Getting a divorce can be expensive enough, as well as traumatic. But if you have a divorce in Texas and you lose a fight over child custody, it's common that you may be ordered to pay your ex-spouse's attorneys fees and costs. If that happens, don't believe for a minute that you can discharge or cancel that debt in bankruptcy.

In a case decided on October 22, 2014, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Marvin Isgur in Houston ruled that over $100,000 in attorney fees and costs incurred in a child custody dispute would not be discharged in the husband's chapter 13 bankruptcy case.

Not only that, but the court decided that the attorney fees and costs were a priority claim, and had to be paid in full during the bankruptcy plan because they were in the "nature of support" and therefore a "domestic support obligation" or DSO. The court allowed the priority proof of claim as a domestic support obligation. In re Beacham, Bankr. Court, SD Texas 2014.

If you are going to fight about child custody, have a very deep pocket. Not only will you have to pay your own attorney, if you lose you'll likely have to pay your ex-spouse's attorney and you likely will not be able to discharge that debt in bankruptcy. The debt (if any) to your own attorney can generally be discharged.

Do you think this is fair? Shouldn't the parties have to pay their own attorney fees? Or at least shouldn't attorney fees be able to be discharged in bankruptcy? What do you think? Please leave your comments below.

J Thomas Black
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Board Certified, Consumer Bankruptcy Law- Texas Board of Legal Specialization
Before my divorce I had a positive net worth, was a contributing member of society paying thousands of dollars per month. After my divorce, I went bankrupt, couldn't get a job and for years of what should have been the most lucrative time in my live I lived off welfare and paid no taxes There is no reason to try to succeed in a capitalistic society whos legal system is in the business of keeping children away from their parents for profit. Judging by the state of our economy, I'm sure I'm not the only one that refused to abandon their child, let daycare raise them, make as much money as possible just to ensure our legal community (2 full time incomes /life time earning potentials) to fight over. I am the first one in my family in generations not to become a millionaire. Because of family law I fear making money, I fear owning assets, I fear having money in the bank. I stopped pursuing my education knowing my education would be used against me in court. I stopped pursuing larger more lucrative jobs knowing that a spike in income would be used against me in court. Keeping children from their parents for profit is the sickest, most demented thing I can think of. And yet because it is so lucrative our most gifted minds choose to do nothing else with their lives and create nothing tangible with their careers.
by Vern Shoub November 29, 2015 at 09:54 AM
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