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Different Deadline for De Novo Appeal between Associate Judges and IV-D Masters

On February 1, 2019

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A little known distinction in de novo appeals between Associate Judges and IV-D Judges is the time frame for filing the appeal.  As background, a litigant has the right to have an elected Judge rule on their case.  There are however many Associate Judge’s appointed to hear cases and their rulings stand unless a litigant complains.  Associate Judges are normally hearing cases initiated by the litigants themselves. IV-D Judges are also associate judges, but are almost exclusively hear matters initiated by the Attorney General’s Office most often involving child support and paternity.   Here’s a case where the trial court got the deadline’s wrong and the appellate court pointed out the distinction.

In re R.A.O., ___ S.W.3d ___, No. 14-17-00043-CV, 2018 WL 4571836 (Tex. App.— Houston [14th Dist.] 2018, no pet. h.) (09-25-18).

In the Case the Attorney General filed a motion to modify Father’s child support obligation. After a hearing, the IV-D issued an order and the  Father filed a request for a de novo review. At a hearing before the district court, the district court decided that the Father’s de novo appeal was not timely. Father appealed to the Houston Court of Appeal which reversed the trial court.

The appellate court pointed out that Subchapter B of Texas Family Code Chapter 201 affords specialized judges for Title IV-D cases. Although subchapter B incorporates some of the general provisions of subchapter A—applying generally to associate judges—subchapter B also contains provisions that differ from those in subchapter A. No party disputed that the associate judge was a Title IV-D judge. Under the Texas Family Code Section 201.015(a)—of subchapter A—a party must request a de novo hearing no later than the third day after receiving notice of the substance of the AJ’s report. Thus, if the associate judge had not been a Title IV-D judge, that deadline would have been the third day after the judge’s oral ruling. However, because the judge was a Title IV-D judge, Section 201.1042 applied, which provides that a party must request a de novo hearing not later than the third working day after the date the Title IV-D judge signs the proposed order or judgment.

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