Court of Appeals of Texas, Second District, Fort Worth
THE 322ND DISTRICT COURT OF TARRANT COUNTY TRIAL COURT NO.
MEIER and KERR, JJ.; and KERRY FITZGERALD (Senior Justice,
Retired, Sitting by Assignment).
MEMORANDUM OPINION 
ELIZABETH KERR JUSTICE
over three decades and involving four states, the facts of
this case present complex child-support-enforcement issues.
Appellant and Cross-Appellee Ann Rodriguez McKinnell (Mother)
and Appellee and Cross-Appellant James J. Audet, II (Father)
both appeal from the trial court's "Final Judgment
on Arrears" ordering Father to pay to Mother $64, 918.38
in child-support arrearages and interest and $15, 605.25 in
attorney's fees. We affirm in part and reverse and remand
and Father met in October 1981 when they were freshmen at
Regis College in Denver, Colorado, and soon afterward Mother
became pregnant. In May 1982, Mother, individually and on her
unborn child's behalf, sued Father in Colorado, seeking a
declaration of his paternity, pregnancy expenses, and child
support. Father was served in Colorado later that month.
1982, Mother moved to Alaska to live with her parents; Father
moved to Florida. Their daughter, R.R., was born in Alaska
February 1983, Mother applied for and received public
assistance from the State of Alaska. As a condition of
accepting public assistance, Mother assigned her
child-support rights to Alaska's Child Support
Enforcement Division. When applying for assistance, she
notified Alaska of the pending Colorado action, and Alaska
required Mother to complete some forms, including an
application to establish paternity, in which she indicated
that Father lived in Florida.
Colorado, in June 1983, the court signed a default judgment
finding that Father was R.R.'s father and ordering him to
pay $3, 449.62 to Mother for her pregnancy and confinement
costs and her attorney's fees. The trial court also
ordered Father to pay $450 a month in child support beginning
June 1, 1983.
next year, in July, the State of Alaska sought to enforce the
Colorado order by registering it in Florida under the Uniform
Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act (URESA). After a
hearing in October 1984, a Florida court entered an order
finding that the accumulated child-support arrearage under
the Colorado order was $7, 650 and modifying the child-support
amount to $246 a month starting November 1, 1984. Although
Father attended the 1984 hearing, it wasn't until June
2013 that Mother learned that a Florida court had lowered
Father's child-support obligation.
paid $48.55 to the Alaska Child Support Enforcement Division
in mid-January 1985. In March, that office sent a letter to
Father acknowledging his January payment, reminding him that
his next $246 payment was due on April 1, 1985, and seeking
support arrears of $8, 831.45, plus $339.95 in penalties and
interest. The State of Alaska continued to attempt to collect
child support from Father in Florida.
married in August 1985, moved to Texas shortly thereafter,
and currently resides here. In May 1987, Mother and R.R.
moved from Alaska to Colorado and have lived there ever
the late 1980s and early 1990s, the State of Alaska sent
letters to Father and his wife in Texas notifying them that
Father owed past-due child support and that the debt was
going to be referred to the Internal Revenue
Service for collection. During the same time period, Father
contacted Alaska by letter and by phone for information
related to the amount of arrearages. In December 1988, Alaska
wrote to Father to tell him that after conducting an
administrative review, "[a]rrears ha[d] been reduced to
$6, 263.45[, ] which represent[ed] only the past public
assistance debt due the State of Alaska" and that
because Mother was "no longer in the State of
Alaska" it could not "pursue her arrears or ongoing
support on her behalf."
in 1989, the State of Alaska tried unsuccessfully under URESA
to collect the public-assistance debt. The IRS did, however,
seize Father's and his wife's tax refunds for several
years, which Alaska then applied to Father's debt.
January 1996, Father settled his remaining $5, 429.75 debt to
Alaska for $2, 500. In February 1996, Alaska sent a letter to
Father stating, "WE HAVE CLOSED YOUR CASE AS PAID IN
FULL. WE HAVE BALANCED YOUR CASE AT ZERO." Years later,
in June 2002, the State of Alaska confirmed to a mortgage
company through which Father had applied for a loan that
"[t]he above referenced case was closed February 12,
1996, the obligation was paid in full."
had no contact with Mother after she left Colorado in 1982 or
with R.R. after she was born. Mother did not know where
Father was for most of R.R.'s life, and the last address
she had for him was in Florida. R.R. turned eighteen in
August 2000. In 2012, she found Father in Texas through an
internet search and told her mother.
then registered the 30-year-old Colorado order in Texas in
May 2013 and filed a "Notice of Application for Income
Withholding For Support (Judicial Writ of Withholding),
" alleging that Father owed $1, 515, 525.21 in
child-support arrearages and interest. Of that amount, only
$71, 341.03 represented arrearages; the rest was interest. In
July 2013, Mother registered the 1984 Florida order in Texas.
