In a recent Texas divorce case, a husband appealed from a divorce decree. He and his wife married in 2014, and they had a son in the same year. In the following year, he petitioned the court to declare that their marriage was void, claiming that his wife’s prior marriage in Eritrea had never been properly concluded. Therefore, he argued, their marriage was void. She counter-petitioned for divorce.
The trial was bifurcated such that the court looked at whether the marriage was valid in one proceeding and decided the divorce-related concerns in a separate, later proceeding. During the first proceeding, the wife testified she married an Italian citizen in Eritrea in 2002, and she had two kids with him. They were legally separated in Italy, and her ex-husband was ordered to pay her child support. She also filed for divorce in Eritrea in 2013. The record included a decree from Eritrea in which the divorce was stated to be in 2013. The ex-husband didn’t appear in court, but a divorce was decreed, and the wife believed she was properly divorced.
The husband showed that the Italian legal proceedings were ongoing in 2013. The wife testified that the Italian proceedings were to get legally separated, but she’d asked for the divorce in Eritrea. Neither the wife nor the husband submitted information about Italian or Eritrean divorce law. At the end of the first proceeding, the husband’s request that his marriage be declared void was denied.
During the second proceeding, the husband called as a witness a man who’d supervised his possession of the couple’s shared child. The supervisor testified that the wife was unhappy at the exchanges, while the husband was happy. The child didn’t want to go back to the wife at the end of the visit, and on one occasion, the wife tried to hit the man while he was holding the child. Meanwhile, the wife testified the husband was cruel and aggressive and accused him of bad acts like keeping a camera in the house to watch her, hacking her phone, and threatening to kill her or hurt the kids. She also testified that he’d paid no child support. Her brother testified as to an incident in which the husband threatened to kill the family.
The judge named the wife sole managing conservator of the child and the husband as possessory conservator with limited rights until the kid turned three. At that time, there would be a standard possession order. The husband was also required to pay child support and retroactive child support, as well as a monthly sum for medical expenses.
The husband appealed, arguing there wasn’t enough evidence to show the marriage was valid, among other things. The appellate court explained that every marriage entered into in Texas is presumed valid under Tex. Fam. Code § 1.101. If someone is alleged to be married to multiple people, the most recent one is presumed valid, while the prior one is not.
In this case, the husband hadn’t provided evidence about Italian or Eritrean law, and it couldn’t be determined whether the pending Italian proceedings affected the filing for divorce in Eritrea. Without evidence of the laws at issue, it was impossible to determine that the wife’s divorce from her first husband was fraudulently obtained, as urged by her second husband. The trial court’s judgment was affirmed.
If you need to get a divorce, contact the Texas attorneys at the McClure Law Group at 214.692.8200.
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