QDRO) are separate orders that set forth the distribution of retirement plan assets.  They are considered a type of enforcement or clarification order and cannot change the property division made in the divorce decree.

In a recent case, an ex-wife sought an additional QDRO years after the divorce was finalized.  The couple divorced in 1995, and the parties have been in litigation for the past several years regarding the husband’s retirement accounts.

The divorce decree awarded the ex-wife 50% “of any and all sums … related to any … retirement plan, pension plan, … or other benefit program existing by reason of [ex-husband’s] past, present, or future employment, including without limitation, [ex-husband’s] Retirement Fund, Provident Fund, and SPIF Fund with Shell Oil Company per Qualified Domestic Relations Orders …”  The trial court signed a QDRO awarding the ex-wife half the funds in the ex-husband’s Shell Provident Fund on the date of the divorce.  The court found the total community property interest in the Shell Provident Fund was the total amount of contributions, interest, and earnings made or accrued by or on behalf of the ex-husband into any of the Shell Provident Fund accounts.  The QDRO stated the ex-wife was “divested of all right, title, and interest in and to any balance remaining in any account of the Shell Provident Fund…” and that the fund would be discharged from all obligations to her when full payment was made pursuant to the QDRO.  It also said it would become an integral part of the divorce decree.

 

The ex-wife received the funds from the QDRO.  In 2015, the ex-wife petitioned for another QDRO and the court signed it, with a valuation date of July 15, 2015.  The husband said he was not given notice of the hearing and that neither the petition nor the QDRO were on file with the court before the hearing.

The ex-wife did not receive the funds from the 2015 QDRO.  She filed an amended QDRO in April 2016 with a 2015 valuation date, but the trial court did not sign it.  She filed a petition to enter an amended QDRO the following month, with the 2015 valuation date and amount.

In April 2017, the husband filed a petition for bill of review of the divorce decree.  He asked the court to clarify that the retirement benefits were to be divided as they existed on the date of the divorce.  He argued the court did not have jurisdiction to sign the 2015 QDRO because it conflicted with the divorce decree and the 1995 QDRO. The ex-wife then filed another amended petition to enter a QDRO.  After a hearing, the trial court granted the bill of review, modified the decree, and set aside the 2015 QDRO.

The ex-wife filed a response, arguing the bill of review had been untimely.  The court then signed a “Court’s Rendition,” in which it denied the bill of review, set aside the reformed decree and QDRO, and reinstated the original decree.

The ex-wife then filed another proposed QDRO, but the trial court did not enter it due to a missing signature.  She filed a “Motion to Sign QDRO.” The docket entry indicated that the motion was not properly served, and the hearing was rescheduled.  The husband’s attorney argued the 1995 QDRO divested the ex-wife of all interest in the fund.  The trial court denied the motion, finding the 1995 QDRO awarded the wife half the funds as of the date of divorce and that she was not entitled to anything else from the fund.

The trial court denied the wife’s motion for a new trial. She appealed, arguing the divorce decree had awarded her half of the fund through the ex-husband’s last date of employment.  The ex-husband argued that the proposed QDRO was an impermissible collateral attack on the 1995 QDRO.

The appeals court noted that a QDRO is a final, appealable order.  A party who does not appeal a QDRO may not collaterally attack it through a separate proceeding.  The appeals court found that the ex-wife’s motion to enter a new proposed QDRO filed so many years after the divorce was such a collateral attack.

The court also noted that the 1995 QDRO awarded the ex-wife half of the fund as it was valued on the date of the divorce and divested her of any further interest.  The QDRO she sought to have entered would have awarded her a share of all amounts contributed on behalf of the ex-husband “in the past, present, and future.” The ex-wife received the funds she was awarded in the 1995 QDRO in 1995.  Her proposed QDRO sought to avoid the effect of the decree and the 1995 QDRO, making it a collateral attack.

The appeals court also rejected the ex-wife’s argument that she was entitled to QDROs awarding her half of the ex-husband’s other benefits and employer-based savings plans through his past, present and future employment.  The court found she was also barred from collaterally attacking the division as to these benefits as well.

