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Valid Post-Marital Agreement in Texas?

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.

The jury found there was an informal marriage prior to the agreement being executed. The husband was awarded property he’d obtained before marrying and the property they had gotten during the marriage, including the marital house. The trial court awarded a judgment for $541,000 to the wife. It found their marital home was community property worth over $1 million. It appointed the father as sole managing conservator of the kids and appointed the mother as possessory conservator. The court ordered that the parties couldn’t have unrelated members of the opposite sex in their house between 10 pm and 7 am when they had the kids with them.

The father appealed. He argued there wasn’t enough evidence to find an informal marriage. The mother had given evidence that she met the father through an online dating service. The mother lived in Texas and was a registered nurse who worked four days on and four days off, while the father was a business owner. The relationship became serious quickly. She was given an engagement ring by the father before they married so that people would know she was taken once she got pregnant. The father added her to his health insurance as a spouse before they were formally married. However, the agreement they entered into specifically stated the couple wasn’t married and would marry in August.

The appellate court explained that to have a common law marriage, the following must be shown:  (1) an agreement to marry, (2) living together as husband and wife, and (3) the couple held themselves out as married to other people.

The husband in this case argued that the wife had not shown the third element. The appellate court disagreed, noting that they’d directly represented themselves as married with the mother using the father’s surname and wearing a wedding ring and getting health insurance on this basis. The appellate court reasoned that the father hadn’t shown that admitting the insurance card most likely led to an improper judgment.

The father argued that he showed there was a valid post-marital agreement that was not enforced, but the appellate court disagreed. It explained that the father hadn’t shown he’d been divested of any separate property or that there was any mischaracterization of property, and there was no clear and convincing evidence that mandated reimbursement. For this and other reasons, the trial court’s judgment was affirmed.

If your divorce involves matters related to property distribution, contact the Texas attorneys at the McClure Law Group at 214.692.8200.

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