TEXAS COURT REVERSES DIVORCE DECREE THAT FAILS TO COMPLY WITH A MEDIATED SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT
March 27, 2019
In any family law dispute, it is in the best interest of the parties involved if they can come to an amicable agreement as to how issues should be resolved. Settlement agreements in family law cases are also viewed favorably by the courts. Under Texas law, if the parties in a divorce action enter into a mediated settlement agreement (MSA), the agreement is like any other contract in that the terms of the agreement are binding upon the parties. Similarly, the court must respect the terms of an MSA in issuing a divorce decree.
If the courts enter a decree that is contrary to the terms of an MSA, it can result in a reversal of the decree, as was illustrated in a recent case decided by a Texas appellate court. If you are considering pursuing a divorce, it is in your best interest to meet with a seasoned Texas family law attorney to discuss your options for pursuing your desired result.
Terms of the Mediated Settlement Agreement
Reportedly, the parties were married for six months when the husband filed a petition for divorce. The petition alleged, in part, that the parties were the parents of two children of the marriage. The wife filed a general denial in response to the petition. The parties then entered into an MSA which stated, in part, that the husband would continue the adoption process of the first minor child, and that the wife consented to the adoption. The MSA also stated it was not subject to revocation. The husband subsequently filed a motion to enter a final divorce decree. The wife retained new counsel who then filed an amended answer, denying the husband’s parentage of the first minor child. The court held a hearing as to the child’s parentage, and ultimately entered a decree stating that the parties were the parents of both children. The wife appealed.
Texas Law Regarding Mediated Settlement Agreements
Under Texas law, an MSA is binding on the parties if certain conditions are met. First, the agreement must clearly state that it is not subject to revocation. The agreement must also be signed by both parties and their attorneys. If an MSA meets these conditions a party is entitled to a judgment on the MSA, and any judgment rendered must strictly comply with the MSA. Courts do not have the discretion to modify an MSA before incorporating it into a divorce decree. If a court modifies an MSA, if the modification substantially alters the agreement it is grounds for reversal.
Here, the trial court varied from the terms of the MSA by stating that both children were children of the marriage in the divorce decree. There was no evidence of record showing that the first child’s adoption was completed, however. As such, the appellate court found that the trial court erred in stating the child was a child of the marriage in the divorce decree. Thus, the appellate court reversed the divorce decree and remanded the case for further proceedings.
Speak with a Trusted Divorce Attorney Regarding Your Case
If you wish to end your marriage, it is essential to retain a trusted divorce attorney to advocate on your behalf and seek the court’s compliance with any mediated settlement agreement. Rick Davis is a seasoned family law attorney who will aggressively pursue a fair and equitable result on your behalf in your divorce case. Mr. Davis can be contacted at 979-779-4357 or through the online form to set up a meeting.
More Blog Posts:
Texas Supreme Court Holds Wife Waived Rights to Payment Provided for in Pre-Marital Agreement by Seeking Rescission of the Agreement, September 13, 2018, Rick Davis & Associates Blog