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ringsIn a recent Texas divorce case, the lower court imposed so-called “death penalty sanctions” against the wife for litigation misconduct. The wife sued for divorce in 2016, and the husband counter-petitioned in the following month. In the counter-petition, the husband pled claims of misapplication of community property, fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, and forgery.

The wife didn’t cooperate with written or oral discovery, causing the husband to ask for sanctions. He also filed a motion to compel discovery, claiming she hadn’t responded to multiple requests for written discovery and had refused to answer questions at her deposition. The lower court set a hearing but, without holding the hearing, said it would consider the motion for sanctions. It ordered the wife to respond to the husband’s discovery requests. The husband and wife agreed to an order that addressed the motions for sanctions. It found the wife had again failed to answer the written discovery and ordered her to answer. She and her husband signed the agreed order.

Nonetheless, the wife didn’t answer the discovery requests, and he again moved for sanctions. He said she hadn’t provided answers to interrogatories. He claimed that she’d produced some documents, but they weren’t identified or categorized as responses to particular requests. He also claimed she hadn’t given an accounting she’d been ordered to give and hadn’t answered the deposition questions she’d previously refused to answer. He asked for severe sanctions, including a default judgment against her.

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classroomIn a recent Texas appeal, a father appealed a judgment that awarded the mother post-majority expenses for their child. The case arose from the parents entering into an agreed final decree of divorce and settlement affecting the parent-child relationship. There was a section titled “college education.” In this provision, the parties agreed that the father would pay 60% of the expenses required for their kids to enroll at and attend a public or private college, university, or graduate school as long as the kid remained enrolled in a course of study leading to a degree. The expenses were to include tuition, room and board, books, and other incidental fees. The father was to pay the school directly or reimburse the mother for any payments she made over her 40% share.

The college education provision wasn’t a part of the sections on property distribution or child support in the agreement. The parents signed the decree, thereby agreeing to all of its provisions.

In 2015, the mother sued to enforce the child support order, asking for reimbursement for health expenses and insurance premiums, in addition to college expenses. She later filed amended motions. The father filed an answer, asserting she wasn’t entitled to post-majority support, since she didn’t ask for contractual relief. He argued that the only relief sought was enforcement, rather than breach of contract.

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briefcaseIn a recent Texas divorce case, the court examined a divorce decree that named a husband as constructive trustee of property decreed to the wife. The property at issue was a 50% undivided interest in the shares of an LLC. The dispute in the case was whether the constructive trustee had to give the wife documentation showing the status of the shares and the LLC’s tax returns and financial statements.

The case arose when the couple divorced and a mediated settlement agreement was incorporated into their divorce decree. The couple had agreed that any shares of the LLC that had been awarded to the wife would still be managed by the husband, who also had the exclusive right to control, manage, possess, and exercise the rights associated with shares of the LLC held in his name. The decree also stated that the husband was the constructive trustee for the wife’s benefit with regard to any of the LLC’s shares to the extent he was obligated to pay her under that provision of the agreement. It also ordered him to pay her 1/2 of the sum of all of the monies he received due to selling shares of the LLC.

The wife wanted assurance that the husband was properly maintaining the values of the LLC shares when he didn’t answer her questions. She sued him and moved for the appointment of a Rule 172 auditor. Through several procedural mechanisms, she asked for an accounting of the LLC’s finances from 2011 to the present. She also wanted him to produce the tax returns and K-1 forms that were related to her ownership interest. To support her claims, she claimed that the husband owed her statutory and common law duties, including a duty to give her an accounting, as a constructive trustee.

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mother and babyIn a recent Texas appellate case, a mother appealed from a trial court order that limited her possession of her daughter to once a month over one year. The case arose when the Department of Family and Protective Services brought an action for the protection and conservatorship of a couple’s three-year-old daughter. It asked for parental rights to be terminated in its initial pleadings.

The caseworker testified that she’d removed the child from the mother’s custody because there were concerns about the mother’s drug use and mental health, including suicide efforts and about 40 hospitalizations. When removed, the child lived with her maternal grandmother in dirty conditions. The Department put her with a foster family, which was ultimately not able to handle her special needs, including a narrowed esophagus and delayed speech development. She was later placed with her father.

The daughter did well in her placement with the father. Meanwhile, the mother did perform the tasks she was asked to perform by the Department. Accordingly, the Department no longer wanted to terminate her parental rights. The Department asked that the mother and father be named as joint managing conservators, with the father named as the parent who could designate the child’s primary residence. The Department recommended a standard visitation order.

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hospitalIn a recent Texas child custody case, the children’s maternal uncle asked the trial court to name him to be sole managing conservator of the kids. The kids’ father, who was joint managing conservator of the kids when their mother died, moved to dismiss the lawsuit on the basis that he couldn’t establish standing to maintain the claim. The court determined that the uncle had failed to present enough evidence to show that the kids’ present situation would significantly harm their health or emotional development, as required by Texas Family Code section 102.004(a)(1).

