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FIRST IMPRESSIONS & SPLIT DECISION – FAMILY LAW: Availability of Attorney’s Fees aga

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In Z.O.M., the Bexar County Domestic Relations Office (DRO) filed a motion to enforce a child custody order against the child’s mother. At the hearing on the DRO’s motion, the mother prevailed. The trial court awarded the mother attorney’s fees against the child’s father. In a 1-1-1 decision, the 4th Court reversed and rendered. Justice Chapa and Justice Martinez agreed the attorney’s fees award against the father must be reversed.

The issue of first impression was whether the case was a Title IV-D case.

Justice Chapa concluded that because the father was not a party to the DRO’s motion and not a respondent, attorney’s fees were not available against the father under Family Code section 106.002 because he was never made a party to the SAPCR. Justice Chapa would have held the record failed to show the case was a Title IV-D case.

Justice Martinez concurred in the judgment, concluding that the case was a Title IV-D case, in which Family Code section 231.211 prohibits an attorney’s fees award against the governmental agency filing the suit or the parent who received services from that agency.

Chief Justice Marion dissented on the issue of attorney’s fees. She would have held the father could be held liable as a party and that the case is not a Title IV-D case as a matter of law. She also would have held the award of attorney’s fees was supported by the record.

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