Attorney’s Fees in Child Support Cases


In Tucker v. Thomas, 12-0183, 2013 WL 6509931 (Tex. Dec. 13, 2013), the Texas Supreme Court settled a disagreement among appellate courts as to whether attorney’s fees could be awarded as additional child support in non-enforcement modification suits. The majority of appellate courts that addressed this issue held that a trial court could not order a parent to pay attorney’s fees as additional child support in non-enforcement modification suits.

Here, the Supreme Court sided with the majority of appellate courts. The Court reasoned that trial courts have no inherent authority to characterize attorney’s fees as additional child support without express statutory authorization. §157.167(a) does authorize trial courts to characterize attorney’s fees as additional child support in enforcement modification suits. §157.167(a) (providing that an award of attorney’s fees may be enforced by the same means available for the enforcement of child support). On the other hand, the section addressing attorney’s fees in non-enforcement modification suits, §106.002, does not authorize trial courts to characterize attorney’s fees in this way. Rather, §106.002 only permits attorneys to collect fees through the “means available for the enforcement of a judgment for debt.” Thus, the Court concluded that the Legislature did not give trial courts this power.

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