Divorce spills over into appeals court: Justices reverse ruling ordering Tom to pay for wife's divorce lawyers

David Yates Mar. 24, 2010, 6:15am

One of Southeast Texas' most well known businessmen will stay $100,000 richer, as an appeals court opinion has reversed a lower court's ruling ordering Thomas Flanagan to pay his wife's divorce lawyer's fees.

On March 18 justices seated on the Ninth Court of Appeals of Texas issued a per curiam opinion stating that Judge Judge Larry Thorne abused his discretion when he ordered Thomas Flanagan to pay Gina Flanagan's lawyers $100,000.

Judge Thorne is presiding over a suit for modification of conservatorship filed by Thomas in May 2009.

On Dec, 21, 2009, Thorne temporarily transferred primary custody of the couple's children to Tom.

In response, Gina filed a motion in which she alleged that Thomas "is using his vast wealth to try to economically mash (her) into submission" and requested that Thomas be ordered to pay Gina's attorneys $100,000 "to level the playing field."

"I do believe that she doesn't have the ability to maintain this lawsuit on an even playing field for the best interest of the children unless she gets some help," Judge Thorne said during the hearing.

The opinion says that Gina's counsel relied solely upon Texas Family Code section 106.002 to impose liability on Thomas for Gina's attorney's fees. Section 106.002 does not authorize the trial court to order payment of the opposing party's attorney's fees before judgment.

"The party requesting payment failed to establish grounds for awarding interim attorney's fees for the safety and welfare of the children," the opinion states. "We hold that the trial court abused its discretion by ordering interim attorney's fees. We conditionally grant the petition for writ of mandamus."

Thomas Flanagan is represented by attorneys Pamela French, Sheryl Johnson-Todd, Carl A. Parker and Michael J. Truncale.

Gina is represented by attorneys John F. Nichols Sr., Bruce N. Smith, Glen W. Morgan and J. Trenton Bond.

Appeals case No. 09-10-00019-CV
Trial case No. C-167,474

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