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Retrial set in Texas divorce case

An appeals court in Texas has ordered a retrial for the owner of World Environmental and partly reversed the decision of a lower court in a case involving payments the owner owes to his ex-wife. Originally, his former spouse was awarded $361,040 in damages, $25,000 in attorney's fees, and $2,500 related to the abuse of the evidentiary discovery process. The court found that he had failed in his fiduciary duties toward his ex-wife and that he was in breach of contract.

Her ex-husband appealed the decision. The appeal claimed that the award was excessive, the evidence did not adequately demonstrate a breach of fiduciary duty, the trial court lacked jurisdiction and that the exemplary damages award was not supported by the evidence. The company also appealed and argued that the man's ex-wife was awarded more than requested and the court should not have made the company liable for attorney's fees.

The court upheld the declaratory relief and $2,500 in sanctions. It also upheld the attorney's fees, but it removed the language requiring the company to pay the fees. It reversed and remanded the judgment related to breach of contract and the failure of fiduciary duty. It also ordered another trial to reexamine the man's ex-wife's claims.

As this story demonstrates, a high-asset divorce can become complex. As a result, a couple might want to try negotiating an agreement about property division with the assistance of their respective attorneys. In a community property state like Texas, unless there is a prenuptial agreement, assets acquired after marriage are usually considered marital property. This means that if one person started a business, the other person might have a claim on it even if that person never worked with the company.

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