On June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States held, in Obergefell v. Hodges, Director, Ohio Department of Health, Et Al., that the 14th amendment requires a State to license a marriage between two people of the same sex and to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of State.

Since the establishment of the Supreme Court in 1789, landmark decisions, similar to the opinion formed on June 26th, have changed America, and will continue to do so. Whether we agree with the Supreme Court’s decisions or not, they are a part of our history and have shifted America. And whether we agree or not with the decision made on Friday, it will be one that fills the history books for our children’s children to read.

The Court, in this case, points out that marriage is a union that has evolved over time. At one time marriage was an arrangement, made by the parents, that was based on political, religious, and financial concerns. And before women began to gain legal, political, and property rights, a married man and woman were treated by the State as a single, male-dominated legal body.

How do I prove that certain property in my divorce is separate from the community property?

When the court divides property in Texas there is a presumption that the community owns everything, that is both parties will have a right to it. Anything that you or your spouse has received through gift, devise, or descent is your separate property, and you will need to show this to the court. But, if there is some property that you have used your separate funds to purchase, and is your separate property you will have to prove this to the court through clear and convincing evidence. The Fifth District Dallas Court of Appeals case, Slicker v. Slicker, defines clear and convincing evidence as the “measure or degree of proof which will produce in the mind of the trier of fact a firm belief or conviction as to the truth of the allegations sought to be established.” So, you and your lawyer will need to bring in enough evidence and proof that will reasonably convince the judge or the jury the property is in fact your separate property.

How does the court divide community property?

In most family law cases children are seldom asked to testify because of unreliability. But, in some cases a teenager may be called to testify in situations such as; when a teenager wants to live with a different parent, where a parent has made serious accusations about the other parent and the only witness is the child, an enforcement action, or a custody or termination where the child wants to testify.

How is a child called to court?

If you know that you will be calling a child to testify in a case, it is good practice to notify the judge in advance. Most of the time lawyers will serve subpoenas to the parent of the child. This is the most common way because the parent will be actually driving the child to the court The judge can be specific about the provisions of the subpoena, providing guidance on who will bring the child to the courthouse, where the child is to go when he or she gets there, and who can talk to the child before giving the testimony.

What steps will my lawyer take to file for divorce, annulment, or to declare my marriage void?

First, the attorney will need to file a petition for divorce to the court. When filing a petition for divorce, the attorney will not have to be specific with the facts, unless the parties are seeking specific property rights. If children will be involved in the divorce, a SAPCR (suit affecting the parent-child relationship) must also be included. The attorney will make sure that all the relief that is sought is filed in this initial pleading. The pleading can be changed as the case goes on. In Texas, the petition will need to meet the fair notice requirement, requiring the party to provide a short statement to give fair notice of the party’s claims. This will give the other opposing party an idea of what the controversy will be about. If you are representing yourself you must sign the pleading, or if an attorney represents you the attorney will sign it.


When the judge signs your divorce decree you and your ex must abide by the terms of the decree from that moment. If you or your ex does not comply with the terms you can be held in Constructive Contempt. Constructive Contempt is a type of contempt that is used to enforce the court’s order making the party perform an act that he or she has failed to do. Contempt is either civil contempt or criminal contempt and the court can either impose a fine, imprisonment, or both in any case. For civil contempt, the court will try to persuade your ex to abide by the order, for criminal, the court is invoking punishment for an act your ex may have completed that offended the court.

Once your ex has failed to comply with the divorce decree or custody order, you and your lawyer will need to make sure and do several things before the court will seek compliance from your ex.

Plead a proper contempt

A trial court has plenary jurisdiction (complete control) over a case for 30 days after the judge signs the final judgment in a divorce decree. During those 30 days, one of the parties may file a motion for a new trial or a motion to modify, correct, or reform a judgment. That is, either party can file a motion to have the divorce re-tried before a court or if a party is not satisfied with the final judgment given by the court, then the party can file to have it changed. But, each party only has 30 days from when the judge signs the final divorce decree to do so. Rule 329b(c) requires that these motions be in writing and signed by the court for them to be enforceable. Parties cannot give their consent to allow the court to have more control than what it specified in the rule.

Take, for example, the Dallas Fifth District Court of Appeals Case, In the Interest of M.A.C. and M.T.C. Here a Final Decree of Divorce was rendered on August 28, 2013. The Mother filed motions for a new trial and a motion to modify, reform, and correct the judgment on September 6, 2013, well within the 30 days set out in the rule, but the record did not contain a written and signed order from the trial court on either motion. Because there was no written and signed order, both motions were overruled by law on November 11, 2013. But, the record in the case contained a “First Amended Decree of Divorce” signed on January 22, 2014. Thus, the father here filed a motion for a new trial January 27, 2014 were he argued that the trial court’s plenary power had already expired when the First Amended Decree was signed.

The two motions the mother filed were overruled by law November 11, 2013, seventy-five days after the final divorce decree was signed. When she filed the motions, the court retained control over the matter for 30 days after the law overruled the motions. Therefore, the court here had control over this case until December 11, 2013, one hundred and five days after the Final Divorce Decree judgment was signed. The First Amended Decree signed on January 22, 2014 was void because the court no longer had jurisdiction or plenary power over the matter.

Discovery Explained

In a nutshell, discovery is a procedure in which information is exchanged between two parties. This is a general description to be used for civil cases only (as opposed to criminal cases). The term “discovery” is very broad. It covers a wide variety of requests that one party makes to another in order to obtain information.

There are several reasons why providing one party with information regarding litigation is important, but under the American system, no other reason is more important than the concept of fairness and a fair trial. If one party withholds potentially powerful evidence or information from the other party, because that information is damning to their case, then that is not fair to other party, especially in a criminal setting, but almost as much in a civil trial. If a party has information helpful to their case withheld from them on the basis that the other party was in control of it and they knew it was harmful to their case, without discovery rules, the other party almost certainly would not be able to present their case fairly before a judge or jury.

The purpose of the discovery rules in Texas is to facilitate a cost-efficient transfer of information between opposing parties in a lawsuit. The rules seek to accomplish this goal by providing parties with notice of how discovery should be conducted, explaining what may be requested, and the proper form of how to request it.

 What is Discovery?

Discovery is the transfer of information from one party to another party or multiple other parties. It is an immensely important function in litigation because in all likelihood the information you need to win your case will come, at least in part, from the other side during discovery.

What is a Discovery Control Plan? 

Three levels of “Discovery Plans” are found under Texas Rules of Civil Procedure Rules 190.2-190.4. Each section has its own requirements for who falls under what level and how discovery will be organized and completed. In order to get a better understanding of what a “Discovery Control Plan” is, we will discuss three pertinent questions about them: (1) What are they?; (2) Why?, and; (3) How do they work?

What Are Discovery Control Plans?

Rule 11 agreements are terms that a party can agree on and have the same affect as a court order. So long as the agreement satisfies the requirements of Texas Civil Procedure 11, these agreements are enforceable.

Can I get out of a Rule 11 agreement that I entered into by mistake?

There are certain situations where these agreements can be considered void; one way to make the agreement void is by showing the agreement was made by mistake. In the Dallas 5th District Court of Appeals case, In the Interest of A.B. & D.Y, a mother wanted to void a Rule 11 agreement that she had made because she claimed the agreement was made by mistake. In this case, the court explained, “mutual mistake is an affirmative defense, that states when the parties to an agreement have contracted under a misconception or ignorance of a material fact, the agreement will be avoided.” When someone wants to void a Rule 11 agreement based on a mistake, it is up to that person to prove to the court that the agreement should be voided.