The trial court stayed the registration and enforcement of
case was tried to the bench in April 2014. R.R. was then 31
years old and a few weeks away from graduating from medical
school. Shortly before trial, Mother had amended her notice
of application for income withholding to change her
calculations, alleging that as of March 14, 2014, Father owed
$1, 072, 775.40 in child-support arrearages and interest
based on an alleged total arrearage of $49, 744.81. At trial,
Mother stipulated that the Florida order had modified
Father's monthly child-support obligation under the
Colorado order, but she contended that all other aspects of
the Colorado order-a statutory interest rate of 12%
compounded monthly and age of emancipation at 19 rather than
18-remained intact. She alleged that as of March 31, 2014,
arrearages and interest had grown to $1, 085, 985.27.
asserted that either laches or limitations barred
Mother's claims or, alternatively, that his total
arrearages, with interest, were only $69, 688.51. Father
derived that figure-a difference of over $1 million from
Mother's calculation-based on the arguments that (1) he
owed nothing before February
the date when Alaska notified him that it had closed his case
as paid in full; (2) he owed back child support from February
1996 only through R.R.'s 18th (not 19th) birthday under
Florida law; and (3) Florida's 10% simple interest rate
should be used instead of Colorado's rate of 12%
trial court's final judgment found that the Colorado
order was not subject to registration in Texas and confirmed
registration of the Florida order. The trial court also found
that R.R. was emancipated on August 31, 2000, her 18th
birthday. The trial court rendered judgment against Father
for child-support arrearages and accrued interest in the
amount of $64, 918.38 as of March 31, 2014. Agreeing with
Father's position, the trial court stated that "this
amount was determined by applying the interest rate of 10%
simple interest to the $246.00 monthly child support [as
Ordered from the Florida Order] beginning February 1, 1996
through March 1, 2014." [Brackets in original.] In
addition, the trial court ordered that Mother be granted a
judicial writ of withholding from Father's earnings,
requiring his present and future employers to withhold $450
per month from his earnings. Finally, the trial court
rendered judgment against Father for $15, 605.25 in
attorney's fees and for $573.38 in costs.
trial court filed findings of fact and conclusions of law.
Mother has appealed, and Father has cross-appealed.
See Tex. R. App. P. 26.1(a), (d).
regarding the payment of child support, including
confirmation of child-support arrearages as well as awards of
attorney's fees, are reviewed under an
abuse-of-discretion standard. Worford v. Stamper,
801 S.W.2d 108, 109 (Tex. 1990). A trial court abuses its
discretion if it acts without reference to any guiding rules
or principles, that is, if the act is arbitrary or
unreasonable. Low v. Henry, 221 S.W.3d 609, 614
(Tex. 2007); Cire v. Cummings, 134 S.W.3d 835,
838-39 (Tex. 2004). In family-law cases, however, the
abuse-of-discretion standard overlaps with the traditional
sufficiency standard of review; thus, legal and factual
insufficiency are not independent reversible grounds of error
but are relevant factors in assessing whether the trial court
abused its discretion. Neyland v. Raymond, 324
S.W.3d 646, 649 (Tex. App.-Fort Worth 2010, no pet.).
in determining whether an abuse of discretion has occurred
because the evidence is legally or factually insufficient to
support the trial court's decision, we engage in a
two-pronged inquiry: (1) did the trial court have enough
information upon which to exercise its discretion; and (2)
did the trial court err in applying its discretion?
Id. The applicable sufficiency review comes into
play with regard to the first question. Id. at
649-50. Concerning the second question, we determine, based
on the elicited evidence, whether the trial court made a
reasonable decision. Id. at 650.
court's findings of fact have the same force and dignity
as a jury's answers to jury questions and are reviewable
for legal and factual sufficiency of the evidence to support
them by the same standards. Catalina v. Blasdel, 881
S.W.2d 295, 297 (Tex. 1994); Anderson v. City of Seven
Points, 806 S.W.2d 791, 794 (Tex. 1991); see also
MBM Fin. Corp. v. Woodlands Operating Co., 292 S.W.3d
660, 663 n.3 (Tex. 2009). When the appellate record contains
a reporter's record, findings of fact on disputed issues
are not conclusive and may be challenged for evidentiary
sufficiency. Sixth RMA Partners, L.P. v. Sibley, 111
S.W.3d 46, 52 (Tex. 2003); Allison v. Conglomerate Gas
II, L.P., No. 02-13-00205-CV, 2015 WL 5106448, at *6
(Tex. App.-Fort Worth Aug. 31, 2015, no pet.) (mem. op.). We
defer to unchallenged findings of fact that are supported by
some evidence. Tenaska Energy, Inc. v. Ponderosa Pine
Energy, LLC, 437 S.W.3d 518, 523 (Tex. 2014).
