With such close geographic proximity, the legal issues that arise in a Texas divorce case occasionally transcend our border with Mexico. In a recent opinion, one Texas court explored the intersection between the laws of Mexico and Texas and whether a Mexican premarital agreement is valid and enforceable in Texas.
Foreign Prenups – Chihuahua, Mexico
In this case, the husband and wife married in Chihuahua, Mexico. Under the laws of Chihuahua, spouses must choose to be married under either a “community-property regime” or a “separate-property regime.” Likened to Texas law, the community-property regime provides that all property acquired during marriage is community property, much like what the Texas Family Code prescribes. The separate-property regime, however, provides that property acquired during marriage is the separate-property of the spouse who acquired the property. Notably, many Texas premarital agreements set forth a similar framework for characterizing property acquired during marriage. The husband and wife here chose to be married under a separate-property regime, which they memorialized in their marriage certificate.
Eventually, the husband and wife moved to Texas, where the wife filed for divorce. In response to the wife’s divorce petition, the husband alleged the existence of a Mexican premarital agreement (i.e., their previous selection of a separate-property regime). The wife requested the Texas trial court to find that no Mexican premarital agreement existed and that only the laws of Texas applied to the divorce case. The Texas trial court agreed with the wife, finding that Texas law applied to the divorce and, because Texas is a community-property state, any foreign premarital agreement was invalid. Dissatisfied, the husband appealed.
On appeal, the Eighth Court of Appeals disagreed with the trial court’s decision. The Court of Appeals noted that the laws of Chihuahua and Texas, as they relate to premarital agreements, are markedly similar. Both states characterize property as either “community” or “separate” and both states allow prospective spouses a great deal of flexibility in determining the character of property that they might acquire during marriage. As a result, the Court of Appeals held that it would not be against the public policy of Texas to recognize a premarital agreement entered into in Chihuahua.
The Court of Appeals went further, clarifying that, contrary to the trial court’s finding, a foreign premarital agreement actually can be valid in Texas and that it will generally be interpreted according to the laws of the state in which it was executed. The Court of Appeals noted that the husband and wife chose to be married in Chihuahua, whose laws required that their marriage be governed by either a community-property or separate-property regime. This selection was not invalidated simply because the wife filed for divorce in Texas. As a result, the Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s decision, finding that it was possible that the husband and wife’s selection of a separate-property regime constituted a valid premarital agreement in Texas.
Foreign pre-marital agreements and divorce in Texas often involve complicated legal issues, much like this one and if not handled correctly can have devastating financial consequences. Protect yourself and hire an experienced Texas divorce attorney. Call us at (214) 692-8200 to schedule a consultation.