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Waiver of Appeal in Texas Divorce Cases

Texas divorce attorneys know that even when a divorcing couple reaches a settlement agreement, there still may be issues that are in dispute.  Settlement agreements sometimes include provisions that the parties waive the right to appeal.  In a recent case, a husband attempted to appeal a final divorce decree despite a waiver of appeals in the settlement agreement.

When the couple filed for divorce, they owned several piece of property.  They had two parcels of the wife’s family ranch, one that she owned as separate property.  They purchased the second parcel from the wife’s brother and financed it through a loan secured by her separate property parcel.  They also took out a second loan on the wife’s property to pay for divorce attorney’s fees.

The parties eventually entered into an “Informal Settlement Agreement.”  Pursuant to this agreement, the husband would receive the family homestead and the wife would receive both parcels of her family ranch, with the husband paying the two loans. As part of the agreement, the parties waived their right to appeal or move for a new trial. The parties also agreed to submit any disputes regarding the language for the final decree to the trial court.

The husband filed a motion seeking clarification of the provision in the settlement agreement regarding his obligation to pay the loans on the property awarded to the wife if she decided to sell the property.  He said he expected her to sell and argued he should not be required to pay the debt if she did.

The trial court found the settlement agreement did not provide the obligation to pay the loans extinguished upon sale.  The husband’s attorney expressed concern regarding a judgment against the husband for the debt.  The court signed a final decree that imposed an owelty lien against the property awarded to the husband to secure payment of the debt.  The court explained it imposed the owelty lien as an enforcement mechanism.

The husband did not sign the final decree, and the wife moved to compel him to sign.  The husband’s attorney explained his objections at the hearing.  He objected to the owelty lien and the division of household items.  The trial court ordered him to sign.

The husband appealed.  The husband argued the waiver of appeals in the agreement did not apply because there was a “gross mistake” in the final decree.  He also argued the final decree was not in “strict compliance” with the agreement because it imposed the owelty lien and the parties did not agree to the division of household items.

The appeals court found there was not an exception for “gross mistake” in the settlement agreement.  The only exception included was evidence of extrinsic fraud.  The husband had not alleged there was any fraud.

The appeals court also found nothing in the waiver provisions that required strict compliance with the settlement agreement.  The appeals court further found that the final decree did strictly comply with the agreement because it did not vary the material terms.  The owelty lien did not change the division of assets or debts, but served as an enforcement mechanism.  Additionally, the husband’s attorney indicated they could “live with” owelty lien” if no judgment was entered against the husband.

Furthermore, the parties were to submit their disputes to the trial court.  The husband filed a motion for clarification and the court heard the arguments and decided on the issue.  Furthermore, the husband’s attorney had agreed to the owelty lien.

The appeals court found the parties waived their right to appeal and affirmed the trial court’s judgment.

The parties to a divorce should be sure they clearly understand all aspects of a settlement agreement and attempt to resolve any issues prior to finalizing the agreement.  As this case illustrates, many settlement agreements include waivers of the right to appeal.  Our experienced Texas divorce attorneys can help you through all aspects of a divorce.  If you are facing divorce, call McClure Law Group at 214.692.8200.

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