sustain a legal-sufficiency challenge only when (1) the
record discloses a complete absence of evidence of a vital
fact, (2) the court is barred by rules of law or of evidence
from giving weight to the only evidence offered to prove a
vital fact, (3) the evidence offered to prove a vital fact is
no more than a mere scintilla, or (4) the evidence
establishes conclusively the opposite of a vital fact.
Ford Motor Co. v. Castillo, 444 S.W.3d 616, 620
(Tex. 2014); Uniroyal Goodrich Tire Co. v. Martinez,
977 S.W.2d 328, 334 (Tex. 1998), cert. denied, 526
U.S. 1040 (1999). In determining whether there is legally
sufficient evidence to support a particular finding, we must
consider evidence favorable to the finding if a reasonable
factfinder could, and disregard evidence contrary to the
finding unless a reasonable factfinder could not. Cent.
Ready Mix Concrete Co. v. Islas, 228 S.W.3d 649, 651
(Tex. 2007); City of Keller v. Wilson, 168 S.W.3d
802, 807, 827 (Tex. 2005). When reviewing an assertion that
the evidence is factually insufficient to support a finding,
we set aside the finding only if, after considering and
weighing all the pertinent record evidence, we determine that
the credible evidence supporting the finding is so weak, or
so contrary to the overwhelming weight of all the evidence,
that the finding should be set aside and a new trial ordered.
Pool v. Ford Motor Co., 715 S.W.2d 629, 635 (Tex.
1986) (op. on reh'g); Cain v. Bain, 709 S.W.2d
175, 176 (Tex. 1986); Garza v. Alviar, 395 S.W.2d
821, 823 (Tex. 1965).
review the trial court's legal conclusions de novo.
BMC Software Belg., N.V. v. Marchand, 83 S.W.3d 789,
794 (Tex. 2002). We may review conclusions of law to
determine their correctness based on the facts, but we will
not reverse because of an erroneous conclusion if the trial
court nonetheless rendered the proper judgment. City of
Austin v. Whittington, 384 S.W.3d 766, 779 n.10 (Tex.
2012) (citing BMC Software, 83 S.W.3d at 794);
H.E.B., L.L.C. v. Ardinger, 369 S.W.3d 496, 513
(Tex. App.-Fort Worth 2012, no pet.). That is, because a
trial court's legal conclusions do not bind us, we will
not reverse a trial court's judgment based on an
incorrect conclusion of law when the controlling findings of
fact support the judgment on some correct legal theory.
Wise Elec. Coop., Inc. v. Am. Hat Co., 476 S.W.3d
671, 679 (Tex. App.-Fort Worth 2015, no pet.).
Interstate Family Support Act and Full Faith and Credit for
Child Support Orders Act
Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA) relates to the
interstate enforcement of child support and contains
procedural rules for establishing, modifying, and enforcing
child-support obligations. Office of Attorney Gen. of
Tex. v. Long, 401 S.W.3d 911, 912-13 (Tex. App.-Houston
[14th Dist.] 2013, no pet.); see Tex. Fam. Code Ann.
§§ 159.001-.901 (West 2014 & Supp.
2016).Under UIFSA, a support order or
income-withholding order issued in another state may be
registered in this state for enforcement. Tex. Fam. Code
Ann. § 159.601. Such an order is registered
when it is filed in the registering tribunal of this state.
Id. § 159.603(a). Once registered, such a
support order is enforceable in the same manner and subject
to the same procedures as an order issued by a Texas
tribunal. Id. § 159.603(b).
state is required to adopt UIFSA. 42 U.S.C.A. § 666(f)
(West Supp. 2016). In addition, the Full Faith and Credit for
Child Support Orders Act ("FFCCSOA") requires
states to give full faith and credit to and to enforce child-
support orders from other states. 28 U.S.C.A. § 1738B
(West 2006 & Supp. 2016).
argues in her second issue that the trial court abused its
discretion by refusing to register the Colorado order as a
"controlling order" under family code section
159.207 in addition to the Florida order because both orders
control for different time ...