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In a recent case involving a property dispute over the ownership of a miniature Schnauzer (the Canine), between two people that briefly dated, Alysse Barlow and Kendall Richardson, the court partially upheld and partially reversed the trial court decision. At trial, Richardson was awarded sole ownership of the Canine and attorney’s fees in the amount of $12,000, and ordered to pay Barlow $600 as consideration for her 50% ownership interest in the Canine. On appeal, Barlow asserted three issues, stating that the trial court erred (1) in awarding the Canine to Richardson because Barlow is the sole owner of same, (2) in awarding Richardson attorney’s fees, and (3) in awarding her less than the fair market value of the Canine. The appellate court reversed the award of attorney’s fees and rendered a take-nothing judgment on the request for attorney’s fees. The appellate court affirmed the remained of the trial court judgment.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the two parties were in a dating relationship for a short period of time. After their relationship ended, a dispute arose regarding the Canine, who was acquired from Barlow’s employer, Petland, during the relationship. Richardson initiated a suit claiming a 50% ownership interest in the Canine, seeking to partition her interest in the same under Chapter 23 of the Texas Property Code. Barlow answered, denying Richardson’s claim of ownership, and asserted claims against Richardson for conversion, trespass to chattels, and fraud. At trial, both Richardson and Barlow testified, as did Richardson’s mother and several Petland employees. The trial court rendered judgment awarding Richardson sole ownership of the Canine and attorney’s fees amounting to $12,000 and ordered Richardson to pay Barlow $600 as consideration for her 50% ownership interest in the Canine. Barlow filed an appeal following the decision.

The Decision

On appeal, Barlow asserted three issues, stating that the trial court erred (1) in awarding the Canine to Richardson because Barlow is the sole owner of same, (2) in awarding Richardson attorney’s fees, and (3) in awarding her less than the fair market value of the Canine. On Barlow’s first and third issues, she challenged the legal sufficiency of the evidence to support the trial court’s finding of Richardson’s ownership interest in the Canine and the amount that the court awarded Barlow as compensation for her ownership interest. Here, as the Canine was not able to be divided-in-kind, the court found that it was appropriate to award the property to one party, and require them to compensate the other party financially for their ownership interest.

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Texas family courts often award one party to a divorce a share of the other party’s retirement income or pension that accrued during the marriage. This method of property division ensures that a nonworking or lower-earning spouse is compensated for their efforts in the marriage when acting as a stay-at-home spouse or parent. Generally, the obligee spouse is only awarded retirement income that was accrued during a marriage, however, Texas courts can and do award proceeds from retirement or pension accounts that were earned by the other spouse after a divorce.

The Texas Third Court of Appeals recently reversed a lower court ruling that had reduced an ex-husband’s obligation to pay his wife a share of his military pension that he accrued during 19 years of military service after the parties’ divorce was finalized. According to the facts discussed in the appellate opinion, the parties were married in 1977, and a divorce trial was held in 1996. As part of the final divorce order, the wife was awarded 50% of the husband’s military pension once it was received. Because the husband continued to serve in the military after the divorce was finalized, he did not receive any pension until after his retirement in 2015. After the husband’s retirement, the wife demanded that he pay her 50% of the pension payments pursuant to the 1996 divorce decree.

The husband refused to pay 50% of his total pension award, claiming that he only owed her 50% of the pension amount that accrued during the marriage. The husband made a motion with the court that entered the divorce decree, seeking a clarifying order that the wife was not entitled to 50% of the total pension amount. The trial court accepted the husband’s arguments, ultimately awarding over $115,000 in disputed funds to the husband. The wife appealed the ruling to the Texas Court of Appeals, arguing that the decree of divorce clearly stated that she was entitled to 50% of the pension once it was received, and this order did not limit the award to funds accrued only during the marriage.

