Byrnes v. Byrnes

CourtCourt of Appeals of Texas
Writing for the CourtSAM J. DAY
Citation19 S.W.3d 556
Decision Date01 June 2000
Parties(Tex.App.-Fort Worth 2000) KATHLEEN BYRNES, APPELLANT v. WILLIAM THOMAS BYRNES, APPELLEE NO. 2-99-061-CV

Page 556

19 S.W.3d 556 (Tex.App.-Fort Worth 2000)
KATHLEEN BYRNES, APPELLANT
v.
WILLIAM THOMAS BYRNES, APPELLEE
NO. 2-99-061-CV
COURT OF APPEALS OF TEXAS, SECOND DISTRICT, FORT WORTH
June 1, 2000

FROM THE 233RD DISTRICT COURT OF TARRANT COUNTY.

Page 557

Copyrighted Material Omitted

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PANEL B: DAY, LIVINGSTON, and RICHARDS, JJ.

OPINION:

SAM J. DAY, Justice

In this appeal, Appellant Kathleen Byrnes challenges the trial court's refusal to enforce a document entitled "Agreement Incident to Divorce" signed by Kathleen and her ex-husband, Appellee William Thomas Byrnes.

We affirm.

BACKGROUND

Kathleen and William Byrnes were married May 2, 1978. On October 31, 1997, William told Kathleen that he wanted a divorce and moved out of the couple's home. On November 2, 1997, Kathleen and William met at a restaurant, where Kathleen presented William with a document entitled "Agreement Incident to Divorce." Kathleen had drafted the document with the assistance of her attorney. William had not reviewed the document prior to the meeting and was not represented by counsel at that time. After reading the document, he signed it. The document was signed by two witnesses and notarized. The meeting lasted approximately 40 minutes to one hour.

On November 12, 1997, Kathleen filed a petition for divorce asking the trial court to enforce the parties' agreement, which she attached to her petition. William filed a general denial and formally repudiated the agreement, alleging it was not a just and right division of the parties' community property, it was unconscionable, it was procured by fraud and duress, it was not supported by consideration, and it was not voluntary.

On October 19, 1998, a bench trial was held solely on the issue of division of the parties' marital estate. 1 Kathleen argued that the trial court should uphold the parties' Agreement Incident to Divorce as a contract and incorporate the agreement into the final divorce decree. Alternatively, Kathleen argued it should be enforced as a partition agreement.

During the trial, the court ruled that the agreement was not enforceable as a mediated settlement agreement, but withheld its ruling as to whether the document was enforceable as an agreement incident to divorce or as a partition of the couple's community property. Without issuing a final ruling, the trial court asked both parties to submit a proposed division of their assets. Both parties did so and the trial court signed the proposal submitted by William.

On appeal, Kathleen raises sixteen issues challenging the trial court's failure to enforce the parties' agreement. Specifically, she argues that the trial court erred in failing to award William's interest in his military retirement to her as provided in the parties' agreement.

Section 7.006 of the family code provides that to promote the amicable settlement of disputes in divorce cases, spouses may enter written agreements concerning the division of their marital property, the liabilities of the spouses, and the maintenance

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of either spouse. TEX. FAM. CODE ANN. 7.006(a) (Vernon 1998). The spouses' agreement may be revised or repudiated before rendition of the divorce unless the agreement is binding under another rule of law. See id. In this case, William repudiated the agreement immediately after Kathleen filed her divorce petition. However, Kathleen contends William's repudiation was ineffective because the agreement was binding "under another rule of law." Id. First, Kathleen argues that the agreement constituted a valid partition that vested William's interest in his military retirement in her at the moment the agreement was signed. Alternatively, Kathleen argues that the agreement, when signed, was a valid, enforceable contract that the trial court was required to accept. Finally, she argues the trial court should have approved of the document as an agreement incident to divorce that was not properly repudiated.

WAS THE PARTIES' AGREEMENT A VALID PARTITION?

Section 4.102 of the family code provides that spouses may at any time partition between themselves any part of their existing community property. Id. 4.102. The partition agreement must be in writing and signed by both parties. See id. 4.104. The term "partition" as used in this section contemplates a division of property among the parties, not a complete forfeiture or assignment. See McBride v. McBride, 797 S.W.2d 689, 692 (Tex. App.--Houston [14th Dist.] 1990, writ denied). Absent a specific reference to a partition or language indicating that such a division was intended, Texas courts have refused to uphold transactions between spouses as partitions. See Maples v. Nimitz, 615 S.W.2d 690, 695 (Tex. 1981); Collins v. Collins, 752 S.W.2d 636, 637 (Tex. App.--Fort Worth 1988, writ ref'd).

