You Can Only Make the OAG do so Much…

Recently , the Fourteenth Court of Appeals confirmed limits on what you can force the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) to do. In in-re-h-g-j  No. 14-15-00551-CV, 2016 WL 6561468 (Tex. App.–Houston [14th Dist.] 2016, no pet. h.) (11-03-16), the Court used Texas Government Code 22.002(c) to bar the lower court from ordering the OAG to disburse funds to a party other than the custodial parent.

Texas Government Code 22.002(c) states:

Only the supreme court has the authority to issue a writ of mandamus or injunction, or any other mandatory or compulsory writ or process, against any of the officers of the executive departments of the government of this state to order or compel the performance of a judicial, ministerial, or discretionary act or duty that, by state law, the officer or officers are authorized to perform.

An injunction includes an order mandating particular conduct, such as making a disbursement to the amicus in this case.

Since the Attorney General himself is an officer of the executive department, his agency falls under this statute, and only the Supreme Court of Texas could compel the disbursement of funds.

While the holding is correct, this limits the ability of a non-custodial parent to recover funds that should not have been paid or were taken. For example, sometimes there is a delay between a new final order terminating child support and an employer implementing that order, and wages are improperly withheld. Or a tax check for over payment of taxes is withheld by the OAG because the order terminating child support has not been processed. Both situations result in monies going to the custodial parent and now, without the option to force the OAG to put a hold on those funds for disbursement back to the noncustodial parent, the noncustodial parent must sue the custodial parent. Many times they can end up with a judgment but the money is long gone.

NOTE: This court chose to sidestep an analysis of executive director as outlined in Texas Gov’t Code 22.002(c), such as the Attorney General, and an executive agency, like the Office of the Attorney General, but I would believe that the general thought of separation of powers should hold true to both.

 

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