The appeals court affirmed the trial court’s denial of the motion to sign the QDRO.

Although this case is procedurally complex, it illustrates the importance of addressing issues promptly through the appropriate procedures.  If you think your marriage may be ending, a skilled Texas divorce attorney can help you through the difficult process.  Schedule an appointment with McClure Law Group by calling 214.692.8200.

Curated by Texas Bar Today. Follow us on Twitter @texasbartoday.



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March 2, 2020 meeting of the Texas Behavioral Health Executive Council TBHEC

Involuntary Private Parental Rights Termination by a Psychologist – TSBEP/TBHEC

Involuntary Private Parental Rights Termination by a Psychologist

My name is Lauren Walker and I am a parent whose life was devastated by an unethical custody evaluator.

I have a beautiful 6-year old daughter, and we haven’t seen each other since July 2018, when a jury terminated my parental rights. I went from my daughter’s primary caregiver to being removed from her life altogether in a mere 2 years. My family spent over $1,000,000 defending me in this custody battle – 17 hearings in all —  that was fueled by the custody evaluator’s continual recommendations to the judge.

I was beaten badly by my ex-husband.  I experienced a traumatic brain injury from him kicking me in the head with his boot.  My daughter and I, at one point, received a protective order to keep us safe from my ex-husband. When I left him, he continued to use the court system to abuse me.  The termination petition was instigated by my ex-husband – not the State.  And, the idea to terminate my rights originated from the custody evaluator, who grossly exceeded her scope, and violated rules as well as the code of ethics.

Not once did any other professional recommend that it was in my daughter’s best interest for my rights to be terminated.  Yet, that’s what happened … due to the custody evaluator’s actions and ongoing manipulations in the courtroom.

Dr. Johnathan Gould, who is a renowned forensic psychologist, reviewed Dr. Alissa Sherry’s evaluation reports.  I have a 27-page report with details of his findings. He concluded that her report was completely flawed and did not qualify as a custody evaluation.

Dr. Gould cited:

  • Concerns about the information included and excluded from the report

  • For example, the inclusion of speculation and hearsay opinions, and the exclusion of direct observation of parenting

  • Failure to assess critical parenting attributes, which was the purpose of the evaluation

  • Misuse of psychological tests

  • Use of unreliable methods and lack of scientific-based findings

  • Notable differences in the treatment of the parents

Dr. Gould recommended that the jury should not use the evaluation as evidence to support its decision.

My daughter’s and my story is terrifying and heart-breaking.

In closing, I plead with this Board to conduct strenuous oversight and investigation of its forensic psychologists involved in family court cases to prevent this tragedy from happening again, and to correct cases that have already ended in tragedies.

 

Thank you.

Lauren Walker

This is part of the Expert Opinion Summary from Dr Jonathan Gould::

It is my professional opinion, within a reasonable degree of professional certainty, that Dr. Sherry’s evaluation is seriously flawed. Dr. Sherry provides a robust understanding of the dynamics and chaotic organization of the families.

  • She does not, however, provide information relevant to answering questions about parenting attributes, abilities, or capabilities.

  • She does not provide information relevant to answering questions about the nature and quality of parent-child interactions.

  • She does not provide information relevant to answering questions about the psychological and emotional needs of the child.

  • She does not provide information relevant to answering questions about the fit between the parenting attributes, abilities, or capabilities of each parent and the psychological and emotional needs of the child.

Dr. Sherry’s interview procedures neglect gathering information about critically important areas of parenting, parent-child interactions, parent-to-parent communication, and child’s perception of each parent.

Dr. Sherry’s information gleaned from collateral interviews was essentially absent of information describing third party observers’ personal knowledge and behavioral descriptions of parenting behavior or parent-child interactions.

None of the parent interview data and none of the collateral interview data were organized around factors identified in the professional and scientific literature pertaining to positive parenting.

