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Exceptions to "The American Rule" for Attorney's Fees in Texas Family Law Actions

As explained in an article published contemporaneously with this article, Texas generally follows “The American Rule” for litigation in Texas. In the context of family law cases in Texas, this general rule provides that each party is responsible for their own attorney's fees and litigation costs. There are certain circumstances, however, under which the court may order one party to pay the attorney's fees of the opposing party. This article explains the exceptions to "The American Rule" for attorney's fees in Texas family law actions.

Under the Texas Family Code, exceptions to this general rule are potentially available in the following situations:

Financial Disparity: If there is a significant difference in the financial resources of the parties, the court may order the party with more financial resources to pay a portion or all of the other party's attorney's fees. This is often done to ensure that both parties have equal access to legal representation and to prevent an unfair advantage.

Contempt of Court: If one party fails to comply with court orders or engages in contemptuous behavior, such as intentionally hindering the other party's ability to present their case, the court may order the non-compliant party to pay the attorney's fees of the other party.

Frivolous or Unreasonable Actions: If a party engages in frivolous or unreasonable litigation tactics, such as filing baseless motions or unnecessarily prolonging the case, the court may order that party to pay the attorney's fees of the other party. This is done to discourage unnecessary litigation and to ensure that the court's time is used efficiently.

Breach of Fiduciary Duty: In cases involving a breach of fiduciary duty, where one party has failed to disclose financial information or has misappropriated marital assets, the court may award attorney's fees to the innocent party as a form of compensation.

Safeguarding the Best Interest of a Child: When the court determines that it is necessary to protect the best interests of a child involved in the case, it may order one party to pay the attorney's fees of the other party. This is typically done if one party engages in actions that are detrimental to the child's well-being or attempts to frustrate the other party's efforts to establish a safe and stable environment for the child.

It's important to note that the decision to award attorney's fees is at the discretion of the court. The court will consider various factors, such as the financial resources of the parties, the reasonableness of the positions taken by each party, and the overall circumstances of the case. Each case is unique, and the court will make its determination based on the specific facts and circumstances presented.

It's advisable to consult with an experienced family law attorney in Texas who can provide guidance and represent your interests regarding attorney's fees in your specific case.


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