Dallas Court of Appeals Rules on Proper Notice for Child Support Cases

IN RE: IN THE INTEREST OF A.A., A CHILD

The Texas Family Code requires notice for a hearing on the petition for confirmation of a non-agreed child support review order, but does not specify the notice requirements. So, what must be included in such a notice to satisfy the due process rights of the parent on whom it is served? On August 23, 2013, this question was addressed by the 256th Judicial District Court in Dallas County, Texas.

Appellant Pedro Albarran was served with a Form #329 Notice (“notice”) and the petition for confirmation of non-agreed child support review order. The notice stated that a hearing had been set and provided the location of the hearing, but failed to include the date and time of the hearing. Mr. Albarran did not respond to the notice. The hearing took place over six months after service; during the hearing an order was confirmed by the trial court that established paternity of the child and ordered Mr. Albarran to pay child support. Mr. Albarran contended that the notice did not satisfy due process and was therefore insufficient to confer jurisdiction upon the trial court.

The Court’s decision was based on the general principles of due process of law, namely “fundamental fairness,” because there was no statutory guidance as to the notice requirements. The Court held that the failure to provide notice of the time and date of the hearing violated appellant’s due process rights and was not sufficient to assert jurisdiction over Mr. Albarran. Therefore, a notice for a hearing on the petition for confirmation of a non-agreed child support review order may satisfy due process by including at least a statement that the hearing has been set and also the location, date, and time of the hearing.