Dr. Sherry’s uses of psychological test results were of questionable value. Her use of computer-generated reports raises concerns about use of hearsay and concerns about the admissibility of opinions based upon the computer-generated interpretive reports. She did not integrate psychological test results with empirical knowledge of parenting factors associated with those results that would lead to hypotheses about each parent’s parenting strengths and weaknesses.

Read Dr. Gould’s Full Report Here:
_18.8.22 MEUTH L_Gould Forensic Psychological Report (2)

Texas Appeals Court Upholds Modification Allowing Unsupervised Visitation

Texas Appeals Court Upholds Modification Allowing Unsupervised Visitation

Originally published by Robert Epstein.

By

Sometimes in a Texas custody case, the court may find it appropriate to place certain restrictions on a parent’s access to the children.  In time and with changed circumstances, it may be in the children’s best interest to remove those restrictions to allow the children to spend more time with that parent.  In a recent case, a mother appealed an order modifying visitation.

The parents had two children during their marriage.  The mother moved to another town and filed for divorce.  The decree required the father to use a Soberlink alcohol monitoring device before and during visitation.  The court ordered the father’s visitation would be supervised in Hidalgo County, but he would be allowed unsupervised visits beginning in August 2018 when the youngest child turned three.

The mother petitioned to modify the parent-child relationship to postpone the unsupervised visits.  She argued unsupervised visits were not in the children’s best interest because the oldest child had significant speech delays and the younger child lacked emotional maturity.  She also alleged the father failed one of his alcohol tests.

 

The father filed a counter petition, asking for standard visitation with exchange of the children occurring about midway between the parents’ homes in Alice.  He claimed the modifications were in the children’s best interests and that there was a material and substantial change in circumstances since the divorce decree.

The trial court ordered a mental evaluation of the father, and based on that evaluation, allowed him unsupervised overnight visitation. The trial court issued a final order granting standard unsupervised visitation, omitting the Soberlink requirement, and requiring the parents to meet in Alice to exchange the children.

The mother appealed, arguing the trial court abused its discretion in ordering the parents to exchange the children in Alice.  Pursuant to Tex. Fam. Ann. § 153.316, the court must order the parents to surrender the children at one of their homes.  The appeals court noted, however, that this section only applies to the original possession order, and this case involved a modification.  Modifications are governed instead by § 156.101, which allows modification of a possession order if it is in the children’s best interest and the circumstances have changed.  The mother had alleged a change of circumstances in her own petition to modify.  Under Texas case law, that allegation of changed circumstances constituted a judicial admission for purposes of the other father’s similar pleading.

The mother argued exchanging the children in Alice was not in their best interest.  The appeals court noted, however, that there was evidence supporting a conclusion that meeting in Alice was in the children’s best interests.  The father testified he had not exercised his right to communicate with his children electronically because the mother had stated she would not allow them to communicate through video-teleconference or Skype.  He claimed she was trying to prevent him from having a strong relationship with his children.  He asked the court to have them meet in Alice if standard visitation was granted.  He said it was a little more than halfway for him and he thought it was in the children’s best interests for him to be in their lives.

The mother’s attorney argued she was working on her master’s degree in clinical psychology and was required to be at a facility all day and could not get from work to Alice at the scheduled time.  The father offered to change the time, but pointed out it would only be once a month.  The court agreed to order the weekend visitation exchange to occur in Alice.

The appeals court found there testimony that seeing their father more often was in the children’s best interests and found no abuse of discretion in the court ordering the exchange to occur in Alice.

The mother also argued the court abused its discretion in eliminating the Soberlink requirement.  The divorce decree required sobriety testing before and during the father’s time with the children for five years after the divorce.  The mother argued the father had not requested the removal of the condition and the judgment had to conform to the pleadings. The appeals court noted, however, that the best interests of the children are the most important issue in custody cases, and technical rules should not interfere with acting in their best interests.  The appeals court found that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in not conforming to the pleadings if it did not do so arbitrarily.