In this case, the specific provision that Kathleen argues constitutes a valid partition is entitled "PAYMENTS TO SPOUSE" and provides, "In order to fully discharge all obligations arising from the marriage, other than division of property, Husband agrees to assign to Wife all total current and future financial benefits that Husband is entitled to from retirement pay from the United States Air Force." [Emphasis added.] Nowhere in this paragraph or in the remainder of the couple's agreement is there any reference to a partition of interest. Indeed, the pertinent provision appears on its face to contemplate a complete forfeiture of William's interest. Because the parties' agreement makes no specific reference to a partition, contains no language indicating that the parties intended a partition, and provides for a forfeiture of William's interest, the document is not a valid partition under section 4.102 of the family code. 2 See Maples, 615 S.W.2d at 695; Collins, 752 S.W.2d at 637. Issue two is overruled.

WAS THE PARTIES' AGREEMENT ENFORCEABLE AS A CONTRACT?

We turn next to Kathleen's contention that William's repudiation was ineffective because the agreement constituted a binding, enforceable contract at the moment it was signed. First, Kathleen argues that "agreements incident to divorce are contracts and may be enforced as such," citing Traylor...

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20 practice notes
  • United States v. Berry, No. 19-20050
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • February 28, 2020
    ...that such a division was intended, Texas courts have refused to uphold transactions between spouses as partitions." Byrnes v. Byrnes , 19 S.W.3d 556, 559 (Tex. App. 2000) ; accord McPhee v. I.R.S. , No. CIV.A. 300CV2028D, 2002 WL 31045978, at *2 (N.D. Tex. Sept. 10, 2002). Further, "[t]he t......
  • Harrell v. Hochderffer, No. 03–09–00007–CV.
    • United States
    • Texas Court of Appeals
    • July 26, 2011
    ...also contain a specific reference to a partition or other language indicating that such a division was intended. See Byrnes v. Byrnes, 19 S.W.3d 556, 559 (Tex.App.-Fort Worth 2000, no pet.). Here, the Schedule of Property meets the first requirement because it is in writing. It also meets t......
  • McClary v. Thompson, No. 2-01-129-CV.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Texas
    • January 17, 2002
    ...marital property agreements, courts construe agreements narrowly in favor of the community estate. See, e.g., Byrnes v. Byrnes, 19 S.W.3d 556, 558 (Tex.App.-Fort Worth 2000, no pet.) (holding that a purported agreement to partition community property was unenforceable for lack of specific p......
  • Boyd v. Boyd, No. 2-03-026-CV.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Texas
    • March 11, 2004
    ...made all the necessary findings to support its judgment. Pharo v. Chambers County, 922 S.W.2d 945, 948 (Tex.1996); Byrnes v. Byrnes, 19 S.W.3d 556, 561 (Tex.App.-Fort Worth 2000, no pet.). Consequently, if the trial court's implied findings are supported by the evidence, we must uphold its ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
20 cases
  • United States v. Berry, No. 19-20050
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • February 28, 2020
    ...that such a division was intended, Texas courts have refused to uphold transactions between spouses as partitions." Byrnes v. Byrnes , 19 S.W.3d 556, 559 (Tex. App. 2000) ; accord McPhee v. I.R.S. , No. CIV.A. 300CV2028D, 2002 WL 31045978, at *2 (N.D. Tex. Sept. 10, 2002). Further, "[t]he t......
  • Harrell v. Hochderffer, No. 03–09–00007–CV.
    • United States
    • Texas Court of Appeals
    • July 26, 2011
    ...also contain a specific reference to a partition or other language indicating that such a division was intended. See Byrnes v. Byrnes, 19 S.W.3d 556, 559 (Tex.App.-Fort Worth 2000, no pet.). Here, the Schedule of Property meets the first requirement because it is in writing. It also meets t......
  • McClary v. Thompson, No. 2-01-129-CV.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Texas
    • January 17, 2002
    ...marital property agreements, courts construe agreements narrowly in favor of the community estate. See, e.g., Byrnes v. Byrnes, 19 S.W.3d 556, 558 (Tex.App.-Fort Worth 2000, no pet.) (holding that a purported agreement to partition community property was unenforceable for lack of specific p......
  • Boyd v. Boyd, No. 2-03-026-CV.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Texas
    • March 11, 2004
    ...made all the necessary findings to support its judgment. Pharo v. Chambers County, 922 S.W.2d 945, 948 (Tex.1996); Byrnes v. Byrnes, 19 S.W.3d 556, 561 (Tex.App.-Fort Worth 2000, no pet.). Consequently, if the trial court's implied findings are supported by the evidence, we must uphold its ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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