Posted on Oct 28, 2014

If you have a divorce in Harris County, Texas and you lose a fight over child custody, you may be ordered to pay your ex-spouse's attorneys fees and costs. If that happens, don't think that you can discharge or cancel that debt in bankruptcy. It's just not likely to happen.

In a case decided on October 22, 2014, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Marvin Isgur sitting 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.

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 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.

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

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J Thomas Black
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Board Certified, Consumer Bankruptcy Law- Texas Board of Legal Specialization