The mother argued the Soberlink requirement was in the children’s best interests.  The father testified he used a breathalyzer twice a day for another court and did not have any violations.  The mother offered evidence of an alleged positive Soberlink test result, but the father testified it was a false positive and another test six minutes later was confirmed at 0.000.  The trial court found the first test was a false positive. The court further stated the father testified he was receiving psychological and psychiatric treatment.  The appeals court found no abuse of discretion in the trial court’s elimination of the Soberlink requirement because there was some evidence it was no longer in the children’s best interests.

The mother also argued the trial court erred in granting overnight visitation to the father.  The children’s counselor testified that “It would be very difficult and traumatic for them to be away from their mother at night.”

The father argued the original divorce decree granted him unsupervised overnight visits.  The father’s psychological evaluation resulted in a recommendation the father have full access to his children with standard visitation.  The appeals court found the trial court had sufficient evidence to exercise its discretion and did not abuse its discretion.  There was evidence it was in the children’s best interests to have unsupervised, overnight visits with the father.

The appeals court affirmed the trial court’s judgment.

If you are seeking or fighting a modification of a custody order, an experienced Texas custody attorney can help you fight for your children.  Call McClure Law Group at 214.692.8200 to set up a meeting to discuss your case.

Curated by Texas Bar Today. Follow us on Twitter @texasbartoday.



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Want to resolve your Texas family law case outside of court? Remember these rules of engagement

Approaching your Texas divorce from a financial perspective

Originally published by The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC Blog.

Married persons tend to earn more money than single people. There are a number of studies that will tell you this. Go search the internet for a couple and you will see what I am talking about. Whether it is building wealth, saving for your children’s college education or simply avoiding being in a situation where you become impoverished, marriage is a key factor in the financial success of many people.

Then you also have to take into consideration the fact that you are losing a big chunk of your household income when you divorce your spouse. You may have become accustomed to a certain way of living that after your divorce is no longer achievable for you. This could be especially true if you are a stay at home mother or wife who has been out of the workforce for some time and is now being forced to return to the job market.

It is common to run into financial problems as a result of divorce. In fact, I would argue that it is an exceptional case that sees a person going through a divorce not suffer some degree of financial hardship. Supporting two households when there are not two, full-time incomes can be a near impossible expectation to lay out for a struggling family. Community property (that property which is acquired during the course of your marriage other than inherited property or gifts) will be divided in your divorce. The manner in which it is divided will go a long way towards determining how positive your post-divorce financial outlook will be.

When you consider that the vast majority of children in divorce cases, from my experience, live with their mother primarily after a divorce, the financial implications of the process can have a significant impact on their lives. Although more women are in the workplace now than in any prior generation, it is usually women who earn less money compared to their spouses and have a greater need for financial assistance after the divorce.

The first year after a divorce is usually the most difficult for families

When it comes to shouldering a significant financial burden, it is my belief that the first year after the divorce is the most difficult for families. This can be especially true for women. As a wife/mother it is possible that you were not in a position to contribute financially to the marriage due to your taking on a role as homemaker and mother. While you contributed a definite economic benefit through those services, you were not in earning an income.

Therefore, you will likely have to return to the workforce after a many-year absence. Relying upon public assistance programs is probably not what you want to do but that is a reality that many newly-single moms face after going through a divorce. My point in mentioning all of this is to say that if you are a woman and are considering whether or not to file for divorce this is a worthwhile issue to plan for. Do not put yourself into a position where you have gotten a divorce but are not prepared financially to move forward once the divorce has completed.

Staying home with the children after a divorce may not be possible

If you are a stay at home mom who has fulfilled that role for your family since the birth of your child, you may find that you are not in a financial position to be able to do so after your divorce. This is difficult not only for your kids but for you as well. The way that you value yourself and the impact on your children may be derived in large part from your ability to parent that child on a regular basis. Having to return to work and leave that child with a relative or child care provider could be something that is extremely difficult for you.

The financial problems associated with childcare are many. For one, if you are have recently re-integrated back into the workforce, your income likely is not that high. As such, child care costs would eat into the majority of what you earn on a monthly basis. You need to be sure in your divorce that you either negotiate for a significant enough portion of your communicate estate or negotiate a child support total that will allow for you and your children to pay for your essentials.