Texas courts are entitled to award spousal support (also referred to as alimony) for a variety of reasons. Commonly, spousal support awards are considered in divorces with significant assets or when one party has a substantial earning ability. The most common factor considered when awarding spousal support is the court’s desire to allow the lower-earning spouse to maintain a standard of living similar to that enjoyed by the parties when they were married. Texas law also allows spousal support to be awarded in other circumstances. Alimony can be awarded in the event that one spouse has an injury or disability that would prevent them from earning enough to support their basic needs after the divorce. The Texas Court of Appeals recently affirmed a trial court’s decision awarding spousal support to a disabled woman whose current and future earning ability was reduced based on her disability.

According to the facts discussed in the recently published appellate opinion, the couple married in 1987 and were married for 30 years before the husband filed for divorce. There were no children from the marriage, so the divorce proceeding was centered on dividing the parties’ marital estate and the wife’s request for spousal support. According to the opinion, the couple did not share an extremely valuable marital estate, and each party earned less than $50,000 per year in annual gross income. The husband earned approximately 33% more per hour than the wife working as a heavy equipment operator. At trial, the wife was awarded spousal support in the amount of $450 per month from the husband for a period of 5 years following the divorce. The court found that the wife suffered from a disability that reduced her ability to work, and which would likely worsen with time, further preventing her from supporting her short-term needs after the divorce.

The husband appealed the judgment to the Texas Court of Appeals, arguing that the wife did not sufficiently prove that she was disabled and that her earnings ability was insufficient to support her short-term needs. Specifically, the husband argued that the wife received other assets in the divorce that she could liquidate if she needed to support herself after the divorce. The appellate court rejected the husband’s arguments, finding that the wife used the testimony of a credible medical expert to establish her disability and that the lower court’s decisions concerning spousal support were supported by the facts of the case and relevant Texas law. As a result of the appellate decision, the husband will be required to pay the spousal support in full unless other conditions are met which would remove his obligation.

In a recent Texas case involving spousal maintenance between two divorcing parties, a Texas Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court decision, holding that the wife was entitled to the level of spousal maintenance that the trial court had awarded her. The couple was married in 2010 and had one child together. In April 2018 the husband filed for divorce and the wife responded with a counter-petition for divorce. At trial, the wife was awarded spousal maintenance of $800 per month. The husband filed an appeal raising two issues claiming that the trial court abused its discretion in awarding spousal maintenance.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the wife testified regarding her educational background, her work history, and the health difficulties she had been facing. Specifically, she described how she needs daily dialysis while awaiting a kidney transplant. Her dialysis treatments can be done at home, but the treatment requires her to be physically connected to a machine for up to ten hours. While receiving treatment, she was able to move freely about the house, generally completing tasks and caring for her child.

Additionally, she testified regarding her education and ability to work. The wife testified that she received her bachelor’s degree in architecture and that she was employed as an architect by a company named Bella Homes. Her employment with Bella Homes was part-time, and she received $12.25 an hour, and due to her health, she was unable to work more than 24 hours a week. If she remained sitting for more than three or four hours at a time, her legs would begin swelling. When she initially began receiving dialysis treatment, she was not able to work at all, but after a time, her doctor cleared her to begin again. Most vitally, the wife testified that she would not be able to afford her dialysis treatment without her husband’s medical insurance. Based on her research, she estimated that COBRA insurance would cost her approximately $700 per month. At trial, the court awarded her spousal maintenance of $800 per month.

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Recently, a mother involved in a custody dispute in Texas asked the Seventh District Court of Appeals to overturn a lower court’s decision regarding her children. Last year, the trial court had decided the mother and the father in this family were to have joint physical custody of their children. The parties were also granted joint legal custody, meaning they were supposed to make decisions about their children’s lives together, as a pair. The father, however, was allowed to trump the mother’s decisions if they could not agree on what to do during a dispute about education. The mother appealed this decision and asked the higher court to reverse it.

Facts of the Case

Based on evidence from the parties, the trial court had given both parents 50/50 custody – the minor children were to stay with one parent for seven days in a row, then with the second parent the next seven days. The court also gave the father a role called “primary managing conservator” of one of the children. Essentially, this meant that the father could trump the mother’s decisions regarding school, medical appointments, extracurricular activities, and lifestyle choices for one of the kids.

The mother was unhappy with this decision, and she asked the higher court to reconsider the trial court’s custody order by filing an appeal.

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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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