Articles Posted in Divorce

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 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.

Continue Reading ›

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.

Continue Reading ›

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.

Continue Reading ›

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.

Continue Reading ›

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.

Continue Reading ›

Texas family courts are entitled to make various financial awards to one party or another as part of a divorce judgment or settlement. The most common payments ordered by a family court are for child support and are designed to allow the custodial parent to support the children. Alimony can also be ordered, which is done in order to allow the lower-earning spouse to maintain a similar standard of living as to that which they were accustomed to during the marriage.

Texas family courts also are responsible for dividing marital property, which includes real estate, personal property, as well as financial assets. In addition to these payment orders, family courts are entitled to enforce any other financial agreements or contracts that are made between divorcing parties as part of a settlement agreement. A Dallas appellate court recently denied a woman’s request to enforce a contract made between her and her ex-husband as part of their divorce settlement.

The parties from the recently published opinion were married in 2005 and divorced in 2015. As part of their divorce settlement agreement, the ex-husband agreed to pay approximately $10,000 per month to the wife in order to support “an alternative lifestyle” for her and the children. As part of this agreement, the wife would use the money to fund travel and living abroad for her and the children, as a means for personal development.

Divorce can be a challenging and emotionally fraught process filled with unexpected events. While some civil lawsuits can survive the death of a party, Texas divorce cases do not operate in the same manner. Under case law, Texas divorce proceedings do not survive the death of a party, and the court will generally dismiss the case before a final judgment.

Recently, a woman challenged a court’s ruling dismissing her divorce petition upon her husband’s death. According to the court’s opinion, the woman and husband married in 1993, divorced in 2000 and remarried in 2019. In 2020 the woman filed for divorce, asking the court to divide their community estate. The husband answered the petition; however, his attorney filed a suggestion for death in March 2021. The woman asked the court to issue a “scire facias” to require the man’s children from a previous marriage to defend the divorce. The lower court found that the divorce petition was abated upon the husband’s death, and as such, the court did not have subject-matter jurisdiction. On appeal, the woman argues that no statute bars property division upon the death of a party to a divorce.

In Texas, courts have found that abatement upon the death of a party extends to property rights of either party. As such, the court found that the trial court did not err, and they affirmed the trial court’s order. In cases like this, a deceased spouse’s property will likely pass through the terms of their estate plan or intestate succession if no will exists.

Contact Information