What are the main financial issues for men that are associated with a divorce?

Men feel the effects of divorce as well from a financial perspective, perhaps just not as acutely as do women. The most obvious financial impact of a divorce on a husband/father is the need to pay child support/spousal maintenance. If you are not named as the parent with the right to determine the primary residence of your child then you will likely be paying child support. The amount you pay is a function of how much your income you earn and how many children you have.

Spousal support is a little trickier to discuss as far as a blanket rule to give you. Typically, if you and your spouse have not been married for at least ten years then you cannot be ordered to pay spousal maintenance upon the conclusion of your divorce. Marriages that have lasted at least for a ten year period have various percentages that apply to an income as well as a limitation on how long the spousal maintenance can be ordered to be paid.

All of these costs that you may incur as a husband/father come into play at the same time as you are needing to buy new furniture, rent an apartment or home and pay any legal expenses associated with the divorce itself. Budgeting your money is critical for men and women going through a divorce, especially if you have never created a budget and lived within your means previously.

What legal options are available to you in regard to getting a divorce in Texas?

Unless your personal safety is at risk, you do not need to file for divorce on a whim or without thinking about your options first. Like we just went over, having a plan is a good thing as you head into a divorce case. You should work with your support system and family to make a decision as to what is best for you and your children moving forward. A divorce is like anything else that you go through in life- the effort that you put into your case will be equal to the results of your case.

If you go into your divorce with an aggressive mindset, you are likely to have aggression be the response of your spouse. In some cases, this is inevitable especially if your safety is at risk or your spouse has committed some other act of violence against you or your children. In that type of situation, you can and should file for temporary orders, protective orders and anything else that is available to keep you and your family safe. If your spouse comes back at you with anger and aggression then that just comes with the territory.

How long will your divorce take?

Divorces in Texas can take anywhere from two months to two years to complete. Very few divorces wrap up in two months and even fewer divorces will take two years. Divorce can be expensive but in most cases, it does not have to be. From my experience, most people going through divorces in Texas do not have the assets or the facts that necessitate a long and drawn out divorce case. Your case may involve children and some amount of community property but the solutions to solving whatever problems you have are likely not that complex and can be arrived at via negotiation.

Is your divorce uncontested?

This is a phrase that I hear from clients all the time when they will optimistically come into my office to speak to us about divorce. He or she is sure that their divorce will be uncontested. I’m not exactly sure how you define that word, but for me, uncontested means that there are no contested issues in your divorce. This means that you and your spouse must truly agree on every issue regarding financial matters and your children. If you disagree on any subject then you do not have an uncontested divorce.

However, if you believe that your divorce is either uncontested or nearly uncontested there may not be a need to proceed with a full-scale divorce case. What I mean by this is that after your petition for divorce has been filed, an Answer received and everyone ready to negotiate, you and your spouse may choose to mediate your case immediately in order to avoid a long and drawn out divorce.

Mediation is a process whereby you and your attorney and your spouse and their attorney agree to allow a third party, independent family law attorney step into your case and work with you all to negotiate the terms of a settlement. The end result of mediation is a Mediated Settlement Agreement which will be the basis for the final orders of your divorce.

Mediation allows you to bypass the rigors of a contested divorce and cut right to the chase. Custody, visitation, child support, spousal support, and a division of the community estate you share with your spouse will all be completed in mediation. If you cannot come to an agreement on any issue, your case can proceed to either a temporary orders hearing or trial. Likewise, if you learn information in mediation that you need to inquire about further, your attorney can submit requests for discovery upon your spouse so that he or she can provide you with information that may be relevant to your divorce case.

Do you need to hire an attorney for your divorce?

For most people, hiring an attorney is essential when getting a divorce. It is not necessarily because the issues associated with a divorce are overly complex. It is because there are many issues going on in a divorce simultaneously and unless you are experienced in working with divorcing people you will not be able to devote sufficient attention to each issue if you are working alone. The benefit to having a family law attorney represent you in a divorce is not only the level of experience that you are getting but also the attorney’s skill at negotiation and multi-tasking within the divorce are crucial to your achieving a just outcome.

