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In spousal support matters, precision with terms is critical

Some wise person once said, “Fast is fine, but accuracy is everything.” Depending on whom you choose to go with, that person was either an ancient Greek historian or old Wild West legend, Wyatt Earp. For the purposes of this blog, we’ll go with Earp. He’s someone with whom most Texans can better identify.

Fast is often the way we want things when we’re going through a life change such as divorce. However, being too hasty has a way of coming back to haunt one or both of the parties unless care is exercised. Rights protection related to spousal or child support and child custody is not something to gloss over. To be sure that base is covered, working with experienced counsel is recommended.

Whether the issues are family law matters or business transactions, experts will agree that if terms aren’t crafted with attention to the details, legal problems may well arise later. For evidence, one need look no further than a Texas Court of Appeals decision from a few months ago. At the heart of the ruling on spousal support is the question over what constitutes remarriage.

The case involves the divorce of British couple. The husband is quite wealthy. According to court documents, the man agreed to pay his ex-wife $389,000 a year. Support would end if she remarried. The woman subsequently moved to Texas where she began cohabitating with a new partner.

According to the ex-husband’s complaint, the cohabitation amounted to a common law marriage, something Texas law recognizes. The ex-husband asserted that his ex-wife and her partner held themselves out to be a married couple, even going so far as to state they were married on a foreign hotel registration. As such, he argued, he should be released from his spousal support obligations.

The ex-wife and her partner, though, submitted documentary evidence to show that the couple had never agreed to marry. Indeed, all the evidence they provided indicated that she is a divorced woman paying taxes as a single person.

The appeals court majority dismissed the case saying there was no evidence of remarriage.

One legal analysis of this situation states that it shows the importance of clarity in divorce decrees. It says the dispute might have been avoided if the decree had identified in detail the conditions under which spousal support or alimony could be terminated.

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