Articles Posted in Divorce

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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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.

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.

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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 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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