Super Lawyers
Dallas 500
Best D 2022
Best Law Firms 2021
500 Leading Family Lawyers
Best of the Best Attorneys
Board Certified
International Advisory Experts
Best Lawyers under 40
Dynamic Women in Dallas
Expertise.com Best Family Lawyers in Dallas 2022
top attorneys Forth Worth Magazine
Leaders in Law
Power Players
NAFLA
National Diversity Council
Adam Mundt Certified Public
Super Lawyers badge
Top 50 Attorneys in Texas
Top 100 Attorneys in Texas
Top 50 Women Attorneys in Texas
Best D 2022 - 22 Years
Top 10 Blog Posts
Women Leaders in Law
Top 10 Dallas
Best of the Best Attorneys
Collaborative Divorce Texas
Certified
Family Law Top 10
Top Rated Women
Best Lawyers 2022
COVID-19 Accommodations:

We care about your health and safety and are fully capable of conducting client consults virtually by telephone or video-conferencing. Please contact us at 214.692.8200 for a consult or fill-out our form online.

iStock-545456068-300x184A party may challenge a judgment as void through either a collateral or direct attack. Generally, a Texas divorce decree is only subject to collateral attack if the court lacked jurisdiction over the parties or subject matter.  Other errors must be challenged through a direct attack.  A direct attack can be either a pleading filed in the original case while the trial court still has plenary power or a timely-filed bill of review under a new cause number.  A bill of review is generally the only appropriate method of direct attack after the trial court’s plenary power has expired.

Husband Seeks to Set Aside Divorce Decree

In a recent case, a husband filed a separate lawsuit seeking to have the divorce decree set aside, arguing the marriage and decree were both void due to the wife’s bigamy.

A trial court had denied the husband’s request for annulment based on fraud, but granted his petition for divorce in March 2019.  The court also awarded the wife certain assets.  The following month, the wife was indicted for bigamy.  The indictment alleged she had still been married to someone else when she married the husband in 2017. The husband was ordered to pay her attorney’s fees and spousal support in June 2019.  In July, the wife petitioned for enforcement.

Continue Reading ›

2018_10_agreement-300x165People commonly obtain life-insurance policies and name their spouse as the beneficiary. They do not always remember to update the beneficiary designation when they get divorced.  Under Texas law, designation of a spouse as beneficiary before a divorce will only remain effective after the divorce in certain circumstances.  Generally, either the court or the insured must designate the former spouse as beneficiary, or the former spouse must be designated to receive the proceeds in trust for a child or dependent’s benefit.  In a recent case, an ex-wife challenged a court awarding a life-insurance policy on the ex-husband to the ex-husband many years after the original divorce.

Insurance Policy Not Divided in Divorce

During the marriage, the parties obtained a life insurance policy on the husband with the wife named as beneficiary.  The policy was not addressed in the divorce decree in 2009.  The husband subsequently filed a bill of review, and the parties agreed to be co-owners of the policy.  They agreed the wife would receive half of the proceeds and the rest would go into a trust for their children. The court ordered the parties to split the policy into two, but the insurance company was unable to do so.

The husband then filed for declaratory judgment, seeking to be named the sole owner of the policy.  He also asked for a temporary restraining order against both the wife and the insurer. Alternatively, he sought to divide undivided property.  The wife’s counter-petition also sought a declaratory judgment that the policy was her separate property and to divide undivided assets.

Continue Reading ›

iStock-1033856542-300x200Under Texas family law, a mother’s husband is presumed to be the father of a child born during the marriage.  This presumption can be rebutted by an adjudication of parentage or by a valid denial of paternity filed by the presumed father along with a valid acknowledgement of paternity filed by another person.  Tex. Fam. Code § 160.204. If a child has a presumed father, a suit to adjudicate the child’s parentage may not be brought after the child’s fourth birthday unless an exception applies.  Tex. Fam. Code § 160.607.

Presumed Father Challenges Paternity Adjudication

A presumed father recently challenged a court’s adjudication that another man was the child’s father, arguing the suit was time-barred.  The child was born in May 2014.  The mother and her husband separated that October.  The mother began cohabiting with the alleged father the following October. The mother and her husband divorced in August 2016.  The divorce order provided for visitation by the husband of all four children born during the marriage.

The mother and alleged father got married.  The alleged father petitioned for adjudication of parentage after a DNA test showed a 99.96% probability he was Lucy’s biological father.  The mother’s ex-husband conceded that the alleged father was likely the child’s biological father based on the DNA test.  He argued, however, that the alleged father was time-barred from seeking adjudication of parentage.

Continue Reading ›

iStock-952098878-300x200When child support goes unpaid, Texas child-support cases can sometimes go on for years after the obligation would otherwise have terminated. A Texas appeals court recently considered what happens when one parent dies before the past-due child support has been paid.

The parents had a daughter together during their marriage and divorced in 1976.  The father failed to pay child support as ordered at times.  The trial court found him in contempt in 1987 and ordered him to pay $200 per month in support with additional amounts for a specified time going toward the arrearages.

Adult Daughter Files Child-Support Suit After Mother’s Death

In 2010, the adult daughter filed a petition regarding the unpaid support after her mother’s death. She asked the court to render judgment for the past due child support and to make her the obligee for the arrearages.

Continue Reading ›

iStock-1331374129-300x200When a parent is intentionally unemployed, a court may order Texas child support based on that parent’s earning potential.  Tex. Fam. Code 154.066(a). A mother recently challenged a court’s finding she was intentionally unemployed, arguing instead that her mental health concerns prevented her from being employed.

When the parents divorced in 2010, the court ordered the mother to pay $150 in child support.

She sought to modify the custody order in 2018, and the other party responded by asking for more child support.  The mother asked the court to eliminate her child-support obligation altogether.

