Domestic Relations Offices - Texas Family Law
Domestic Relations Offices
Texas Family Law
§ 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.
§ 203.002. ESTABLISHMENT OF DOMESTIC RELATIONS OFFICE.
A commissioners court may establish a domestic relations office.
§ 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.
§ 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 § 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.
§ 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 §§ 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 § 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 § 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 § 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.
§ 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.
§ 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. § 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 § 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 § 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 § 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;
(4) date of birth;
(5) social security number; and
(6) telephone number.
TEXAS FAMILY CODE, TITLE 5. SUBTITLE C. CHAPTER 203.