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In a recent case before an appeals court in Texas, the plaintiff in a divorce case asked for a new decision regarding the credit card debt that the lower court directed him to pay. Originally, the lower court issued an order divorcing the plaintiff and defendant, and part of that decision decided that both parties were responsible for the debt accrued during the marriage. On appeal, the plaintiff took issue with this ruling, but the higher court ultimately kept the lower court’s decision in place.

Facts of the Case

According to the decision, the plaintiff and defendant in this case separated in early 2020, and the husband filed for divorce about a month later. While working out the issues in their divorce, the parties were able to agree over certain matters, such as custody of their three kids. They were unable to agree, however, on how to divide the credit card debt that they had accrued during their marriage. They thus took the case to trial and asked the court to decide who was responsible for paying off this debt.

After trial, the court decided that the husband, the plaintiff, would be responsible for 60% of the debt, while the defendant, the wife, would be responsible for the other 40%. Disagreeing with the court’s ruling, the plaintiff appealed.

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Texas courts consider various factors when determining how to award child support in cases of divorce or paternity. Generally, a child support award is based upon the needs of the custodial parent in caring for the children, as well as the ability of the noncustodial parent to pay for support. These determinations are usually made based on the needs and earning abilities of the parties at the time when the order is entered. Because circumstances change, the Texas code allows for a parent to seek a reduction or increase in child support based on a change of circumstances. A Texas man recently petitioned a Harris County Family Court to reduce his child support obligation based on a change in his employment situation, but the results were likely not what he expected or desired.

The Facts of the Case

The Petitioner in the recently decided case previously agreed to a divorce settlement with the Respondent, which included a child support obligation of $1893.00 per month to support the parties’ child. A final decree of divorce consistent with the agreement was then entered by the court in 2018. Since the decree of divorce was entered, the Petitioner had a change in his employment, as a contract job he had been working with was no longer available. As a result of his change in income, he filed a petition to modify the divorce decree. To modify a child support order, Texas law requires that the circumstances of the children or a person affected by the order have materially and substantially changed, and the support payments previously ordered should be decreased.

In response to his petition to modify his support obligation, the Respondent filed a counter-petition, arguing that the Petitioner’s income had actually increased and that her income was reduced, and that an increase in child support was justified. In evaluating the parties’ claims, the court noted that while the Petitioner did see a decrease in his overall employment income since the decree of divorce was entered, he had been receiving substantial other income that would need to be factored into his support obligation.

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In a recent memorandum opinion issued by a district court in Texas, the court dismissed one party’s claim because it decided there were no longer any issues to litigate in the state. Originally, a couple trying to get divorced filed claims in both Texas and Virginia and there was some confusion over where the divorce case should be heard. By the time the court of appeals issued its opinion, however, the couple had resolved all of the necessary issues about jurisdiction, and the Texas court dismissed the husband’s appeal.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the wife involved in this case first filed for divorce from her husband in Virginia in 2018. Later, she dropped the suit entirely, only for the husband to re-file for divorce three years later in Texas. At that point, it was unclear whether the divorce proceedings should take place in Virginia or Texas.

In the husband’s petition for divorce, he stated that he had been a resident of Texas for six months prior to filing for divorce. This was relevant for the court to know since a Texas divorce case can be filed in the county court where one of the parties has lived for the last 90 days as long as that party has also lived in Texas for at least six months.

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In a recent case involving a final decree of divorce between the appellant, Tomecia L. Wright, and the appellee, De Joran R. Wright, the appellate court affirmed the trial court decision. The parties married in December 2012 and have one daughter.

Facts of the Case

The couple resided in Dalhart, where De Joran was a coach and teacher for the school district. Four years later, they separated. Tomecia, who was unemployed at the time, left and took their child to Houston, ostensibly for vacation. De Joran contacted her seeking to help her find employment, at which point she refused to return to Dalhart, and he initiated divorce proceedings. She avoided service for several months, preventing De Joran from visiting his daughter for approximately six months, eventually filing a counterpetition for divorce. Shortly thereafter, the trial court held a hearing and issued temporary orders and a writ of attachment for the child to be returned to De Joran.

Texas Couples who live together for a significant amount of time often share a relationship that functions and appears like an official marriage. This is especially true when the couple has been raising children together. Texas law, like many U.S. jurisdictions, allows for an informal marriage (colloquially known as a “common-law” marriage) to be entered into for a couple to enjoy the privileges, obligations, and protections of marriage. The application of Texas’s informal marriage statute is not completely clear with regard to same-sex couples seeking spousal benefits, divorce, or custody determination by a state court. One member of a same-sex couple was recently denied an appeal for her divorce petition against her former partner, as the Texas court ruled that the requirements for an informal marriage were not met in this case.

The plaintiff in the recently decided case is a woman who was in a relationship with the defendant for approximately 8 years. According to the facts discussed in the appellate opinion, the defendant gave birth to two children throughout the parties’ relationship, and the couple raised the children together as a family unit. After the couple broke up, the plaintiff sued the defendant for divorce, alleging the parties had a valid informal marriage and seeking a division of property, as well as shared custody of the children. The district judge dismissed the plaintiff’s petition, finding that the parties were not married and she had no standing to sue the defendant.

Texas law allows for a valid informal marriage under two sets of circumstances. First, a couple can file a declaration with the county clerk of the county of their residence, stating that they intend to enter into an informal marriage. Second, an informal marriage can be established if (1) the couple agreed to be married; (2) after the agreement, they lived together in Texas as husband and wife; and (3) in Texas, they represented to others that they were married. On appeal, the plaintiff argued that there was evidence to support all three of the second set of factors for establishing an informal marriage.

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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