Otherwise, if you and your spouse have a truly uncontested divorce, no children and very little in the way of community property to divide, then it may not be necessary for you to hire an attorney to represent you in a divorce. The state of Texas has online documents that can show you how to file for divorce, draft the paperwork and file it with the judge. Of course, issues may arise along the way, mistakes can be made and money can be lost due to delays associated with your case. For these reasons, I recommend hiring an attorney even if your case appears to be clear cut.

Questions about family law and divorce in Texas? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

Thank you for spending part of your day with us today learning about family law cases in Texas. If you have any questions or would like feedback about your particular case, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan today. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week where we can answer your questions and address whatever specific issues you have.

Our attorneys practice in all of the family courts in southeast Texas and have achieved positive results for clients in each. We pride ourselves on communicating well, having strong attention to detail and putting the interests of our clients ahead of everything else. We look forward to being able to speak to you about your case and your family

Curated by Texas Bar Today. Follow us on Twitter @texasbartoday.



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TSBEP Complaint Kelly / Alex Jones – Alissa Sherry Legal Consensus Psychologist – TBHEC Texas Family Courts

www.youtube.com/watch?v=U0OTiKAm9QU

www.change.org/p/investigation-into-forensic-custody-evaluator-dr-alissa-sherry-and-legal-consensus

TSBEP Complaint Kelly / Alex Jones – Alissa Sherry Legal Consensus Psychologist – TBHEC Texas Family Courts – Gloria Canseco, Darrel Spinks, Alissa Sherry, Legal Consensus

family-court-corruption.com/tag/alissa-sherry/

 

TSBEP, Custody Evaluation, Forensic Psychology, Texas Family Courts, TBHEC, Gloria Canseco, Darrel Spinks, Alissa Sherry, Legal Consensus

 

#TSBEP, #CustodyEvaluation, #ForensicPsychology, #TexasFamilyCourts, #TBHEC

Legalization of Hemp in Texas May Lead to the Decriminalization of Marijuana

Originally published by Family and Criminal Law Blog.

What are the benefits of decriminalizing marijuana in Texas?

In June of 2019, Texas lawmakers passed a bill allowing for the growth and sale of hemp. Several lawmakers emphasized to the public that the measure solely legalized hemp and did not represent a movement towards the legalization of marijuana. However, since the passage of the new hemp law, police officers across the state have struggled to distinguish marijuana from legal hemp. Prosecutors in several cities, including Austin, Houston, and San Antonio have reported dropping some marijuana possession charges because they simply do not have the time or equipment to test and assess what substances are legal and which are not.

Texas Cities Taking Steps Towards Decriminalization

Recognizing the ongoing issues to come for law enforcement officers, the Austin City Council will soon vote on a proposal that would essentially end arrests and fines for personal amounts of marijuana. The law would direct police officers to stop arresting or citing people with low-level marijuana cases in which the officers will struggle to test the substance to determine whether it is hemp or marijuana. The measure is expected to save the city from spending funds on laboratory testing. It is likely that other cities may pass similar legislation out of necessity.

Texas is not alone in facing this almost need to decriminalize as a consequence of legalizing hemp. Florida similarly legalized hemp just a month after Texas. Florida prosecutors report similar struggles. Before the legalization of hemp, laboratories would look for the hairs on marijuana flowers and test for the presence of cannabinoids. This process was quick and cost-effective. With hemp legal, labs must now analyze the THC concentration of the substance to assess whether it is legally considered marijuana or hemp. This can cost hundreds of dollars per test.

As Texas and Florida lawmakers struggle to determine whether legalization of marijuana is best for their states, other states have found advantages to decriminalization. Marijuana-related arrests tend to clog the docket and increase jail expenses. By instead citing defendants or simply not taking action when people are found to have small amounts of marijuana, cities can save funds and resources for the more significant crimes. For now, anyone in Texas arrested for possession of marijuana should contact a criminal defense lawyer for assistance fighting their charge.

Curated by Texas Bar Today. Follow us on Twitter @texasbartoday.



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