Why did HB 3379 Texas’s Equal Shared Parenting Bill fail?

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After the previous session’s (2021) HB 803 Texas Equal Shared Parenting bill, although having 20 sponsor/co-sponsors and 100s of witnesses failed once again to pass the JJFI committee (Pt1 and Pt2 hearings), Representative David Cook committed to introducing an equal shared bill.

This video gives a short explanation as to why the bill did not “make it”

Why did HB803 Equal Shared Parenting Bill fail?

Later, Dallas Rep Rafael Anchia took credit for killing the bill (hear it in his own words):

Dallas Rep Rafael Anchia takes credit for killing HB803 Equal Shared Parenting Bill

In 2023, after the House voted themselves a week’s vacation, David Cook introduced HB 3379 and it was placed in the JJFI, a committee he sits on, chaired by Harold Dutton Jr. The bill aimed to create a presumption of equal parenting time for both parents in child custody cases, with exceptions for cases involving family violence or other extenuating circumstances. A “companion” bill SB1702 was also introduced by Mays Middleton (who authored the 2021 bill HB 803) in the Senate.

Both bills languished in their respective committees as the equal shared parenting community called and asked for a hearing as we knew that it would pass a floor vote if/when it passed the committee. Further, the Chair of the committee, Harold Dutton Jr himself had introduced an equal shared parenting bill in 2017. Coupled with David Cook and the others’ familiarity with the issue, its review should have been a “rubber stamp”. Both of the bill’s merits were discussed on the Pissed Off Parent show shortly after they were introduced. In later shows learned that the primary opposition came, once again from the Family Law Foundation. As the weeks continued on, it became apparent that for whatever reason the JJFI was not wanting to move the bill(s) forward, instead giving time to the FIVE Retroactive Child Support bills, Harold Dutton Jr (the JJFI chair) and David Cook’s pet bills, and amongst others a bill by Meza HB 811 that would allow a woman smoking CRACK to not get turned in by CPS, doctors, etc.!!!!!

Supporters of the equal shared parenting bills would argue that it would create a more fair and equitable family court system, where both parents would have an equal say in important decisions regarding their children’s upbringing. These bills were seen as a way to promote greater stability, security, and emotional well-being for children, while also giving both parents a greater sense of responsibility and accountability.

Despite widespread support for the bill, it ultimately failed to even get a hearing. The only statement that came out was that Harold Dutton Jr said he received what he believed was a threatening voicemail….much like the same thing that was said during the 2017 session.

Researching the history of equal-shared parenting bills in Texas revealed that equal-shared parenting bills have been introduced over the last several years and failed for no reason:

  • 2007 – HB 2157, HB 3414, HB2927
  • 2009 – HB 1611
  • 2011 – HB 1229, HB 2554, SB 522
  • 2013 – None
  • 2015 – HB 2363 (passed JJFI, but died in Calendar Committee)
  • 2017 – HB 453
  • 2019 – HB 2157
  • 2021 – HB 803
  • 2023 – HB 3379, SB1702

While the failure of the Equal Shared Parenting Bill is undoubtedly disappointing for its supporters, it also highlights the ongoing challenges and complexities of family court reform. The author noted the behaviors of the respective representatives over the years, the history track of each bill and cannot help but compare it to this text:

Despite these challenges, however, it is important to remember that progress is still possible. Advocates for equal parenting rights will continue to push for reforms (but hopefully from a different perspective), building support and raising awareness about the importance of this issue. In the meantime, parents and families can take steps to ensure that their voices are heard in the family court system, working with (a) group(s) that are committed to making change as well as being the best parent they can be.

Ultimately, the passage of the Equal Shared Parenting Bill would have represented a major milestone in the ongoing fight for more fair and equitable family court practices. While the bill’s failure is certainly a setback, it is also a reminder of the importance of perseverance, and of the many parents and children who continue to advocate for a more just and compassionate family court system.

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