Palomino v. Palomino

Decision Date11 December 1997
Docket NumberNo. 08-97-00104-CV,08-97-00104-CV
Citation960 S.W.2d 899
PartiesMary L. PALOMINO, Appellant, v. Sergio J. PALOMINO, Appellee.
CourtTexas Court of Appeals

Eddie Martin, El Paso, for Appellant.

Jesus M. Hernandez, El Paso, for Appellee.

Before BARAJAS, C.J., and LARSEN and McCLURE, JJ.

OPINION

BARAJAS, Justice.

This is an appeal of a final decree of divorce and the division of certain lump sum settlement payments. For the reasons stated below, we reverse the decision of the trial court.

I. SUMMARY OF THE EVIDENCE

Appellant, Mary Palomino, filed for divorce on December 7, 1990. Appellee, Sergio Palomino, filed an answer, cross-action for divorce and a third party claim on February 14, 1991. The divorce remained pending for several years until both parties agreed to a non-jury trial on April 8-9, 1996. At the time of trial, numerous stipulations were made in open court. The two issues to be determined by the court were the amount of support for the minor children and disposition or division of an annuity. The court heard evidence, both sides closed and the court took the case under advisement. The Appellee died on July 28, 1996.

On September 6, 1996, the court held a status hearing. The Appellant argued that the court should abate and dismiss the divorce action since Appellee had died and no judgment had been rendered. While admitting that no final judgment had been announced prior to Appellee's death, counsel for Appellee urged the court to enter judgment since all evidence had been presented. The court asked the parties to return the following Monday, September 9, 1996, at which time the court's decision would be announced. However, at that hearing, other matters consumed the court's time and no decision was announced. 1 Appellant asked that the parties be allowed to fully brief the issue of whether the court should render a judgment. Appellee again urged the court to render a decision based on the evidence presented in April. The court held another hearing on September 16, 1996, at which time counsel for the Appellee requested that Luis Palomino, father of Appellee and executor of the estate, be substituted in the place of Appellee. Upon the suggestion of death being entered of record in open court and after waiving issuance of a citation or scire facias, 2 Luis Palomino was substituted in place of his son in the divorce action. The court also allowed counsel for Appellee several additional days to file a response brief.

The Appellee filed a Motion to Sign Decree of Divorce on October 17, 1996 and the judgment hearing was held October 24, 1996. At the hearing, Appellant again objected to the court rendering a decision in the case, arguing that the action should have been abated and dismissed. Appellant further objected to the amount of child support and the division of the lump sum payments, in light of the fact that the court had not previously pronounced its judgment. The court signed the Final Decree of Divorce on November 21, 1996. This appeal followed.

II. DISCUSSION

Appellant brings three points of error. In Point of Error No. One, Appellant alleges that the court erred as a matter of law in entering a Final Decree of Divorce by not abating the divorce and dismissing the action when Appellee died before the pronouncement of judgment of divorce.

When a party to a suit dies, the suit will not abate if the cause of action survives the death of that party. TEX.R.CIV.P. 150. The general rule in Texas is that a cause of action for divorce is purely personal and becomes moot and abates upon the death of either spouse. McKenzie v. McKenzie, 667 S.W.2d 568, 571-72 (Tex.App.--Dallas 1984, no writ); Garrison v. Garrison, 568 S.W.2d 709, 710 (Tex.Civ.App.--Beaumont 1978, no writ). The "[d]eath of a party abates the divorce action and its incidental inquiries of property rights and child custody." Whatley v. Bacon, 649 S.W.2d 297, 299 (Tex.1983)(orig.proceeding). "The proper procedural disposition of a divorce action when one of the parties dies is dismissal." Id. However, when a trial court has rendered judgment on the merits in a divorce case, the cause does not abate when a party dies, and the cause cannot be dismissed. Novotny v. Novotny, 665 S.W.2d 171, 173-74 (Tex.App.--Houston [1st Dist.] 1983, writ dism'd). Furthermore, when a party to a divorce dies during the pendency of appeal, the appeal becomes moot, unless the divorce decree significantly affects the property rights of the parties. Dunn v. Dunn, 439 S.W.2d 830, 833-34 (Tex.1969).

In summary,...

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5 cases
  • Roberts v. Roberts
    • United States
    • Texas Court of Appeals
    • June 30, 1999
    ...designated for publication), citing TEX.R.APP.P. 7.1; Dunn v. Dunn, 439 S.W.2d 830, 833-34 (Tex. 1969); Palomino v. Palomino, 960 S.W.2d 899 (Tex.App.--El Paso 1997, writ denied), and Novotny v. Novotny, 665 S.W.2d 171, 173-74 (Tex.App.--Houston [1st Dist.] 1983, writ dism'd). We also exten......
  • Bartee v. Bartee
    • United States
    • Texas Court of Appeals
    • January 31, 2020
    ...an appeal or further actions by the trial court. Dunn v. Dunn, 439 S.W.2d 830, 833-34 (Tex. 1969); Palomino v. Palomino, 960 S.W.2d 899, 901 (Tex. App.—El Paso 1997, pet. denied). Specifically, when a party to a divorce dies during the pendency of an appeal, the merits of the appeal can be ......
  • In re Nelson, No. 06-09-00027-CV (Tex. App. 3/11/2009)
    • United States
    • Texas Court of Appeals
    • March 11, 2009
    ...of action for divorce is purely personal and becomes moot and abates upon the death of either spouse." Palomino v. Palomino, 960 S.W.2d 899, 900 (Tex. App.-El Paso 1997, pet. denied); McKenzie v. McKenzie, 667 S.W.2d 568, 571 (Tex. App.-Dallas 1984, no writ); Garrison v. Garrison, 568 S.W.2......
  • Rodriguez v. Deutsche Bank Nat'l Tr. Co., NUMBER 13-18-00262-CV
    • United States
    • Texas Court of Appeals
    • April 2, 2020
    ...plaintiffs or one of the defendants dies.Perhaps one may compare it to a divorce case. The court in Palomino v. Palomino, 960 S.W.2d 899, 900-01 (Tex. Civ. App.—El Paso 1997, pet. denied), stated: [']. . . the general rule in Texas is that a cause of action for divorce . . . becomes moot an......
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