Signed by 51st District Judge Barbara Walther, the order provides for parents to retrieve their children from the various foster care facilities where they have been placed, beginning at 10 a.m. today.
Willie Jessop, an FLDS sect member and spokesman, asked news media to be aware that the reunions of parents with their children will be personal, and to please respect their privacy.
"We wish it was a better order, but we'll take it," he said. "We're grateful to get this order signed."
The terms of the release remain tough for sect members. Parents must agree to be photographed picking up their children, and to be fingerprinted and provide identification, as well as agree to attending "standard parenting classes," according to the order.
They also must agree not to interfere with the Texas Child Protective Services' ongoing investigation into alleged child abuse and neglect; allow CPS workers to visit, question and examine the children, both medically and psychologically, in their homes.
Further, the parents must provide seven days notice before any moves, and 48 hours notice of any travel more than 100 miles from their homes -- and they are prohibited from leaving Texas with their children.
Marleigh Meisner, a CPS spokeswoman, said the agency was "very pleased" with the order because it allows for the investigation to continue while providing for the safe return of the children, which CPS will try to do in a "prompt and orderly" manner.
In an emergency motion, attorney ad litem Natalie E. Malonis is asking the judge to stay the new order in connection with her client, an underage girl, saying it places her at risk from a possible "perpetrator."
In court on Friday, Malonis said she was investigating whether her client may have given birth to a child who is being claimed by another woman. Under questioning by Walther, Malonis said she did not know who that woman may be or where the child was staying.
The new filing said Malonis had reached an agreement with attorneys for CPS and for her client's mother, who agreed the girl would stay in state custody for another 30 days. Walther's order does reflect that agreement, Malonis objected.
Attorneys for two legal aid firms who successfully petitioned the Third Court of Appeals arrived at the courthouse at 8:15 a.m. and submitted their own order for the judge to sign. They had worked over the weekend to draft it and gather FLDS mothers' signatures, as proposed Friday by Walther.
But Walther had already come up with her own plan, a slightly modified version of the proposal she made Friday.
Changes in the signed order include an expanded radius of travel -- 100 miles rather than 60 miles -- the addition of fingerprinting and no specific date when the conditions will lapse. Attorneys had proposed limits of 90 or 120 days.
Julie Balovich and Kevin Dietz of Texas RioGrande Legal Aid had little to say after picking up the signed order. "We're just happy an order's been signed. My clients are incredibly grateful and just want to pick up their children as soon as they can," Balovich said.
Kirk Hawkins, a San Angelo attorney, said two of his clients were visiting sons in Amarillo today and will be able to take them home. But one of those clients also has children staying in Waco, Fort Worth and San Antonio. "It's going to take a while" to reunite the family, he said
"We're not super-pleased with the order but at least it gets everybody back," he said.
Attorney Andrea Sloan of the Texas Advocacy Project, who represents several adult women whose ages had been in dispute, said attorneys will eventually raise the issue of the unspecified time line for conditions on the families.
"At some point, the attorneys will say enough is enough," she said.
About 450 children were seized during a raid of the FLDS sect's El Dorado ranch in April. The raid came after alleged complaints about alleged under-age marriages and abuse.
While the order does not prohibit parents from returning to the ranch, some of choosing to live elsewhere, to show their willingness to work with CPS. Sloan said none of her clients plan to return to the ranch.
Joseph S. Jessop Sr., 27, a father who has been allowed to live with his wife and three children since their release from shelters in San Antonio, said the order is "a little bit better than I expected." But he added: "We'll probably stay here for the time being and see how things pan out."
Parents have obtained apartment and jobs, and also are relying on support from friends and families. Meisner said CPS is hoping to provide services to FLDS families to help them become "better parents." The agency also still feels "very strongly" there is cause for concern for the safety of some chidlren, she said.
"We have concerns about the safety of these children, which we have had since this investigation began April 3," she said.
At one point, the state claimed there were 31 underage girls were who were pregnant or mothers or both. That number dwindled to five as the state conceded most of the girls are actually adults. Those five girls will also be released under Walther's order, Meisner said.
The raid has "certainly been one of the most diffcult things we've ever been involved in as an agency," Meisner said, praising CPS staff.