A Houston area example of a Bill of Review's impact on a Family Law case

Yesterday’s blog post dealt with the issue of what a Bill of Review is and how it can be used in a family law case in the event that you had a negative judgment against you that was not due to any wrongdoing or negligence on your part.

This is a topic that requires a little background information to know what is going on, in my opinion, so I would recommend that you go back and read yesterday’s post before moving on to today’s.

With that said, while a Bill of Review may be a foreign term to many of you, in reality it is a legal mechanism that allows you to tell your story to a judge when you had been denied that opportunity previously. Today we will look at an actual story involving people from the Houston area and how their lives were impacted by the filing of a Bill of Review.

Grant v. Grant- Two Marriages and Two Divorces

Let’s meet our cast of characters before we discuss the exciting world of the Bill of Review. The Grants were a married couple that were actually married and divorced two times. Their first marriage occurred in 1994 and the Wife filed for divorce in 2010. As many people do during a divorce, the Grants continued to live together during the divorce case.

Here is where our case gets a little interested. As it happened, the Husband was convicted of a federal crime during the divorce case (unrelated to the divorce) and was sentenced to serve three years in prison. With this in mind, both Husband and Wife wanted to get their divorce case completed before Husband was shipped off to federal prison.

A trial notice was sent to Husband by certified mail (who was under house arrest at the time and was not represented by an attorney) but he did not show up for the trial date.

Ultimately, as it happens when one party doesn’t appear for a trial, the judgment was much more favorable to the Wife and the Husband was none too pleased when he found out. After this, Husband began to serve his prison term as scheduled.

The Grants remarry and our story continues

Approximately one year after their divorce, with Husband still serving time in prison, the Grants decided it would be a terrific idea to remarry one another. After this marriage Wife ended up selling some of the property that she was awarded in the first divorce.

To that point, Husband would still contend that the property was rightfully his separate property and he lost out on it only because he claims to never have received notice of the first divorce trial date.

As luck would have it, our parties divorced again in 2015. The parties had their second Final Decree of Divorce entered by the court, at which point the Husband filed a Bill of Review in regard to the first Decree that awarded the Wife property that he asserted was rightfully his separate property.

The Grants’ Bill of Review Hearing

Husband argued that he was put in a position to lose the property to his now ex-Wife due to his never having received notice of the first trial date.

Wife argued that he did have notice (as provided in the certified letter sent to him by Wife’s attorney) and that he could have gotten permission to leave the house as he was under house-arrest at the time. Husband argued further that Wife did not mention the trial date to him one time, this despite their continuing to live in the same home together throughout the divorce. Husband’s arguments fell on deaf ears and the court sided with Wife.

Husband was not to be denied (again) and appealed the decision of the trial court. The Court of Appeals out of Houston required that Husband prove that the judgment was rendered as a result of fraud committed against him. Husband was prepared for this requirement and argued that:

  1. Wife had misled him by never mentioning the trial date to him, again despite living in the residence together
  2. Wife had provided the court their home address for sending him correspondence when in actuality the prison address would have been more appropriate as far as providing a last known address. This was important as the judgment was sent to an address where he was not living and caused him to not respond in time to file a motion for new trial

The court did not buy the second argument being made by Husband. They asserted that Husband did not prove that Wife had purposely misled the court as to his actual address.

This left the Husband to need to prove extrinsic fraud in order to win his Bill of Review petition. Extrinsic fraud is necessary to prove when the Bill of Review is not filed within four years of the judgment being signed. Again, the court did not find that fraud was at issue here and as a result Husband left court twice divorced and property-less in regard to the property that was awarded to Wife in their first divorce.

The Law Office of Bryan Fagan- Advocates for Southeast Texas families

This story involved people that live in our area and went through quite a journey through our legal system here.

While their circumstances are certainly unique – the standards applied to them are the same that will apply to you and your family in a southeast Texas divorce. Having experienced and assertive representation can reduce the occurrence of mistakes and mishaps with your own divorce or child custody case.

The Law Office of Bryan Fagan prides itself on representing individuals and families throughout southeast Texas. If you have questions about a particular issue in family law please do not hesitate to contact our office today. A free of charge consultation is only a phone call away, where your questions can be answered by one of our licensed family law attorneys.

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Other Articles you may be interested in:

  1. What is a Bill of Review and what impact can it have on a Texas family law case?
  2. Can family violence render a Mediated Settlement Agreement void?
  3. The Judge Ruled Against Me in My Family Law Case Now What?
  4. What does a Default Judgment Mean in a Texas Divorce?
  5. WHERE DO I GO TO GET DIVORCE PAPERS SERVED IN TEXAS?
  6. I have been served with Divorce Papers - What do I do now in Texas?
  7. Roadmap of Basic Divorce Procedure in Texas
  8. What Happens if my Ex-Spouse Refuses to Sign the Final Decree of Divorce Revisited
  9. What if My Ex Will Not Sign the Final Decree in My Texas Divorce?
  10. Waivers - To sign or not to sign? The answer is don't do it!
  11. Special Needs Children in Texas Child Support Cases
  12. How to get above guideline child support.

Law Office of Bryan Fagan | Spring Divorce Lawyers

The Law Office of Bryan Fagan routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding divorce, it's important to speak with one of our Spring, TX Divorce Lawyers right away to protect your rights.

Our divorce lawyers in Spring TX are skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and developing a strategy to meet those goals. Contact Law Office of Bryan Fagan by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan handles Divorce cases in Spring, Texas, Cypress, Spring, Klein, Humble, Kingwood, Tomball, The Woodlands, the FM 1960 area, or surrounding areas, including Harris County, Montgomery County, Liberty County, Chambers County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County and Waller County.

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