Austin, Texas – – While the clock is ticking for the 2021 legislature in Texas, a custody bill awaits a committee hearing.
The parents FOX7 spoke to are calling for this legislation to be given a chance to vote before it’s too late.
“I’m not just a stepmother, I’m a child of divorce, my husband is a child of divorce, my son’s mother is a child of divorce, his stepfather is a child of divorce,” said SarahJae Johnston, regional manager for the Patriotic Rights Movement’s southwest. “We know the consequences from generation to generation when we have these really bad archaic and misogynistic laws.”
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Johnston is referring to the current Texas Standard Ownership Ordinance which defaults to a 75/25 split between parents instead of 50/50 with the option to change in the event of a divorce. House Bill 803, currently awaiting a committee hearing, would change the default to equally shared parenting as long as both parents are deemed capable.
“If you go in now you start with a 75/25 split which increases the litigation and fighting because if you don’t crush that other parent in family court you will only see your child 25 percent of their life,” he said Johnston.
Johnston himself knows about litigation, fighting, and the financial cost. She said that between her, her husband, his ex-wife, and his ex-wife’s current husband, they spent around $ 14,000 in legal fees to protect the parenting of their son Jeremy, who is also an active advocate of child custody. to share equally change.
“This is really about the kids,” said Johnston. “Our standard ownership ordinance in our family code currently says for children: ‘You get your left arm all the time, but we only let you use your right arm for four days a month plus four hours.'”
Johnston believes it’s a women’s problem too. According to the Public Prosecutor’s Office, around 92% of the caring parents are women.
“We tell young girls that you can do all these amazing things, you can be more than a housewife, but when they go to family court we take away their skills,” she said. “We say no, you will be 100% responsible, you will always be the one to do this, and it would be nice if Dad would attend, but by law we just go by saying he doesn’t have to. “
Derek Berry, single father of three children, is also committed to HB 803 in his own experience in the fight for custody. “After a long, drawn-out, and expensive process and five lawyers, I finally got a 45/55 joint conservatory,” he said.
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His grassroots organization Texas 25.03 is now supposed to help families control the custody process. “None of this would have to be present if they were parents,” he said.
At the moment, HB 803 has stalled. It has not yet received a hearing in the Committee on Youth Justice and Family Affairs, chaired by MP Victoria Neave (D-Dallas). Berry and Johnston, along with many other parents who share their concerns on Facebook comments, wonder why.
“With 21 co-sponsors and bipartisan support, we’re really scratching our heads,” said Berry. “Let’s at least vote on it.”
Ultimately, Johnston and Berry believe that money is at stake. “In my personal opinion, the bottom line is money,” said Johnston. “If you resolve the conflict, you will lower the litigation, which will lower the income of lawyers for those of us who end up going to court over and over again.”
Other bills tabled during this term addressing family custody issues were SB 2011, HB 2153, and HB 4240. Johnston and Berry were in the Capitol on Monday to speak at a hearing for HB 4240. They are still waiting for a hearing for HB 803.
FOX7 contacted Rep. Neave’s office on Wednesday and heard nothing.