Texas Court Finds Property Remained Separate Under Premarital Agreement

Texas is a community property state, and property acquired during a marriage is generally distributed equitably at the time of a Texas divorce.  However, couples may enter into premarital agreements, also known as prenuptial agreements, that alter the way property will be identified and distributed if a divorce should occur.

A premarital agreement played a significant role in one recent case.  Before marriage, the couple executed a premarital agreement that identified the separate property belonging to each party and precluded the acquisition of community property during the marriage.  They had two children together.  The wife filed for divorce after seven years.

The parties agreed to a joint managing conservatorship.  They stipulated there was a premarital agreement, and neither challenged its enforceability.  The trial court ultimately entered a final decree.    The court also confirmed certain real property was the wife’s separate property.  It also found the husband had breached the premarital agreement by raising a claim against that property and awarded attorney’s fees to the wife.  The court modified the standard possession order by not allowing overnight visits with the father on Thursdays and Sundays. The husband ultimately appealed.

He argued the trial court erred in finding the property was the wife’s separate property.  He argued the court abused its discretion by ignoring evidence the wife had sold him a half-interest in the property.  He argued there was a sales contract, a hand-written note acknowledging his interest, and a payment to the wife.

The trial court found the wife had acquired the property while she was single.  It found the property was identified as her separate property in the premarital agreement, and the parties had not modified that portion of the agreement.  The court also found the parties had not made any agreements regarding the property after the marriage.  The court further found they had not conveyed or transferred ownership of the property during the marriage under the terms of the premarital agreement.

The appeals court found the trial court could have determined the $50,000 the husband gave the wife was a gift.  The trial court could have found credible the wife’s testimony that she had not executed a sales contract for the property.

The appeals court found the evidence supported the trial court’s findings and conclusions.  The property was identified as the wife’s separate property.  The agreement stated that separate property would maintain that character and that no community property would be created.  Additionally, it provided that separate property would not be comingled.  Furthermore, the agreement provided that property held by title could only be conveyed to the other party by a written instrument indicating the intent to transfer.  The appeals court found no evidence of a deed, instrument of conveyance, or other written agreement to convey the property.  Nor was there any evidence of a written agreement to modify the premarital agreement’s terms.  The premarital agreement also stated that any money used for the benefit of the other party would be presumed to be a gift.

The appeals court found no abuse of discretion in the award of attorney’s fees because the evidence supported the trial court’s findings and conclusions that the husband had asserted an unsuccessful claim against the wife’s separate property.  The premarital agreement provided for attorney’s fees in such circumstances.

The appeals court also found the trial court had not abused its discretion in denying the father overnight visitation on school nights.  The appeals court found the evidence supported the court’s findings and conclusions.  There was “ample evidence” of the husband’s use of profane language in front of the children and calling the mother vulgar names.  There was also evidence that his behavior on school mornings caused stress to the children and affected their education environment. There was evidence the mother could handle school-morning routines.

This case shows that a couple wishing to change the status of property included in a premarital agreement should make sure they do so in accordance with the terms of the agreement.  If a premarital agreement requires a written conveyance, the party receiving the property should ensure that there is a written document that meets the requirements of the agreement.  If you are planning to get married, a Texas premarital agreement attorney can help you protect your assets.  Call McClure Law Group at 214.692.8200.

More Blog Posts:

Protect Yourself with a Prenuptial Agreement Before You Wreck Yourself with a Divorce

It’s Not Too Late to Get a Prenup!

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