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ringsIn a recent Texas alimony decision, an ex-husband appealed the granting of spousal maintenance to his ex-wife. The couple had married in 2005. The man sued for divorce 10 years later. The woman claimed that the formal marriage had occurred in 2005, but they had married in 1999 when she was 16. They had two kids.

Around age 16, she lived with the man and his son. She was prevented from working, and he paid all of the bills and paid for food, while she cleaned and cooked and went to parent-teacher meetings for her stepson. She did finish high school and took classes to become a surgical technologist, even though she claimed she wasn’t allowed to work outside the house. She almost finished the program but was stopped from finishing by her husband. She testified later she couldn’t go back and finish the program because students weren’t allowed to re-enter after dropping out.

Once the husband sued for divorce, she worked as a waitress and then in retail. She got under $2,000 in monthly income, and her expenses were almost twice that. She didn’t have enough money, even with child support being paid, to cover her reasonable needs. She also said she didn’t have the education necessary for a better job. She estimated that getting the education she needed while caring for two kids would take five or six years, due to clinical hours.

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sitting roomIn a recent Texas property division case, an ex-husband appealed a final divorce decree on the basis of five issues. The case arose when a couple married in 1992. The wife filed for divorce in 2013, claiming the husband had cheated on her. She asked for a disproportionate share of the marital estate due to fault for the marriage breaking up, as well as a disparity in the spouses’ earning power and their ability to support themselves.

The husband filed a general denial and counterclaim and also asked for a disproportionate share of the marital estate. The lower court granted the divorce on the ground of adultery. The husband was awarded as separate property an undivided interest in a funeral home business, the land on which it was located, and two adjacent tracts. The wife was also awarded an undivided interest in the funeral home, the land, and the adjacent land. The lower court awarded her the marital home and an insurance check as well. The husband asked for findings of fact and conclusions of law. None were filed, and he didn’t file a notice of past due findings.

He appealed. The appellate court explained that during a divorce, the court must order a division of the estate in a way that is just and right with due respect to each party’s rights under Texas Family Code section 7.001. The appellate court found it should reverse a property division ruling only if the mistake materially affected the lower court’s just and right division of property.

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businessmanIn a Texas child support decision, a father’s attorney told the trial court the couple had reached an agreement about everything but the father’s child support obligation. His attorney told the court what the terms of their agreement were. These included that the mother would decide the kids’ primary residence, and the father would have standard possession with certain modifications. After deciding the amount of the child support payment, the lower court announced it approved their agreement.

The lower court entered a divorce decree, including the terms that had been announced on the record. The decree had a place for the father to sign indicating consent, but he didn’t sign. He asked for a new trial without an attorney, and when that motion was denied, he appealed without an attorney. He presented five issues.

He argued that the mother had instituted a malicious criminal prosecution against him that adversely affected his negotiations during divorce. He claimed there was newly discovered evidence in the form of his cell phone, which had been in the district attorney’s custody previously as proof in an ongoing criminal investigation.

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jail cellIn a recent Texas appellate decision, a father appealed a divorce decree naming the mother the sole managing conservator of their two kids. The mother had filed for divorce in 2016. When the matter came to trial, the father was serving a 15-year prison sentence for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and was waiting to go on trial for other issues.

By the time of the trial, their kids were nine years old. At trial, the mother testified that she’d separated from him because of abuse over a period of years. For example, he’d choked her son from an earlier marriage and once thrown her to the ground with a gun to her head and threatened to kill her. The kids were just three and had seen the abuse.

She testified that the kids had seen family violence a lot. Texts were introduced into evidence that also included threats from the father to the mother. An abusive letter from him was introduced. After he was convicted, the mother took the kids to the jail to visit him twice so that they could see he was fine. After the visit, the kids were emotionally affected, and she decided it wasn’t in their best interests to keep visiting him. The kids’ behavior improved after they stopped talking to the father, who the mother believed spoke to them inappropriately, in a way that they could not process.

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wedding ringsIn a recent Texas divorce decision, a woman appealed from a no-answer default divorce judgment that concluded her marriage. The couple had married in 2002 and had two kids. In 2013, the father petitioned for divorce and asked for a disproportionate percentage of the marital estate. He wanted to be appointed the sole managing conservator of the kids with the mother being ordered to pay him child support and obtain a life insurance policy on herself, naming him the sole beneficiary.

A return of service was filed that showed the mother was personally served. However, the mother didn’t answer or appear. The record was minimal until the father got a hearing to obtain a default judgment. Only he appeared. He testified as to what he believed had happened in connection with the separation. He claimed the mother had moved to another state, and she hadn’t seen the kids since moving but called the kids on the phone. He testified he had no insurance for the kids. He didn’t offer further evidence by testimony or through documentary proof.

