HBA-SEB H.B. 2441 76(R) BILL ANALYSIS Office of House Bill AnalysisH.B. 2441 By: Goodman Juvenile Justice and Family Issues 3/19/1999 Introduced BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE Currently, courts have the authority to order parties in a suit for dissolution of a marriage to participate in parenting courses if the parties have children. H.B. 2441 requires a court to order parties to such a suit who have children to take a parent education and family stabilization course, unless the court exempts the parties for a good cause. It sets forth the contents for the course and designates who may offer the course. This bill also authorizes the court to prohibit spouses from taking the course together if the marriage has a history of family violence. RULEMAKING AUTHORITY It is the opinion of the Office of House Bill Analysis that this bill does not expressly delegate any additional rulemaking authority to a state officer, department, agency, or institution. SECTION BY SECTION ANALYSIS SECTION 1. Amends Subchapter E, Chapter 6, Family Code, by adding Section 6.410, as follows: Sec. 6.410. QUESTIONNAIRE. Requires a court in which a suit for dissolution of a marriage (suit) is filed to provide to the petitioner an unsigned anonymous questionnaire. Requires the petitioner to complete the questionnaire and return it to the clerk. Requires the clerk to maintain each questionnaire in a separate file in order to preserve confidentiality. Requires the clerk to provide the information on request to researchers from the Texas Tech University human development and family studies department. Requires the researchers to develop the questionnaire and provide sufficient copies to the clerks of the appropriate courts. SECTION 2. Amends Subchapter F, Chapter 6, Family Code, by adding Section 6.5055, as follows: Sec. 6.5055. PARENT EDUCATION AND FAMILY STABILIZATION COURSE. (a) Prohibits a court from rendering final judgment in a suit until both parties to the suit present proof of completion of a parent education and family stabilization course (course), unless the requirement is waived for good cause. Provides that the course requirement applies if the parties are parents of a child under 18 years of age who was born or adopted during the marriage. Encourages the parties to complete the course in the earliest possible stage of the suit in order to receive maximum benefit from the course. (b) Specifies that the parties are not required to attend the course together. Authorizes the court, on its own motion or the motion of either party, to prohibit the parties from taking the course together if there is a history of family violence in the marriage. (c) Provides that a course must be at least four hours in length and be designed to educate and assist divorcing parents with regard to the consequences of divorce on a family. Sets forth the information that must be included in the course. (d) Prohibits a course from being designed to provide individual mental therapy or individual legal advice. (e) Provides that a course satisfies the requirements of this section if it is offered by a mental health professional who has at least a master's degree with a background in family therapy or parent education, a religious practitioner who performs counseling consistent with the laws of this state, or another person designated as a program counselor by a church or religious institution. (f) Requires the county clerk in each county to establish a registry of course providers in the county and a list of locations where the courses are provided. Requires the clerk to identify courses in the registry that are offered on a sliding fee scale or without charge, if available. (g) Prohibits information obtained in a course or a statement made by a participant to a suit during the course from being considered in the adjudication of the suit or in any subsequent legal proceeding. Prohibits any report that comes out of participation in the course from becoming a record in the suit unless the parties stipulate to the record in writing. (h) Authorizes a court to take appropriate action on a party's failure to attend or complete a required course. (i) Requires a course provider to issue a certification of completion of the course to each participant upon completion. Requires the participant to pay a fee for attending the course in an amount determined by the court in which the suit is pending. SECTION 3. Amends Chapter 105, Family Code, by adding Section 105.009, as follows: Sec. 105.009. ATTENDANCE AT PARENT EDUCATION AND FAMILY STABILIZATION COURSE. Authorizes a court to require parties to a suit to complete a parent education and family stabilization course under Section 6.5055 before the court renders final judgment in the suit or issues a final order in a request for modification. This section applies to a suit involving parental rights or the issues of conservatorship and possession of and access to a child. SECTION 4. Amends Section 157.211, Family Code, to authorize the terms and conditions of community supervision to include the obtainment of counseling on conflict resolution and parenting skills. SECTION 5. Effective date: September 1, 1999. Makes application of this Act prospective. SECTION 6. Emergency clause.