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AG Says New Law Requiring Allocation of Divorce Filing Fees to Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Fund Is Unconstitutional

In an opinion issued Dec. 28, 2005, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said that a newly-enacted provision of the Government Code, section 51.961(g), violates Article I, section 13 of the Texas Constitution, known as the "open courts provision." The constitution states that "all courts shall be open," which has been interpreted to mean that fees for filing lawsuits may only go directly to court-related expenses for support of the judiciary. Section 51.961(g) requires half of the filing fee for divorce cases to be allocated to the state's child abuse and neglect prevention trust fund account. The Department of Family and Protective Services may draw on that fund for prevention programs and administrative costs, neither of which qualifies as court-related expenses for support for the judiciary. Accordingly, the Attorney General concluded that section 51.961(g) places an unconstitutional burden on a litigant's access to the courts. Click here to see the full text of the opinion.


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