Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Sensitive Data In Filed Family Law Documents

Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 21c Privacy Protection for Filed Documents has had a substantial impact on family law cases.

A divorce with children could, and oftentimes will, have filings that include all of the types of sensitive data this rule addresses. Rule 21c became effective January 1, 2014, and it states:

(a) Sensitive Data Defined. 
Sensitive data consists of: (1) A driver’s license number, passport number, social security number, tax identification number, or similar government issued personal identification number; (2) a bank account number, credit card number, or other financial account number; and (3) a birth date, home address, and the name of any person who was a minor when the underlying suit was filed.

(b) Filing of Documents Containing Sensitive Data Prohibited. 
Unless the inclusion of sensitive data is specifically required by a statute, court rule, or administrative regulation, an electronic or paper document, except for wills and documents filed under seal, containing sensitive data may not be filed with a court unless the sensitive data is redacted.

(c) Redaction of Sensitive Data; Retention Requirement.
Sensitive data must be redacted by using the letter “X” in place of each omitted digit or character or by removing the sensitive data in a manner indicating that the data has been redacted. The filing party must retain an unredacted version of the filed document during the pendency of the case and any related appellate proceedings within six months of the date the judgment is signed.

(d) Notice to Clerk.
If a document must contain sensitive data, the filing party must notify the clerk by: (1) designating the document as containing sensitive data when the document is electronically filed; or (2) if the document is not electronically filed, by including on the upper left hand side of the first page the phrase: “NOTICE: THIS DOCUMENT CONTAINS SENSITIVE DATA.”

(e) Non-Conforming Documents.
 The clerk may not refuse to file a document that contains sensitive data in violation of this rule. But the clerk may identify the error to be corrected and state a deadline for the party to resubmit the redacted, substituted document.

(f) Restrictions on Remote Access.
Documents that contain sensitive data in violation of this rule must not be posted on this rule. Texas Family Code Section 102.008 “Contents of Petition” subsection (a) requires that the petition and all other documents filed in all suits affecting the parent-child relationship, except suits for adoption, be entitled “In the interest of______________, a child.” Section 102.008 (b) requires that petitions include the name and birthdate of the child. If the child’s name must be in the title of all documents filed in a suit affecting the parent child relationship, and the child’s name is sensitive data, aren’t all filings going to include sensitive data? It is entirely possible that a Judge could reach that conclusion.

 Many attorneys use the child’s initials in place of the child’s full name in the style of all documents filed after the original petition. However, this would not comply with a strict interpretation of Texas Family Code Section 102.008 (a). It is best that you contact the court clerk to determine if the Judge in your case has a stance on this issue and if so, how they want you to style your filings. Texas Family Code Section 105.006 (a) lists the information that must be included in a final order in a suit affecting the parent child relationship, except for terminations and adoptions. This information is as follows:

(1) the social security number and driver’s license number of each party to the suit, including the child, except that the child’s social security number or driver’s license number is not required if the child has not been assigned a social security number or driver’s license number; and
(2) each party’s current residence address, mailing address, home telephone number, name of employer, address of employment, and work telephone number, except as provided by Subsection (c). This means that in all final orders in suits affecting the parent-child relationship, other than termination and adoptions, there will be numerous types of sensitive data.

 Many attorneys will redact social security numbers, and driver’s license numbers and leave only the last three to four digits in the final order. A strict interpretation of Texas Family Code Section 105.006 (a) and Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 21c (b) is that the driver’s license numbers and social security numbers are required by statute and therefore should not be redacted. Again, the best way to determine how to address this situation is by calling the court clerk to determine the court’s preference. 

Monday, April 18, 2016

India Considers Challenge to Muslim Divorce

India’s Supreme Court is considering petitions that challenge Muslim laws governing marriage on the grounds that they discriminate against women, a charged issue that risks angering the country’s orthodox Muslims.
A panel headed by the chief justice that is hearing the petitions directed the government this week to release an official 2015 report that looks at the impact of some of India’s religion-specific laws on women’s rights and recommends legal reform.
Among the petitioners calling for change is Shayara Bano, a Muslim woman whose husband, after 13 years of marriage, divorced her by triple talaq, a practice that allows Muslim men in India to leave their wives unilaterally and often instantaneously by saying “talaq,” meaning divorce, three times. Other similar petitions were put together by the court and are being heard at the same time.The next hearing in the case is expected in May.
The Indian constitution protects gender equality, but on issues of marriage, divorce and inheritance, different religious communities are governed by their own so-called personal laws. Whether a person is subject to those laws is usually determined by their religion at birth.
Muslim clerics and scholars have rebuffed demands for unifying personal laws into a common civil code for all Indian citizens—advocated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party—rejecting what they call attempts to interfere with their religious practices in Hindu-majority India. There are more than 170 million Muslims in the country out of a 1.2 billion population.
Muslim women’s rights groups argue that the practice of triple talaq misinterprets the Quran and is protected by orthodox Muslim men to perpetuate patriarchy. In her petition, Ms. Bano asks the court to declare it illegal as it “practically treats women like chattel,” infringes their “basic right to live with dignity” and violates their fundamental rights to equality and life guaranteed under the constitution.
Source: The Wall Street Journal

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Mississippi Ban on Gay Adoption Declared Void

A federal judge in Mississippi ordered the state to drop its ban on adoptions by same-sex married couples, saying Wednesday that it doesn’t pass muster under the Supreme Court’s 2015 landmark marriage ruling.
The law was said to be the last of its kind in the U.S. But efforts to skirt the full implementation of the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges using laws described as “religious freedom acts” remain alive and well in a number of Republican-led states along with measures permitting discrimination against transgender people.
The state’s prohibition on adoption by same-sex couples was enacted in 2000, as state and federal courts began the process of legalizing same-sex marriage, and reads, simply, “Adoption by couples of the same gender is prohibited.”
It was challenged by four lesbian couples wishing to adopt children either privately or through the state’s foster care system.
Judge Daniel P. Jordan III, of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi, called the state’s defense of the law “tepid,” based mostly on issues of standing, and which agency or part of government could or could not be sued.