The mother and father were appointed joint managing conservators of their two kids in 2012, with the mother having the right to designate a primary residence. The mother died of cancer in 2015 when one child was nine and the other was four. The father took over daily care for his kids. Prior to the mother dying, the kids had had significant interaction with the mother’s family, particularly their uncle on that side. After the death, the father refused to bring the kids to visit with the uncle’s cousin and didn’t bring the kids to their mother’s memorial service.

The uncle brought a petition, asking to be sole managing conservator of the kids, and supported it with an affidavit in which the mother had asked that he and his wife care for the kids if she died and in which he stated he and his wife had been actively involved in the kids’ lives. He also claimed that the father hadn’t supported the kids financially, hadn’t been involved with the kids before their mother died, and didn’t provide appropriate emotional support or arrangements.

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childIn a recent Texas appellate case, the court considered a divorce in which each parent was appointed joint managing conservator of their three kids. The father was given the exclusive right to designate the kids’ primary residence, and neither parent required supervised access.

The father petitioned to modify the parent-child relationship on the ground that there had been a material and substantial change in their circumstances. He asked for the mother to be denied access or have supervised access only. The mother cross-petitioned, asking that she be appointed the sole managing conservator and that the father be denied access to the kids. The parties went to trial only on the mother’s petition.

At trial, the court heard from two psychologists. The parents were ordered to continue being joint managing conservators with the mother having the exclusive right to designate the kids’ primary residence. The father’s access to his kids was limited, and steps that had to be taken were specified. Only if he completed those steps would he be permitted visitation.

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wedding ringA recent Texas appellate decision arose from the appeal of a divorce. The husband argued that the evidence was not enough to support the jury’s finding of an informal marriage and that it was improper for the trial court to admit hearsay evidence, as well as that an “Agreement in Contemplation of Marriage” should be enforced as a post-marital agreement.

The couple had been married in 2003 and had triplets. The husband sued for divorce in 2010. He claimed that the couple had married in a 2003 ceremony and asked that an Agreement in Contemplation of Marriage entered into in July, before the ceremony, be enforced. The agreement stated that the couple wouldn’t have community property during their marriage. The husband also argued it wasn’t in the kids’ best interests for them to be joint managing conservators of them, and he should be appointed as the sole managing conservator.

The wife counter-sued for divorce, claiming that the agreement in question had been executed after the couple had informally married and couldn’t be construed as a prenuptial agreement that prevented a community estate from being created. The wife asked that she be appointed as the sole managing conservator.

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houseIn a recent Texas appellate decision, a wife appealed a judgment dividing a community estate between her and her husband. She argued that the trial court should have ordered the husband to reimburse her for certain expenses.

The couple had married in 2004 and divorced in 2013. The lower court awarded the wife a community residence as separate property. The appellate court court held that this residence was improperly included in the community estate, and it sent the matter back down for a new property division trial.

After that, the wife asked the court to reimburse her for money she’d spent on a house in Fort Worth, as well as what she’d paid to satisfy the husband’s premarital debts and premiums she’d paid on his insurance policies. She asked to be named the beneficiary of the husband’s life insurance policy if she weren’t awarded reimbursement for premiums she’d already paid. The lower court held a hearing on the reimbursement issue.

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coupleIn a recent Texas appellate case, the court considered a divorce arising from a common law marriage. The husband argued that the lower court had made a mistake in mischaracterizing parcels of real property as community property and failing to reimburse him.

The couple started their common law marriage during the spring of 2013. No children came of the marriage, and there were differences about the precise beginning. Two pieces of real property were acquired that spring. The husband claimed he got one parcel, including the main house, by himself as a single person.

Two days later, the couple acquired an adjacent parcel as a married couple. There were five or six houses on it. According to the wife, both properties were gotten during the marriage and thus should be considered community property. The husband claimed both were separate property because their marriage didn’t start until after the first property was purchased. He claimed that the second property should still be characterized as separate property because title was taken by tracing back to an earnest money contract predating the marriage.

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Downs syndromeIn a recent Texas appellate decision, a father raised four issues related to a lower court’s provision of child support for his adult disabled child, among other things. The couple was married in 1992 and had two kids, TWG and a minor daughter, EAG. In 2008, the father left the mother to move in with his girlfriend, only to move back in a few months later, claiming the other relationship was over. The mother and father signed a lease with a term of one year, but in another few months, the father left for his girlfriend again, which saddled the mother with $4,000 for the remainder of the lease.

The father had a child with his girlfriend and didn’t pay child support to either of his minor children with the mother until 2011, when the mother asked for child support through the Attorney General’s Office. The father began paying monthly child support but provided no other financial assistance and eventually sued for divorce. The mother counter-petitioned, asking for child support for both kids, a disproportionate share of the community estate, and damages from the father’s girlfriend.

The mother explained to the court that her adult son, TWG, had agenesis of the corpus collosum, a condition in which the fibers linking the right brain to the left brain had never developed. The son lived with his mother and would need support his whole life. He’d never gone to college and wasn’t employed. He saw a doctor every year and spent the night with the father in 2015 2-3 times in total. He required adult care, which cost $500 per month, and got a certain amount in SSI and SNAP benefits.

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