What is the law in Texas on marriage fraud?
The first step in determining whether or not you qualify for an annulment based upon fraud is to ensure that you fit within the parameters of the law on this issue. Specifically, Texas Family Code Section 6.107 states that, “a trial court may grant an annulment of marriage to a party to the marriage if (1) the other party used fraud, duress, or force to induce the petitioner to enter into the marriage; and (2) the petitioner has not voluntarily cohabitated with the other party since learning of the fraud or being released from the duress or force.” Therefore, if someone used fraud to get you to marry them and you stopped living with them after you learned of the fraud, you qualify so far. The next question becomes, what constitutes as fraud? Many Texas Appellate Courts have addressed this issue and have come up with a standard as follows, “Fraudulent inducement is established by proving that a false material representation was made that (1) was known to be false when it was made; (2) was intended to be acted upon; (3) was relied upon; and (4) caused injury.” See Desta v. Anyaoha, 371 S.W.3d 596, 600 (Tex. App.—Dallas 2012, no pet.); Zhang v. Zhang, not reported. Therefore, if your spouse says something to you prior to marriage that is false and you depend upon that false statement to marry them and then you find out and it has caused you injury in any way you might have a strong legal argument for an annulment.
What is an example?
Because this issue in the law can be quite confusing, it helps to review it in context. In Zhang v. Zhang, the Dallas 5th District Court of Appeals had to determine whether or not the trial court was correct in granting an annulment based upon fraud. In that particular case, the spouses had first dated and had a child together and then subsequently married. Prior to marriage, the husband did not have his U.S. Citizenship and he told his soon-to-be bride that he loved her very much and wanted to be married to her. Any woman would think that this is legitimate, especially since they already had a child together. However, after they got married the husband then proceeded to tell his wife that he actually did not love her and had cheated on her prior to their marriage. The wife did not live with the husband again after these statements were made by the husband. The trial court heard all of the testimony and determined that the husband had made false statements prior to marriage, knowing that they were false statements at the time that they were made, and that if those statements had not been made then the wife would not have followed through with the marriage. The trial court also determined that the husband had received a legal benefit (citizenship) by marrying the wife. Therefore, the trial court annulled the marriage based upon fraud. The Dallas Court of Appeals reviewed the evidence and determined that the trial court was correct in its ruling.
What should I do?
Often times I have consults with people who believe that they might be eligible for an annulment because they find out things about their spouse post-marriage that they did not otherwise know prior to marriage. For example, you might learn after your marriage that your spouse has a criminal history. Unfortunately, unless your spouse told you “I do not have a criminal history and you have nothing to worry about” and those statements caused you marry that person, you do not qualify. Also, many people miss the whole “you cannot cohabitate after you find out” part about the law. Therefore, if your spouse told you something prior to marriage and you married that person relying upon those statements and they turned out to be false it is important that you cease living with your spouse and consult with an attorney regarding your rights. Contact Guest & Gray as we offer family consultations and are ready and able to assist in your legal needs.