Office of House Bill AnalysisH.B. 2964
By: Hamric
Judicial Affairs


Current law regulating pleadings and other filings in family law cases
allows for full public disclosure at the time of filing.  The information
contained in filings is sometimes used by family attorneys to solicit
business. Having instant access to this information may create a
potentially dangerous environment for those involved in the court
proceedings.  It is conceivable that an attorney who has access to this
information could contact a respondent before the process server has had an
opportunity to properly serve the respondent, which could place the
petitioner in a vulnerable and dangerous position if there is insufficient
time to prepare for any negative reaction by the respondent.  Since the
solicitation of business in family cases is legal, a complete prohibition
on the release of such information is not feasible.  However, placing time
limits on the release of such information might afford greater protection
to a petitioner.  House Bill 2964 requires that filing materials in suits
for dissolution of a marriage, suits affecting the parent-child
relationship, or applications for protective or temporary ex parte orders
remain confidential for specified time periods.   


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. 


House Bill 2964 amends the Family Code to provide that, except as otherwise
provided by law, in a county with a population of 2.8 million or more, all
pleadings and other documents filed with the court in a suit for
dissolution of a marriage or affecting the parent-child relationship or an
application for a protective order or a temporary ex parte order are
confidential and are excepted from required public disclosure under
provisions relating to public information.  H.B. 2964 prohibits such
pleadings and documents from being released to a person who is not a party
to the suit until after the date of service of citation or the 31st day
after the date of filing the suit, whichever date is sooner.  The bill also
prohibits an application for a protective order from being released to a
person who is not a respondent to the application until after the date of
service of notice of the application or the date of the hearing on the
application, whichever is sooner, and an application for a temporary ex
parte order from being released until after the date that the court or law
enforcement informs the respondent of the court's order.    


September 1, 2001.