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In re Office of The Attorney General

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fifth District, Dallas

December 5, 2019

IN RE THE OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL, Relator

          On Appeal from the 254th Judicial District Court Dallas County, Texas Trial Court Cause No. 10-21096

          Before Justices Whitehill, Partida-Kipness, and Pedersen, III

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          BILL WHITEHILL JUSTICE.

         Relator, the Office of the Attorney General (OAG), seeks mandamus relief from the trial court's order directing the OAG to provide Father's attorney with Mother's last known address. The OAG argues that the trial court abused its discretion because the Texas Family Code prohibits that disclosure and there is no adequate appellate remedy. The OAG further argues that the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction because the order constitutes an unlawful mandatory injunction against a constitutionally designated executive officer.

         We conclude the trial court abused its discretion because the Family Code prohibits releasing confidential information about a custodial parent under the circumstances present here and the OAG is entitled to mandamus relief. We further conclude that the trial court's order was not an injunction prohibited by the Government Code. As a result, we conditionally grant the writ.

         I. Background

         The underlying case involves a suit affecting the parent-child relationship. In 2010, Mother and Father were appointed joint managing conservators and Mother was awarded the exclusive right to determine the child's residence.

         But in 2011, Mother moved to modify the order and alleged that Father committed "aggressive behavior" and "assault with a deadly weapon" against her brother. Among other things, Mother asked to be appointed sole managing conservator and that the court "not . . . disclose the social security number and driver's license numbers, current address, and telephone numbers in the Final Order because providing that information [was] likely to cause the child or conservator harassment, abuse, serious harm, or injury." Father did not appear at the hearing on Mother's motion.

         The trial court subsequently appointed Mother the child's sole managing conservator and suspended Father's access "based on the history of family violence." As to Mother's request to not disclose certain information, the trial court's order stated that the information was contained in a prior court order.

         On April 30, 2019, Father moved to modify the foregoing order and asked that he be appointed sole managing conservator because Mother was deceased. The associate judge held a temporary orders hearing, abated Father's child support, and ordered the OAG to provide Mother's last known address to Father's attorney.

         The OAG appealed the associate judge's ruling to the district court, which conducted a hearing. At the hearing, Father's attorney told the court that Mother was deceased, and Father wanted custody of the child. The attorney said that Father's last contact with the child was in the summer of 2019, which contact he had by agreement with Mother. After he learned of her death, Father went to the address where he had last seen the child, but there was no one there. Father did not know the child's location or the name of the person caring for the child and asked the trial court to order the OAG to provide that information to him.

         After hearing arguments, the trial court orally ordered the OAG to provide Mother's last known address to Father's attorney within a week.

         The OAG then filed this original proceeding and requested a temporary stay of the order to release confidential information. By order dated June 25, 2019, we granted the stay pending resolution of this matter and asked Father to file a response. To date, Father has not done so.

         II. ...


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