Chisum Marriage Strengthening Bill, HB 480, Hearing Starts at Capitol

9:20 p.m. Texas family violence folks have just testified.  Completely against the bill, even though the bill makes a huge exception for evidence of family violence.  Actually, Chisum’s bill offers more ways to show evidence of family violence than Rep. Guillen’s bill, HB 72, which provides an exception for family violence for the 60 day waiting period.  I bet the family violence folks are for that bill.

9:00 p.m.  Joan Jenkins, Texas Family Law Foundation attorney, thinks bill has serious problems — individuals take course by themselves.  If respondent doesn’t take a course, it can be a negative.  Family Code is being used to solve problems best solved outside of the courtroom.  Mandatory parenting course in divorce cases (in Harris County), eight-hour course.  Now we’re adding a 10-hour course to this.  People were using their money to get around the course requirement.  Pro-bono persons who are filing for divorce will not know the details of a divorce.  It will increase the costs of divorce (but, hey, it will be cheaper if they don’t go through with the divorce!).   Through all her “complaints”, not once did she propose a solution to any “problems” she has with the bill.  Basically, she, representing the Texas Family Law Foundation, and they are against.  No surprise.  Complaints, but no solutions. 

8:50 p.m. Gentleman from ANTHEM is testifying, introducing himself as a “Democrat in favor of HB 480.”  He is talking about young parents in the Dallas area being encoruaged to also take such courses.  Young woman just testified, about how the marriage education course did not save her marriage, but it helped her realize that she was being emotionally and physcially abused, and gave her the confidence to annul her marriage and save her life. 

8:30 p.m. update: Hearing has begun, I just finished testifying.  See my talking points below.  Rep. Chisum opened the hearing by quoting from President Obama’s recent book, where he supports marriage education courses.  

Cecilia Wood, a board-certified family law attorney who practices here in Austin, did an excellent job at providing the committee with details regarding the mechanics of how the bill works and practical realities of what adults deal with when considering divorce, with clarity for the committee.  Many of them just want to find a way to make their marriage work.  But only option in law is divorce, no offer of a marriage education course. -Watch Us Testify Live!!

HB 480, by Rep. Warren Chisum (R-Pampa) is being considered before the Judiciary and Civil Juirsprudence Committee.  Marriage and Family experts from across the state are in town to testify in favor of the bill.  We will also be presenting testimony in favor of HB 480, particularly in regards to the “costs” of divorce. The bill has a simple and extremely important goal: keep marriages together when kids are involved.  We have a simple goal, make some dent in the high divorce rate.

Click here to read an excellent recent article by Ashley Sanchez in the Austin-American Statesman on this issue.

HB 480 applies to person(s) seeking a no-fault divorce (the legal term is “insupportability”) where a child lives at the home.  At least one spouse would have to show proof that they have taken a marriage education course along with their divorce petition, in order to be able to file such a petition.  Any marriage with evidence of domestic violence is exempted.

This effort to strengthen and save marriages will be a great addition to the law passed in 2007, also by Rep. Chisum and supported by Free Market Foundation, which gives couples the option to take a pre-marriage education course in order to waive the $60 state marriage license fee.

We know that not only is family breakdown filled with emotional “costs” to the adults and the kids, we also know it has a staggering effect of costing Texas taxpayers $3 billion a year.  Click here for more details.  

We believe this legislation will go a long way in saving taxpayer dollars (we need every penny we can get in these tough economic times!) and saving marriages.  The result will be healthier parents, healthier kids, and a healthier Texas.

Click here for our talking points.hb-480-talking-points

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