SAN CLEMENTE, Calif. - A Houston-area attorney involved in a bitter custody dispute was found fatally shot along with her two young daughters and mother in an apparent murder-suicide after she was ordered to bring the children to a court hearing, authorities said yesterday.

Investigators found the body of Elizabeth Fontaine, 38, next to those of her mother, Bonnie Hoult, 67, and two children Monday at an upscale Orange County home. Forensic tests will be needed to determine who pulled the trigger, because a handgun was found between the two women, sheriff's spokesman Jim Amormino said.

He said that investigators spoke with the father, Jason Fontaine, and do not consider him a suspect. The father, who divorced the children's mother, was not at the home, authorities said.

"He's traumatized," Amormino said. "He's coping with it the best he can."

Elizabeth Fontaine moved to the Houston suburb of Bellaire a month ago with her daughters, Catherine, 4, and Julia, 2, but they returned to California after their father requested a custody hearing, according to court documents and authorities. Neighbors said that the family and the mother were staying at a friend's home when the killings occurred.

Elizabeth Fontaine was in court Monday morning and was ordered to return with the children later that afternoon, documents show. Authorities responded to the red-roofed, yellow stucco house when they did not show and found a bloody scene: Four bodies, each with one gunshot wound, in a first-floor hallway.

The deaths jolted the community, which has 42 luxury houses overlooking a golf course. The homes, with four to six bedrooms, sell for more than $1 million each, and Amormino said that the area has a "very low" crime rate.