Afterwards, the court signed a divorce decree that divided the marital property and appointed the father sole managing conservator for both kids. It ordered the mother to pay child support and awarded her retroactive child support. Additionally, retroactive medical support was ordered, and the mother was required to buy a life insurance policy on herself in which the father would be named sole beneficiary.

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mother and childIn a recent Texas child custody case, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services sued to terminate a mother’s parental rights to her daughter. After the jury trial, her parental rights were terminated.

The lower court found that the mother had placed or permitted her child to stay in surroundings that threatened the child’s wellbeing. It also found she’d put the child with people who were involved in activities that were endangering the child. It also found that she’d failed to obey a service plan that set forth actions she had to complete in order to have her child returned, and terminating her rights was in the child’s best interest under Texas Family Code section 161.001(b)(1)(D), (E), and (O).

The mother had two kids, a son and a daughter from different fathers. The son was around 11 years old at the time of trial, while the daughter was 16 months old. While the mother was pregnant with her daughter, the Department got a report that claimed there was domestic violence in her home.

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childIn a recent Texas child custody case, a mother sought reversal of a judgment that terminated her parental rights to her two kids. The parents were the biological parents of two small kids, one a four-year-old autistic boy and the other a 19-month-old girl. They lived in an apartment, and the father served as the breadwinner, while the mother managed the household and took care of the kids.

The mother suffered from rheumatoid arthritis, and this was one reason she didn’t work outside the home. She was hospitalized for treatment in 2015 and then took medications that made her feel out of it. She needed help from the father when she was on medication.

In December 2015, the father moved out, which was the start of a marital separation. When he left, she stayed in the apartment with their kids. She didn’t have significant resources and had to manage them alone. Her son from a prior relationship visited the family that year. He was 11 and helped the mother.

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father and daughterIn a Texas child custody decision, the appellate court considered child custody and a petition to modify the parent-child relationship. The couple had married in 2010 and had their first child the next year. They separated and got back together multiple times, but they finally separated a last time in 2012, after police were called to stop a domestic fight.

The wife sought and received a two-year protective order against the husband that stopped him from going within 200 yards of her home, her workplace, or the child’s school, except when it was necessary for visitation. The divorce was finalized in 2013. The wife was named the child’s sole managing conservator, and the father was named possessory conservator with visitation rights.

The wife filed a motion for enforcement and a petition to modify a year later. She claimed her ex had violated the divorce decree by not paying child support, not attending an orientation at the neutral exchange location, and not going to therapy. She asked the court to hold her ex-husband in contempt and confine him. The ex-husband sued to reduce his child support obligation. She then asked for another protective order because the ex-husband had violated the original protective order by harassing her with texts in which he labeled her with derogatory names. A new protective order was granted.

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baby carriageA Texas child custody case arose after a mother asked the court to grant her plea to the jurisdiction and request for dismissal of a petition to modify the parent-child relationship, which was filed by her children’s stepmother.

The mother and father in the case had divorced in 2011. The court appointed them joint managing conservators of their three kids. The kids lived with the mother, who had the right to choose their primary residence. They spent one night a week and every other weekend with their father. They had dinner with him on a different night once a week.

Two years later, the father was diagnosed with cancer, and the parents modified their child custody order, reducing the father’s child support and life insurance obligations, and adding an overnight on the night the kids ate dinner with him. The former couple agreed that if either parent became incapacitated or died, the kids would continue to have reasonable contact with their extended family on the other side.

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lichenIn a recent Texas property division decision, a woman appealed from a final divorce decree. A couple had been married about 30 years when the husband petitioned for divorce. The wife was incarcerated. At a divorce hearing, she appeared without a lawyer and by telephone because of her incarceration. The lower court gave her 15 days to file exhibits and permitted the husband another 15 days to object. The wife sent copies of her exhibits and also sent a settlement offer to the husband’s attorney. There were no objections to the copy she filed with the court, or any of her exhibits submitted to the court.

Her divorce was granted, and the community real property and other assets were ordered to be sold with the proceeds split between the husband and the wife equally. The wife appealed, complaining of mistakes about how the property was divided.

The appellate court explained that the court can divide the community estate during a divorce under Texas Family Code section 7.001. It cannot divide separate property. The appellate court that reviews property distribution is supposed to look at whether there was enough evidence upon which the lower court could exercise discretion, and whether the lower court erred in applying its discretion.

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