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In a recent case involving the recalculation of child support payments and the custody arrangement between two parents, a Texas Court of Appeals partially reversed the trial court decision, holding that the mother was entitled to be awarded a larger sum of monthly child support from the father, and reversing and remanding the issue of conservatorship and custody back to the trial court. An agreed order regarding the two minor children was entered into by the mother and father on June 22, 2017. In the agreed order, the and the father were named joint managing conservators, and the father was ordered to pay $620 per month in child support.

In January 2020, the father filed a petition to modify the parent-child relationship, contending that circumstances had materially and substantially changed. The mother filed a counter-petition, requesting that the father’s monthly child support payments be recalculated and that the agreement be modified to appoint the mother the sole managing conservator of the children.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the father failed to appear in court for a hearing in April 2021. At the conclusion of the hearing, the court announced that it was denying both the mother’s and the father’s requested modifications to conservatorship. Additionally, the trial court ruled that the monthly child support payments would increase from $620 per month to $1,700 per month by the father. The trial court listed the following findings and conclusions regarding the case.

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Over the course of a long marriage, a husband and wife may enter into certain agreements that divide their estate and property unequally. This contrasts with Texas’s community property status, which means that property acquired during a marriage belongs equally to both spouses. Because of this, agreements otherwise have to meet certain statutory criteria. A skilled family law attorney can help you navigate these criteria and avoid any nasty surprises in the unfortunate event of divorce. An example of this is highlighted in a recent opinion issued by a Texas court.

Facts of the Case

The now-divorced parties to the case were married in 1994 and had one child. One spouse—the wife— was the primary breadwinner. Before separation, the parties executed a marital property agreement that converted some joint property, including bank accounts, retirement accounts, and life insurance policies, to the wife’s separate property. The agreement included provisions, including a full “warning” page, that stated the parties understood they had the opportunity to have independent attorneys review the agreement and that they could be surrendering otherwise available claims to the property. Both parties signed that page and separate waivers. The parties also established a revocable trust that stated property in the trust would remain as either separate or jointly owned property.

The parties separated in 2016 and attempted to execute a settlement agreement to be later incorporated into their final divorce agreement. Later, the wife claimed she revoked her consent to that agreement. The trial court found that the previously established trust granted the wife ownership of an account, but the settlement agreement granted the husband ownership of that same account. The court held that the trust governed and the wife owned the account. A later proceeding ordered that the wife’s property was established as set forth in the marital property agreement pre-separation.

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In a recent case involving the division of property between two divorcing parties, a Texas Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court decision, holding that the wife was not able to show that the trial court had abused its discretion. The couple was married in 2008 in Monterrey, Mexico. Over the next ten years, the couple did not live together with the exception of a six-week period in the spring of 2018. In December 2021, the trial court granted the husband’s petition for divorce on the grounds of insupportability, awarding each party the property they had in their possession as well as debts that each party had accrued since their separation.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the husband joined an online dating site shortly after a divorce. It was then that he met his wife and began to communicate with her online. Shortly after beginning their correspondence, he traveled to Monterrey, Mexico, where they met up and had dinner. The next day they went shopping before the husband returned back to the U.S. After several more trips to Mexico, they were married. There was no honeymoon, and the husband testified that there were no sexual relations between the two of them. Shortly after their marriage in 2008, the husband attempted to secure a visa for the wife and her son to come to the U.S., but she was denied. He testified that she never told him the reason. He then testifies that they had no communication until 2017 when she again reached out to him to assist in receiving a visa. This time, she was granted a visa and came to the U.S.

Upon arriving in the U.S., they resumed living together. At this point in the timeline, the testimony from both parties varies significantly. The husband claims that he sent her money every month, and bought her a computer, clothes, a telephone, and a Jeep Grand Cherokee. He also testified that he had property prior to the marriage and that the wife did not contribute to property acquired after the marriage. The wife testified that she had no property in Mexico, no assets in Mexico from the marriage, and no bank accounts or cars in Texas.

