In some Texas child support cases, attorney’s fees may be awarded. When a party fails to make child support payments, the court is to order that party to pay the other party’s reasonable attorney’s fees and court costs in pursuing the child support. The court may waive the requirement for attorney’s fees, however, if it finds good cause to do so and states its reasons.
In a recent case, a father challenged an award of attorney’s fees to the child’s mother. The father was ordered to pay child support in the divorce decree. He subsequently sued to recover child support payments that he claimed were in excess of his obligation. The mother denied the claims and asserted a counterclaim for back child support, unpaid medical support, and attorney’s fees. The trial court denied the father’s request for overpayments, determined the amount of arrearages that was owed, and awarded the mother that amount. The trial court also found each party was responsible for their own attorney’s fees.
The mother appealed, arguing the trial court should not have credited the father for payments that were made directly to her rather than through the registry of state disbursement. The appeals court affirmed that portion of the order but found the trial court abused its discretion in failing to award the mother attorney’s fees. The appeals court ordered the trial court to award the mother reasonable attorney’s fees or find good cause for denying such an award. The trial court held a hearing and awarded the mother more than $17,000 in attorney’s fees. The father appealed.