Court of Appeals of Texas, Fifth District, Dallas
Appeal from the 330th Judicial District Court Dallas County,
Texas Trial Court Cause No. DF-13-09646
Chief Justice Wright, Justice Lang-Miers, and Justice
CAROLYN WRIGHT CHIEF JUSTICE
the Court is Mother's challenge to the trial court's
order sustaining the court reporter's contest to
Mother's statement of inability to afford payment of
court costs. See Tex. R. Civ. P. 145(g)(1). We
reverse the order.
filed the statement seeking to obtain without payment the
appellate record of her divorce and parental rights
termination proceedings.  The appeal from those proceedings,
which resulted in her rights to A.R.M. being terminated, is
docketed as appellate cause number 05-17-00539-CV.
statement, Mother listed as dependents a sixteen-year old son
and A.R.M. She stated she was a student and had no income
other than $511 which she received in food stamps
"pending appeal of termination of parental rights."
She also stated she had no cash, bank accounts, or
"other financial assets" and had outstanding debt
exceeding $225, 000 in legal fees. Her personal property
consisted of jewelry, which she valued at $300, and she drove
a car owned by her father. Her monthly expenses totaled $4240
and consisted in part of "rent/ house
payments/maintenance" in the amount of $1350,
"clothing and laundry" in the amount of $450,
"transportation, auto repair, gas" in the amount of
$400, and "school and child care" in the amount
$90. The expenses were paid by her boyfriend. The statement
reflected she was "financially eligible for [legal aid]
representation, but the provider could not take [her]
trial court's order followed a hearing on the court
reporter's contest. The court reporter did not dispute at
the hearing that Mother had no income because she was a
student and did not work. She testified she contested
Mother's statement because Mother had been represented at
trial by retained counsel paid for by her father. The court
reporter also questioned whether Mother's boyfriend could
pay the fee for the record, which she testified would be
$4800 "if it was a normal turnaround" and $9600
"if it was expedited[.]"
testified her father had paid over $165, 000 in legal fees
for her, but he was no longer "financially
supporting" her "in this litigation." In fact,
she was being represented by pro bono counsel.
her boyfriend, he had earned $76, 000 in the past year, but
money was "tight." Asked if she could afford to pay
for the record, Mother responded "no."
sustaining the contest, the trial court found in part that
Mother was not credible. The trial court also found specific
portions of Mother's statements to be "inaccurate,
false, and/or misleading, " including her claims of $450
in clothing expenses, $90 in school and child care expenses,
and $400 "for a vehicle she claims she does not
own[.]" The trial court found "[t]he household
earns $76, 000 per year" and, "[b]ased upon the
information provided for the Court's consideration, the .
. . household has approximately $3, 200.00 in disposable
LAW AND STANDARD OF REVIEW
Rule of Civil Procedure 145 exempts a party from paying court
costs, including the reporter's fee, if the party files a
statement showing he does not have the funds to pay.
See Tex. R. Civ. P. 145(a), (c). However, the clerk,
another party, the attorney ad litem in certain cases, the
court reporter, or the court itself may challenge the
statement of inability to pay costs by motion. See
id. 145(f)(1)-(4). The trial court may grant the motion
and order payment of costs if, following a hearing, the party
seeking to proceed without payment of costs fails to
establish his inability to afford costs. See id.
145(f)(5). The trial court may order the party pay that part
of the costs he can afford or pay in installments. See
id. 145(f)(7). If the trial court orders the party to
pay court costs, the court must support its order with
"detailed findings that the [party] can afford to pay
costs." See id. 145(f)(6). The central inquiry
under rule 145 "is not merely whether [the party] can
pay costs, but whether [he] can afford to pay costs" and
still pay for "basic essentials, like housing or
food." See id. 145, cmt. The party is not
required to show family or friends are unable to pay the
costs, and he is not expected to secure the necessary funds
by depriving himself and his family of the necessities of
life or borrowing money he cannot repay. See Allred v.
Lowry, 597 S.W.2d 353, 355 (Tex. 1980) (orig.
proceeding); Gofney v. Lowry, 554 S.W.2d 157, 159-60
(Tex. 1977) (orig. proceeding); Pinchback v.
Hockless, 164 S.W.2d 19, 20 (Tex. 1942).
appeal, the trial court's order to pay costs is reviewed
for abuse of discretion and will be affirmed unless the
record reflects the trial court acted in an arbitrary and
unreasonable manner or without reference to any guiding rules
or principles. See In re A.L.V.Z., 352 S.W.3d 568,
570 (Tex. App.-Dallas 2011, no pet.). As the fact finder, the
trial court is the sole judge of the credibility of the
witnesses and evidence. In re A.R., 236 S.W.3d 460,
471 (Tex. App.- Dallas 2007, no pet.) (op. on reh'g).
However, the trial court may not completely disregard the
only evidence ...