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April 17, 2000

Ms. Katherine Minter Cary
Assistant Attorney General
Public Information Coordinator
Office of the Attorney General
P.O. Box 12548
Austin, Texas 78711

OR2000-1524

Dear Ms. Cary:

You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 134700.

The Office of the Attorney General (the "attorney general") received a request for a specific child support case file. You state that some of the requested information has been released. You claim, however, that the remaining responsive information is excepted from disclosure under section 552.101 of the Government Code in conjunction with section 231.108 of the Family Code. We have considered the exception you claim and have reviewed the submitted representative sample documents.(1)

Section 552.101 excepts from disclosure "information considered to be confidential by law, either constitutional, statutory, or by judicial decision." This section encompasses information protected by other statutes. Chapter 231 of the Family Code pertains to the administration of Title IV-D child support programs. Section 231.001 provides the following: "The office of the attorney general is designated as the state's Title IV-D Agency." Under section 231.101 of the Family Code, the Title IV-D agency may provide the following services:

(1) parent locator services;

(2) paternity determination;

(3) child support and medical support establishment;

(4) review and adjustment of child support orders;

(5) enforcement of child support and medical support orders; and

(6) collection and distribution of child support payments.

According to section 231.108(a):

[A]ll files and records of services provided under this chapter, including information concerning a custodial parent, noncustodial parent, child, and an alleged or presumed father, are confidential.

Section 231.108(c) authorizes the attorney general to release the requested information only for purposes directly connected with the administration of child support, paternity determinations, parent locator, or aid to families with dependent children programs. In this instance, we have no information that would permit us to conclude that the requested release of information is for one of the designated purposes under section 231.108(c). Therefore, we find that the requested information is confidential under section 231.108 of the Family Code. Accordingly, the attorney general must withhold the requested information from disclosure pursuant to section 552.101 of the Government Code.

This letter ruling is limited to the particular records at issue in this request and limited to the facts as presented to us; therefore, this ruling must not be relied upon as a previous determination regarding any other records or any other circumstances.

This ruling triggers important deadlines regarding the rights and responsibilities of the governmental body and of the requestor. For example, governmental bodies are prohibited from asking the attorney general to reconsider this ruling. Gov't Code 552.301(f). If the governmental body wants to challenge this ruling, the governmental body must appeal by filing suit in Travis County within 30 calendar days. Id. 552.324(b). In order to get the full benefit of such an appeal, the governmental body must file suit within 10 calendar days. Id. 552.353(b)(3), (c). If the governmental body does not appeal this ruling and the governmental body does not comply with it, then both the requestor and the attorney general have the right to file suit against the governmental body to enforce this ruling. Id. 552.321(a).

If this ruling requires the governmental body to release all or part of the requested information, the governmental body is responsible for taking the next step. Based on the statute, the attorney general expects that, within 10 calendar days of this ruling, the governmental body will do one of the following three things: 1) release the public records; 2) notify the requestor of the exact day, time, and place that copies of the records will be provided or that the records can be inspected; or 3) notify the requestor of the governmental body's intent to challenge this letter ruling in court. If the governmental body fails to do one of these three things within 10 calendar days of this ruling, then the requestor should report that failure to the attorney general's Open Government Hotline, toll free, at 877/673-6839. The requestor may also file a complaint with the district or county attorney. Id. 552.3215(e).

If this ruling requires or permits the governmental body to withhold all or some of the requested information, the requestor can appeal that decision by suing the governmental body. Id. 552.321(a); Texas Department of Public Safety v. Gilbreath, 842 S.W.2d 408, 411 (Tex. App.-Austin 1992, no writ).

If the governmental body, the requestor, or any other person has questions or comments about this ruling, they may contact our office. Although there is no statutory deadline for contacting us, the attorney general prefers to receive any comments within 10 calendar days of the date of this ruling.

Sincerely,

June B. Harden
Assistant Attorney General
Open Records Division

JBH/CHS/ljp

Ref: ID# 134700

Encl. Submitted documents

cc: Mr. Jack G. Ferrell Jr., Ph.D.
14310 Northbrook, Suite 120
San Antonio, Texas 78232
(w/o enclosures)


 

Footnotes

1. We assume that the "representative sample" records submitted to this office is truly representative of the requested records as a whole. See Open Records Decision Nos. 499 (1988), 497 (1988). This open records letter does not reach, and therefore does not authorize the withholding of, any other requested records to the extent that those records contain substantially different types of information than that submitted to this office.
 

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