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In a recent case involving the right of parents to designate the primary residence of their two children, a Texas Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court decision, granting the mother of the children the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of the two children, as well as striking down the father’s claim that the lower court failed to issue findings of fact and conclusions of law. The couple was married in 2012 and are the parents of two children. In June 2019 the father filed for divorce, asserting the marriage had become insupportable, and in July 2019, the mother filed an answer and her own original petition for divorce, asserting the marriage had become insupportable. During the course of the divorce negotiations, the trial court signed a final decree of divorce incorporating the pronouncements of a mediated settlement agreement (MSA) between the mother and father. Shortly thereafter, the father filed a request for findings of fact and conclusion of law and a notice of appeal.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the mother and father were married in February 2012. In 2019, when both mother and father filed for divorce, the two parties entered into an MSA to address multiple issues, ranging from child support payments, division of property, and division of debts. One issue that they could not agree on was who would be awarded exclusive rights to designate the primary residence of their children. The final decree signed by the trial court incorporated aspects of the MSA, including appointing the mother to be the parent with the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of both children contrary to the recommendation of the child custody evaluator.

The Decision

On appeal, the father made two claims, arguing that (1) the trial court abused its discretion by choosing the mother the parent with exclusive rights to designate the primary residence of both children contrary to the recommendation of the child custody evaluator, and (2) failing to issue findings of fact and conclusion of law.

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In a recent case involving a premarital agreement dispute before the Supreme Court of Texas, the court granted conditional relief for mandamus proceedings after the lower court stayed proceedings pending arbitration and denied the wife’s request for mandamus relief. The couple was married in 2008, and in the process of their marriage, they both signed a document entitled “Islamic Pre-Nuptial Agreement” providing that conflicts arising between the parties would be resolved according to Islamic law in a Muslim court or a three-person panel. In 2021, the wife sued for divorce and the husband moved to enforce the agreement. On appeal, the Supreme Court of Texas conditionally granted the wife’s petition for a writ of mandamus, directing the trial court to withdraw its order referring the two parties to arbitration and to conduct further court proceedings.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the two parties were married in 2008. In connection with their marriage, they signed two documents, titled “Marriage Contract” and an “Islamic Pre-Nuptial Agreement.” The “Islamic Pre-Nuptial Agreement” states that both parties confirm their “belief that Islam . . . is binding on them in all spheres of life.” Additionally, the agreement states “any conflict which may arise between the husband and the wife will be resolved according to the Qur’an, Sunnah, and Islamic Law in a Muslim court, or in its absence by a Fiqh Panel.” The agreement goes into further detail explaining how the panel is to be chosen, and that any decision by the Fiqh Panel would be binding.

Despite both parties signing the agreement, the wife alleges that she was not aware of its contents, claiming that she did not even know of the existence of the agreement until they began experiencing marital difficulties in 2020. At this point, she states that she learned she had been ’defrauded” into signing the agreement, and she had believed that the “Islamic Pre-Nuptial Agreement” had merely been a second copy of the “Marriage Contract” document that she had signed.

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Married couples who choose to get divorced in Texas will be subject to a court’s determination of a fair and equitable property division between the parties. Younger couples who married at an early age and share finances can expect a marital estate to be divided roughly evenly. Marriages between older couples with independently established finances can be more complicated, especially if non-marital funds are commingled with marital assets throughout a relationship. The Texas Court of Appeals recently rejected a man’s claim to the equity in a shared home that he contributed $70,000 of his own money to renovate during the marriage.

According to the facts discussed in the appellate opinion, the parties to the recent case were married in Texas in 2010. Being an older couple, each spouse entered into the marriage with existing individual assets. Once married, the couple purchased a home together. The husband later contributed approximately $70,000 to renovate/construct a swimming pool at the new home. This money came from the proceeds of the sale of a property the husband had owned before the marriage. Once the parties filed for divorce, the husband requested that he be awarded a larger portion of the shared home because the renovations were paid for with his separate funds. The trial court rejected the husband’s requests, instead dividing the ownership of the marital home based on the amount each spouse contributed to the purchase price.

The husband appealed the trial court’s judgment, arguing that he was entitled to a larger portion of the marital home than his ex-wife, as he contributed his own money to the renovations. The applicable Texas law states that a spouse who contributes to a capital improvement on a shared piece of marital property is entitled to reimbursement for half the increase in value added by the improvement. The appellate court found that the husband never properly requested this reimbursement and that he put no evidence on the record to prove the actual value of the renovation. Because the procedures for reimbursement were not followed, and there is no evidence on the record that the renovations actually increased the value of the home, the court agreed that the husband was not entitled to additional credit for the renovation. As a result of this ruling, the husband will not receive any compensation for any of his money invested in the marital home before the divorce.

