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Texas Family Law Judges Can Reign in Conflicting Foreign Laws

Q: Can Texas judges refuse to apply foreign law to family court matters?

Don’t mess with…us. Especially when it comes to family law matters.

State Representative Dan Flynn (R-Van) is on a mission. As Chairman of the House Committee on Pensions and Investments, he is authorized to seek opinions from the State Attorney General. He recently reached out to Texas AG, Ken Paxton, seeking an answer to the underlying question: To what extent can a Texas judge refuse to apply the law of a jurisdiction outside the United States in certain family law matters?

In that letter, he asked 12 questions that covered 19 different factual family law scenarios. In response, the AG issued Opinion-KP-0094 on June 15, 2016, responding to each of the points raised.

The crux of the crusade—and the resulting opinion-- is to ensure that Texas family law judges do not apply foreign law to Texas family law cases if doing so would violate Texans’ due process or constitutional rights or would violate Texas public policy.

What this means is that the fundamental rights of Texas citizens will be protected in family law matters where a foreign law or judgment is controlling in the particular matter. This is true even if the parties agreed to be bound by the laws of the other jurisdiction and even if there is a foreign family law judgment enforcement of which is being sought in Texas. Common foreign jurisdiction scenarios may include enforcement of foreign divorce orders, child support or property settlements.

To put this in perspective, family law judges are not required to enforce foreign judgments if doing so would be “repugnant to good morals” and the public policy of Texas or would violate Texans’ constitutional rights. Examples include child custody awards that would result in the child being removed to a foreign jurisdiction that supports or engages in any of the following: arranged marriages, slavery, dangerous child labor, female genital mutilation, or lacks laws against child abuse.

An experienced family law attorney can help you navigate the often-confusing world of divorce, child support, custody, and property settlements, particularly when issues of foreign jurisdiction are involved.

If you live in Texas and are considering divorce or seeking a modification of a prior court order, or if you have questions regarding a foreign jurisdiction’s role in your particular situation, enforcement of orders, or modification of orders, you need an experienced family law attorney to guide you and protect you through this difficult transition.

Stinson Moyle, PLLC specializes in family law, and handles all aspects of family and divorce law matters in Austin, Travis County, Williamson County and Hays County. Contact us at our Austin, TX location for a consultation regarding your family law or divorce matter. Or reach us by phone at (512) 948-3688.