Continue Reading ›

iStock-1125625723-300x200When parties to a Texas divorce reach an agreement, the agreement may place conditions on certain obligations.  A “condition precedent” is something that must occur before a party has a right to performance of an obligation by the other party. In a recent case, a mother challenged a trial court’s finding she had not met the condition precedent to receive certain payments from the father.

In the final divorce decree, the trial court approved and incorporated the parties’ Agreement Incident to Divorce (“AID”). The parties agreed the father would pay $11,500 in monthly Contract Support Payments to the mother to provide her and the two children an “alternative lifestyle.”  They would travel and live abroad so the children could learn other languages and cultures. The mother agreed to maintain this lifestyle and spend the Contract Support Payments to support it as a condition precedent to receiving the payments. The AID also included a provision that the father could send a notice if the mother failed to comply with a material term or condition. If she failed to cure the breach within 30 days, the Contract Support Payments would be abated until she complied.

Father Gros Concerned About Children’s Upbringing

The mother and children traveled within the U.S. and several countries abroad until July 2018. The father grew concerned about the children’s lack of structured education and their health and hygiene by the summer of 2018.

Continue Reading ›

Divorce-property-fraud-300x273Property in the possession of either spouse at the time of dissolution of marriage is presumed to be community property under Texas family law.  A spouse may rebut this presumption by tracing and clearly identifying the separate property. That spouse must present evidence of the time and means of acquisition of the property. The property remains separate if the spouse can trace the assets back to separate property.  Testimony is generally not enough to overcome the community-property presumption. The spouse must have clear and convincing evidence the property is separate. Tex. Fam. Code § 3.003.

An appeals court recently considered tort claims within a divorce case arising from the purchase of a business. When the parties married in 2014, the wife owned a 49% interest in her optometry practice.  She offered to buy the remaining interest in 2015.  Her husband and another attorney in his firm helped negotiate the deal.

Wife Brings Tort Claims in Divorce Suit

The wife petitioned for divorce in September 2018.  She added claims of fraud, theft, and breach of fiduciary duty to her petition, arguing husband failed to structure that purchase as separate property and allowed her separate property to be converted to community property.

Continue Reading ›

iStock-182779759-300x200

“A scroll of a Divorce Decree, tied with a black ribbon on a mahogany desk, with a dead white rose buttonhole from the Wedding Day, with a black pen. Copy space..”

A Texas Mediated Settlement Agreement (“MSA”) must generally include language that it is not subject to revocation, be signed by each party, and be signed by the party’s attorney who is present at the time of execution. Tex. Fam. Code § 6.602(b). If the MSA meets these requirements, it is binding and the court must render a divorce decree adopting it. The judgment must be compliant with the agreement and must not substantively alter it. The parties may revise or repudiate the agreement before the divorce is rendered, unless the agreement is otherwise binding under another law. Tex. Fam. Code § 7.006.

In a recent case, a former wife appealed a divorce decree, arguing the court erred in rendering judgment on a settlement after she revoked her consent.  The parties had reached an agreement at mediation and signed an MSA, but only the husband’s attorney’s signature was on the document.

Wife Revokes Consent to MSA

The wife filed a revocation of consent and an objection to the entry of a final divorce decree. She argued the agreement was not valid without her counsel’s signature and was therefore revocable.

Continue Reading ›

iStock-170042608-300x200Texas is among the states that still recognize informal marriage, sometimes called “common-law marriage.” A couple may establish an informal marriage by signing a document entitled “declaration of informal marriage.”  In the absence of a declaration, a party may also prove the existence of a Texas informal marriage through evidence that the couple agreed to be married, subsequently lived together as spouses in Texas, and represented to others that they were married.  Tex. Fam. Code § 2.401.  Although informal marriages are generally treated the same as formal marriages, the existence of an informal marriage can be far more difficult to prove.

Man Files for Divorce from Partner – No Marriage Found to Exist

A man, E.L., recently challenged a jury’s finding that he and his long-term same-sex partner, J.M., were not in an informal marriage. The parties started dating in 1997 and lived together from June 1998 until January 2017.  They were not formally married, and there was no evidence they had ever filed a declaration of informal marriage.  E.L. filed a lawsuit seeking a divorce from J.M.  The jury found the parties were not married.  E.L. appealed, arguing there was insufficient evidence supporting that finding and that the evidence conclusively proved the parties were married.

The jury was asked to determine if the parties were married.

Continue Reading ›

iStock-1270267953-300x200When a party in a Texas civil lawsuit dies, the case may proceed if the cause of action survives the death of the party. Tex.R.Civ.P. 150. Generally, when the defendant in Texas civil lawsuit dies, the plaintiff may petition for a “scire facias” to require the administrator, executor, or heir to defend the lawsuit.  Tex. R. Civ. P. 152. Pursuant to case law, however, Texas divorce cases are not subject to this rule because they are personal actions that do not survive the death of a party if judgment has not yet been rendered.  Generally, heirs do not take over a divorce case prior to final judgment.  Instead the divorce case abates when a party dies.  This means the court will dismiss the case.

Husband Dies During Divorce Suit

A wife recently challenged a trial court’s determination that her divorce petition abated upon her husband’s death.  The parties had married for about seven years when they divorced in 2000.  In 2018, they got married again.  The parties did not have any children together, but the husband had children from a previous marriage.  The wife petitioned for divorce in May of 2020. The husband filed an answer, but passed away the following January.  The wife sought to have the husband’s children defend the divorce on the husband’s behalf as his heirs.

The trial court found it did not have subject-matter jurisdiction to proceed, because a divorce petition, as a personal action, abates upon the death of either party. A judgment rendered by a court without subject-matter jurisdiction is void.

Continue Reading ›

Contact Information