Good morning, HFLA readers! This morning we have two memorandum opinions, one from the First District Court of Appeals and the second from the Fourteenth on nunc pro tuncs and amicus fees, respectively. Also, from last week (better late than never), an interesting concurrence in the denial of a petition for review from the Texas Supreme Court on adult disabled child support.
Taking the First first, in Leblanc v. Leblanc, No. 01-16-00777-CV, appellant appealed from the trial court’s granting of appellee’s motion for judgment nunc pro tunc. According to appellee, at a final hearing in January 2005, the court had rendered judgment ordering appellant to pay $435/mo in child support and $108.92 in medical support, but the final order mistakenly omitted the amount of child support, i.e. the blank was left empty. The docket sheet from January 31, 2005 stated “Reimb her for med ins $108.92 C/S 435.” The Withholding Order required appellant to pay $543.92 month. 435 + 108.92 = 543.92. The docket sheet was the only item admitted into evidence. The JNPT was granted and appellant appealed, arguing in nine issues that appellee failed to prove a clerical error existed. The COA found the evidence was sufficient. Additionally, appellant asserted a laches argument but the COA found this lacked merit because, while appellant showed how he would be harmed by the enforcement of an amended judgment, he did not show how he would be harmed by entry of the amended judgment. The trial court was affirmed.
In In re M.K.M.L., No. 14-17-00010-CV, father appealed the award of amicus attorney’s fees in the amount of $22,910.00 incorporated into a modification order. Specifically he challenged the evidence in support of the award and the award’s allocation. The record on appeal did not include the reporter’s record for the hearing in which the amicus’ request for fees was heard, so the evidence was presumed sufficient by the COA. As for the allocation, no evidence was presented on that issue in the trial court, and thus the COA overruled the issue.
Finally, last week the Texas Supreme Court denied a petition for review in In re D.C., 13-15-00486-CV from the 13th Court of Appeals. Justice Guzman, formerly of the Fourteenth COA and the 309th Judicial District Court, wrote a concurrence concerning the lack of guidance provided by the statute and to “highlight some of the legal inquiries that require direction from the Legislature and guidance from the Court.” Specifically, she explicitly states the Supreme Court will take up the issue of TFC § 154.302’s vagueness and ambiguity (and perhaps provide a test for the courts to employ) if the right case comes up and Legislature has not supplemented the statute.
In this case, when the parents divorced, the child was 14 years old. The trial court considered only lay testimony and found the requirements of TFC § 154.302 satisfied and ordered father to pay child support indefinitely. More than ten years later, father filed a motion to terminate the monthly support. By that time, the child had aged out, graduated from college with a double major, lived in a dormitory by himself, and had begun pursuing a master’s degree. Again, only lay testimony was offered concerning the child’s disability, self-supportability, and need for care and supervision. The trial court declined the motion to terminate the support but ordered the mother to apply for all government services the child may qualify for, including Social Security, and stated the parties could revisit the issue if the child began receiving such benefits. The Court of Appeals affirmed, finding father did not establish there had been a material and substantial change in the child’s circumstances since the decree was entered.
Justice Guzman noticed that the statute does not define mental or physical disability or specify what type of proof is required to meet the statutory standard. “But parents need to know what they need to prove and how they need to prove it.” After considering many of the questions that the statute raises, and noting that many of the decisions from Texas courts vary greatly in the “nature and quantum of proof,” Justice Guzman all but issued a plea to the Legislature to develop a standard or the Supreme Court will have to provide it.
Hat tip to Janice Berg for drawing my attention to the concurrence!