What is a Partition or Exchange Agreement?
In Texas, spouses can enter into agreements (often referred to as “partition or exchange agreements“) during marriage, partitioning community property between themselves. A partition or exchange agreement must satisfy several requirements to be valid and enforceable, including being signed by both spouses. However, when the stakes are high, some unscrupulous spouses may trick their unknowing partner into signing the partition or exchange agreement under false pretenses or, even worse, forge their partner’s signature. Recently, one husband did both.
Ninth District of Texas Court of Appeals
After finding out that his wife was having an affair, this husband retained an attorney to draft a partition or exchange agreement to “protect certain assets” in case of a divorce. Once a draft was ready, the husband gave his wife a single page of the agreement, which contained space for a notary to sign and notarize, and asked his wife to have the page notarized. Unsuspecting, the wife took the page to a coworker who was a notary and signed it herself, too. Thereafter, the wife returned the signed and notarized page to the husband.
A few months later, the wife filed for divorce. In response, the husband asserted that he and the wife had executed a partition or exchange agreement, which he produced. Incorporated as part of this agreement was the notary page that the wife had previously signed, as well as a separate signature page that purportedly contained wife’s signature. Shocked, the wife filed a response, asserting that she had never even seen the agreement before – much less signed it.
The trial court held a hearing to determine whether the agreement was valid and enforceable. Importantly, the trial court had to determine two interrelated issues; first, did the wife sign the actual signature page to the agreement? And second, did wife’s signature on the notary page constitute signing the entire agreement? At the hearing, the husband testified that he saw his wife sign the agreement before his very eyes. The wife refuted her husband’s testimony, stating that he had only handed her the single notary page and that she was never aware that the notary page was part of a larger agreement. The wife’s coworker, who notarized the wife’s signature, testified in the wife’s favor at the hearing, recalling that the wife had only brought the single page to be notarized – not an entire agreement.
Both spouses called their own forensic handwriting experts as witnesses at the hearing. The wife’s handwriting expert testified that the wife’s purported signature on the actual signature page to the agreement did not match the wife’s handwriting and had to be a forgery. The husband’s handwriting expert, on the other hand, testified that the wife’s signature on the actual signature page appeared to be genuine. At the conclusion of the hearing, the trial court found that the wife had not signed the signature page to the agreement. The trial court further founds that, given the circumstances, the wife’s signature on the agreement’s notary page did not constitute her signature on the agreement as a whole. As a result, the trial court ruled that the agreement was invalid and unenforceable.
Believing that the trial court had gotten it wrong, the husband appealed. On appeal, the husband argued that the trial court had erred in determining that the agreement was unenforceable, because he had presented more than enough evidence to prove that his wife had signed the agreement. The Ninth Court of Appeals disagreed. Although the husband had presented some evidence supporting the validity of the agreement, the wife had also presented evidence contradicting the husband’s argument at the trial-court level. While the trial court had been presented with conflicting evidence, the Court of Appeals determined that the trial court’s finding regarding the invalidity and unenforceability of the agreement was not against the great weight and preponderance of the evidence. Accordingly, the Ninth Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s decision.
Avoid Falling Victim to Fraud in Divorce
While most of us hope that we never find ourselves victims of fraud, unexpected legal issues often arise during a divorce case. If they do, it is imperative that you have the advice and support of an experienced family law attorney. The knowledgeable team at McClure Law Group are prepared for any and all legal issues that could arise in your divorce and will work endlessly to ensure that you do not become the victim of a fraudulent claim, like the one in this case.
Do not wait until it is too late; Call us at (214) 692-8200 and schedule a consultation today.