Articles Tagged with evidence

iStock-926241578A Texas common-law marriage can occur when the parties agree to be married, subsequently live together as married within the state, and represent themselves as married.  Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 2.401. The agreement to be married is a separate requirement that must be proven, although it may sometimes be inferred from evidence of the other two requirements.

CLAIM OF INFORMAL MARRIAGE

In a recent case, a woman appealed the dismissal of her claim of common-law or “informal” marriage. The parties had previously been married and were divorced in 2014.  They subsequently rekindled their relationship later that year.  The alleged wife petitioned for divorce in May 2016, claiming they had “rendered a common-law marriage” in December 2014 and had stopped living together around the time she petitioned for divorce.

The man denied that there was an informal marriage and filed a motion for summary judgment, seeking the trial court to find that the woman had failed to establish its existence.  The affidavit the woman attached to her response stated the parties reconciled and agreed to be married on or about December 14, 2014.  She said they moved in together and represented themselves as married.  She also attached affidavits from others. She also submitted an email from the man to his child’s teacher in which he referred to her as his wife.  She also provided a number of documents in support of her position. Following a hearing, the court granted the man’s motion for summary judgment.

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iStock-848796670The trial court must divide property in a just and right manner in a Texas divorce.  The division must be equitable, and should not be punitive against either spouse.  A husband recently challenged a property division, arguing it had been punitive against him.

The wife filed for divorce after the parties had been married for over 30 years.  She alleged the husband had engaged in cruel treatment and had committed fraud on the community estate.

Wife’s Trial Testimony Highlighted Abusive Marriage

The wife said the husband often disparaged her appearance, individual worth, and profession in front of others and in private. According to appeals court’s opinion, the husband earned significantly more money than the wife and controlled the couple’s finances.  The wife said the husband used his control of the couple’s finances punitively and, for example, would not give her money to go to Poland to visit her family when they were sick and would not pay for a surgery she needed. She also testified that he said her mother had died of a stroke because she was a bad daughter and a bad person. Other witnesses, including the couple’s daughter, corroborated the wife’s allegations of verbal abuse. The husband, however, denied it and claimed they were all liars.

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divorce-property-fraudIn some cases, a party to a Texas divorce may agree to a settlement that seemingly has less-than-favorable terms.  For example, a party may agree to their spouse receiving property with a higher monetary value to ensure they receive property that has personal value to them. In a recent case, a husband alleged the wife committed “fraud by nondisclosure” by entering into a Mediated Settlement Agreement (“MSA”) without disclosing that the FBI had possession of certain items that were to be awarded to him under that MSA.

Husband is Awarded Certain Items He Believes are in Wife’s Possession

The parties agreed to the MSA, which gave the wife the personal property in her possession with certain exceptions, including a laptop and cell phone.  These items were explicitly given to the husband in the MSA. When the husband learned that the wife did not actually have possession of these items, he moved to set aside the MSA. The husband testified that the wife having those items was “a key factor” in his agreement to the MSA and the wife receiving so much joint property and custody of their child. He said the contents on those devices could have a negative effect on his military career. He had initially believed they were in the wife’s possession, because he had left them at the home and she had pictures and videos from the devices.  He had previously petitioned for those items to be returned to him, and the wife had subsequently asked to keep all of the possessions in the marital home.

Husband Moves to Set Aside MSA – But is Denied

After he signed the MSA, the husband learned the FBI had both devices. He moved to set aside the MSA in May, arguing the wife committed fraud when she failed to disclose that she did not have the devices. The trial court denied the motion, and the husband appealed.

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5thingsdivorcecourt_headerA court should consider a number of factors in deciding a Texas custody case.  Even when the court determines the parents should be joint managing conservators, the court does not have to award equal periods of possession and access to the child to each parent. Tex. Fam. Code § 153.135.  Under Texas law, there is a rebuttable presumption that the standard possession order serves the child’s best interests.  Tex. Fam. Code § 153.252.  A father recently challenged the divorce decree giving the mother the right to designate the child’s primary residence and awarding him the standard possession order.

Trial Court Initially Awards Father Primary Custody

According to the appeals court’s opinion, the parties’ child was born about three months after they married in 2014.  The parties separated in 2016 and the mother petitioned for divorce in March 2017. The court signed temporary order giving the father the exclusive right to designate the child’s primary residence in Travis County.

At the custody hearing, there was evidence the mother had sustained a serious brain injury the previous year.  There was significant testimony about her mental health before and after the separation and about how her injury affected her ability to take care of the child.

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iStock-1139699594When a court considers Texas child custody and visitation, the child’s best interest is the primary concern.  The court considers certain factors, including what the child wants, the child’s current and future needs, any danger to the child, the parents’ respective abilities, programs available, the parents’ plans for the child, stability, any acts or omissions indicating the relationship between the parent and child is not proper, and any excuse for those acts or omissions.

A father recently appealed a denial of his petition for modification and grant of the mother’s counterpetition.  At the time of the divorce, the trial court ordered the parties not to move from a specific area without a modification order or written agreement filed with the court.  Neither parent was given the exclusive right to designate the child’s primary residence.  Nonetheless, both parents moved outside of the geographical boundary after the divorce.

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When a spouse petitions for a Texas divorce, the other spouse must file an answer.  If the other spouse fails to do so, the court may render a default judgment.  Under certain circumstances, however, the other spouse may get the default judgment overturned.  In a recent case, a husband sought to overturn a default judgment entered against him.

According to the Texas Supreme Court’s opinion, the wife filed for divorce.  The trial court granted her motion for alternative service at the home of her husband’s mother.  The trial court ultimately entered a no-answer default judgment the following January.

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In some Texas divorce cases, a party fails to file an answer to the divorce petition or otherwise participate in the divorce proceedings in any way.  When a court divides property in a Texas divorce, it must do so in a “just and right” manner. TEX. FAM. CODE ANN. § 7.001.  However, to do so, the court must have sufficient evidence of the value of the community estate, even if one of the parties does not participate in the proceedings.  Even if their spouse fails to file an answer, the petitioner in a divorce case must present evidence supporting the material allegations in the petition.  If a trial court divides the property without sufficient evidence of the value of the assets to make a just and right division, the division may be subject to reversal on appeal, even if the appealing spouse failed to respond and the court issued a default judgment.

In a recent case, a husband challenged a default judgment granting his wife a divorce and dividing their property, arguing there was insufficient evidence to support the property division.

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Evidence is important in any case, including a Texas child-custody dispute.  In a recent case, a father challenged a trial court’s divorce decree based on the exclusion of certain evidence at trial.iStock-818445486

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