Division of property can be hotly contested in Texas divorce proceedings. In a marriage, some assets acquired are jointly owned, with both spouses named as owners. Others are community property owned by one party in name, but the other spouse has an interest in that property. Others yet are individually owned by one spouse or the other, and the presumption of community property status must be rebutted.

In a recent family law case heard in a Texas appeals court, the husband in the soon-to-be-ended marriage appealed a trial court decision that determined that a property acquired during the couple’s marriage was solely owned by the wife. The husband also appealed the trial court’s award of attorneys’ fees to the wife. The appellate court agreed with the trial court’s determination of property and upheld the divorce decree. The court did, however, reverse the portion of the decree that awarded the wife attorney’s fees.

Facts of the Case

The property in dispute in this case was a bar owned by the woman in the marriage. The trial court found that the woman signed a five-year lease for the property in 1990. In 1995, she renewed the lease with an option to buy before the marriage began in 1997. The property was purchased after the start of the marriage, just a few months later.

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In a recent family law case coming out of a Texas court, the father involved in the case appealed the trial court’s decision to modify the child support payments he was making to his ex-wife and child. On appeal, the father argued that the court did not have the right to modify their agreement, since the parties had signed a contract saying they would not make any changes to the agreement for three years after signing. Looking at the document in question, the court of appeals denied the father’s appeal and enforced the lower court’s modification.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the mother and father in this case divorced in 2016 after having one child together. Originally, the father was ordered to pay the mother $500 in child support payments; this amount was calculated after considering both parties’ incomes and assets, as well as what would be in the best interest of the child.

In 2017, the mother asked the court to modify the agreement. She alleged that the original amount was not in compliance with the Texas Family Code, which sets out amounts for each party to pay based on their individual circumstances. The mother filed an additional petition to modify the child support payments in 2019, again asking for an increase in financial support from the father. In 2021, a bench trial was held virtually, and the court ordered the father to increase his contributions. The father appealed the court’s decision.

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In a recent family law case coming out of a Texas court, the mother involved in a custody suit appealed the court’s decision to modify a custody arrangement regarding her son. On appeal, the mother argued that the court had denied her of her right to be heard in court by imposing time limits on how long she could present her case to the judge. The court of appeals considered the mother’s argument but ultimately denied it, affirming the lower court’s decision.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the mother and father in this case divorced in 2011 and agreed to share custody of their son. The divorce decree stated that the father would have the exclusive right to establish the primary residence of the child.

In 2019, the father learned of verbal and physical altercations between the mother and her new husband. He also learned that the mother was using drugs and drinking at home, as well as that she had obtained a British passport and was considering kidnapping the couple’s child and taking him to England. The father filed an emergency motion for a restraining order against the mother and asked the court to deny the mother access to their son.

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It has been said that the termination of a natural parent’s parental rights is akin to “the death penalty” of child welfare cases. When the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services makes the decision that it is in a child’s best interest to terminate the rights of a natural parent, the proceedings are often taken as a last resort. Because the rights involved are so important and fundamental, the DFPS must follow strict procedural guidelines when pursuing a termination case. The Texas Supreme Court recently addressed a natural father’s appeal from a ruling terminating his parental rights.

According to the facts discussed in the recently published appellate opinion, the Texas DFPS had sought to terminate a man’s parental rights over his son. The man and the child’s mother were married in 2016 and the child was born in 2017. The mother had a history of drug problems and appeared to expose the child to drugs before and after her pregnancy. In a different proceeding, the mother’s parental rights were terminated for her failure to abide by a safety plan enacted by the DFPS.

In the instant case, the DFPS alleged that the man did not have a safe home for his son to live in with him. Additionally, the DFPS was concerned about the man’s continued contact with the child’s mother, and his minimization of her drug and behavioral issues. The father proposed that he and his son could move in with a family member, however, the plans were not guaranteed, and the DFPS continued to pursue termination proceedings. At trial, a jury found that terminating the father’s parental rights was in the best interest of the child, in part because the father knowingly allowed the child to be endangered by the mother’s drug abuse.

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