Acceptance of Benefits
In most divorce proceedings, the courts will issue judgments defining rights with regard to marital property, and in many instances, such judgments will benefit one or both parties in some way. Many people do not know, though, that according to Texas’s acceptance-of-benefits doctrine, once a party accepts the benefits of a judgment, they typically cannot challenge it at a later date. As such, anyone who intends to end their marriage must understand the implications of judgments issued by the court. If you have questions regarding how a divorce may affect your rights, it is smart to talk to an attorney as soon as you can. The dedicated Dallas divorce attorneys of McClure Law Group are adept at handling complex dissolution actions, and, if you engage our services, we will aggressively pursue the best possible outcome under the circumstances.What Is the Acceptance-of-Benefits Doctrine?
The acceptance-of-benefits doctrine is an estoppel-based policy that aims to prevent one party from suffering undue prejudice. Essentially, the doctrine bars a person from accepting a judgment as right, deriving benefits from it, and later arguing the judgment is wrong in order to obtain additional benefits. In other words, parties cannot take contradictory positions as a means of garnering an unjust advantage from the inconsistencies of the two assessments. The acceptance-of-benefits doctrine arises out of equitable principles, and essentially bars an appeal of a judgment if the person who filed an appeal willingly accepted benefits from the judgment and the party opposing the appeal suffered a disadvantage as a result.When Does the Acceptance-of-Benefits Doctrine Apply?
Generally, in the context of divorce, the acceptance-of-benefits doctrine will be asserted in cases in which a party appeals a judgment dividing community assets. In other words, if the court issues a final divorce decree granting a party property rights, and the party obtains rental income or other benefits from the property, it may be barred from later challenging the judgment.
The burden of proving the acceptance-of-benefits doctrine should be employed rests with the party who asserts it. The courts weigh multiple factors in evaluating if the doctrine is applicable, and the failure to prove each factor will likely result in the determination that it does not apply. First, the court will determine whether the party who benefited from the judgment willingly agreed to its terms. In other words, if they were coerced or misled into consenting to the terms of the judgment, the courts will most likely decline to apply the doctrine. Secondly, the court will assess whether modifying the judgment will result in prejudice to the party that is arguing it should be upheld, and if so, whether the prejudice can be cured.
The court will also way whether any assets were dissipated, whether the rights granted to the appealing party pre-dated the judgment or existed solely because of the judgment, and whether the appeal would actually result in a more favorable decision. The court will examine whether it should find in favor of the appealing party because of a concession by the opposing party.
Notably, Texas courts will most likely only apply the acceptance-of-benefits doctrine in cases involving a final, written decree. A challenge to an oral decree is typically not grounds for employing the doctrine.Speak to a Knowledgeable Dallas Attorney
Texas law prohibits divorce litigations from accepting the benefits of judgments and then later arguing such judgments are improper.Therefore, it is critical that anyone involved in a divorce proceeding discuss their options with an attorney. If you are considering ending your marriage, the knowledgeable Dallas lawyers of McClure Law Group can help you determine the best option to proceed to protect your interests. We have an office in Dallas, and we are available to meet by appointment at our Collin County office in Plano. We frequently represent people in divorce actions in Dallas, Frisco, Richardson, Fort Worth, Irving, McKinney, Garland, and Rockwall. We aid people with family-law matters in cities in Dallas, Rockwall, Denton, Collin, Tarrant, and Grayson Counties as well. You can contact us by calling 214.692.8200 or via our online form to set up a conference.