Waite v. Waite

Citation64 S.W.3d 217
Decision Date21 November 2001
Docket NumberNo. 14-00-01330-CV.,14-00-01330-CV.
PartiesDaniel WAITE, Sr., Appellant, v. Margaret Susan WAITE, Appellee.
CourtCourt of Appeals of Texas

David Eldon Moody, Lubbock, for appellants.

Judith Ann Leecraft, Austin, Richard M. Grimes, Russell S. Post, Houston, for appellees.

Panel consists of Justices EDELMAN, FROST, and MURPHY.*

PLURALITY OPINION

PAUL C. MURPHY, Senior Chief Justice.

Daniel Waite, Sr. ("appellant") appeals the trial court's denial of his request for a temporary injunction to restrain the enforcement of section 6.001 of the Texas Family Code which allows the granting of "no-fault" divorces. Specifically, appellant argues that section 6.001 violates 1) the Free Exercise and Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution and Texas Constitution article 1, section 6; 2) the "free institutions" clause of the Texas Constitution; and 3) the "open courts" provision of the Texas Constitution. Additionally, appellant asserts that section 6.502 of the Texas Family Code constitutes an unconstitutional invasion of his privacy under the Texas Constitution, as well as a violation of the Free Exercise Clause of the Texas Constitution. Lastly, appellant contends that the trial court erred in awarding attorney's fees to appellee. We affirm.

I. Standard of Review

The denial of a temporary injunction is reviewed for a clear abuse of discretion. Walling v. Metcalfe, 863 S.W.2d 56, 58 (Tex.1993); Landry's Seafood Inn & Oyster Bar—Kemah, Inc. v. Wiggins, 919 S.W.2d 924, 926 (Tex.App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 1996, no writ). The trial court's legal conclusions are reviewed de novo. Walker v. Packer, 827 S.W.2d 833, 840 (Tex.1992); Eakin v. Acosta, 21 S.W.3d 405, 407 (Tex.App.-San Antonio 2000, no pet.).

II. Background

This is a divorce case in which Margaret Waite ("appellee") is seeking a divorce from appellant. Section 6.001 of the Texas Family Code provides:

On the petition of either party to a marriage, the court may grant a divorce without regard to fault if the marriage has become insupportable because of discord or conflict of personalities that destroys the legitimate ends of the marital relationship and prevents any reasonable expectation of reconciliation.

Tex. Fam.Code Ann. § 6.001 (Vernon 1998). Invoking this "no-fault" divorce provision of the Texas Family Code, appellee alleged that "[t]he marriage has become insupportable because of discord or conflict of personalities between Petitioner and Respondent that destroys the legitimate ends of the marriage relationship and prevents any reasonable expectation of reconciliation." On September 19, 2000, appellant filed his first amended plea to the jurisdiction and his second amended petition for declaratory judgment, attacking the constitutionality of section 6.001 of the Texas Family Code. In his second amended petition for declaratory judgment, appellant requested that the trial court issue a temporary injunction enjoining appellee from relying upon various statutes as the basis of her cause of action.1 The trial court held a hearing on appellant's plea to the jurisdiction and petition for declaratory judgment in which appellant submitted evidence through the use of expert witnesses. After hearing all of the evidence, the trial court denied both the plea to the jurisdiction and the petition for declaratory judgment, and pursuant to the Declaratory Judgment Act, awarded attorney's fees to appellee.2

III. Discussion

Whether section 6.001 is unconstitutional as a violation of the U.S. and/or Texas Constitutions is a question of law which we review de novo.

A. "Legitimate Ends of Marriage" and "Reconciliation"—Sacramental or Civil in Nature?

Appellant initially challenges the constitutionality of section 6.001 on the basis that it violates, 1) the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution, because it entangles the judiciary in religious issues; and 2) the Free Exercise Clause of the U.S. Constitution and the "rights of conscience" guarantee under the Texas Constitution, because it requires the judiciary to interfere in a religious dispute. Appellant premises both of these arguments on the presumption that the terms "reconciliation" and "legitimate ends of marriage" are objectively religious. We disagree with this presumption. We also disagree with appellee's contention that there exists two distinct forms of marriage—sacramental and civil. Precedent supports neither proposition.

Our analysis of cases addressing the role of marriage in society reveals that there is only one form of marriage which serves different purposes. See Maynard v. Hill, 125 U.S. 190, 210-11, 8 S.Ct. 723, 31 L.Ed. 654 (1888) ("It is also to be observed that whilst marriage is often termed by text writers and in decisions of courts a civil contract, generally to indicate that it must be founded upon the agreement of the parties, and does not require any religious ceremony for its solemnization, it is something more than a mere contract."); Grigsby v. Reib, 105 Tex. 597, 153 S.W. 1124, 1130 (1913) ("The term, `civil contract,' as applied to marriage, means nothing now, for there does not exist the church's claim that it is a religious rite; there is nothing to be differentiated by the language; it is obsolete."); Gowin v. Gowin, 264 S.W. 529, 540 (Tex.Civ.App.-Fort Worth 1924), aff'd, 292 S.W. 211 (Tex.1927) (Conner, C.J., dissenting) ("[T]he main purpose of calling marriage a civil contract is to negative the idea that it is an ecclesiastical sacrament, or that in the eye of the law it is controlled by the mandates or dogmas, or subject to the observance of the rituals or regulations, of any particular churches or sects.").

With regard to the purposes marriage serves for society, "[marriage] is an institution, in the maintenance of which in its purity the public is deeply interested, for it is the foundation of the family and of society, without which there would be neither civilization nor progress." Maynard v. Hill, 125 U.S. 190, 211, 8 S.Ct. 723, 31 L.Ed. 654 (1888). It is this public interest in marriage which allows the state to regulate not only the creation of the marriage, but its dissolution as well. Id. at 205, 8 S.Ct. 723 (noting that the legislature "prescribes the age at which parties may contract to marry, the procedure or form essential to constitute marriage, the duties and obligations it creates, its effects upon the property rights of both, present and prospective, and the acts which may constitute grounds for its dissolution"); Leon v. Torruella, 99 F.2d 851, 855 (1st Cir. 1938) ("[I]t has been recognized from time out of memory that it is within the power of the legislature of a state to enact laws defining who, when, and under what circumstances its citizens and subjects may marry and the causes of divorce upon which the marriage status may be dissolved whenever the public good or justice to either or both of the parties would thereby be preserved."); In re Marriage of Richter v. Richter, 625 N.W.2d 490, 494 (Minn.Ct.App.2001).

Appellant asserts that any determination by the trial court of what constitutes the "legitimate ends of marriage" or the reasonable expectation of "reconciliation" necessarily involves a religious determination. Legal precedent, however, suggests otherwise. We believe, as was true in 1888, that the trial court is not being asked to make a religious determination, but rather to determine whether the continuance of the marriage relation has been rendered intolerable to the other party, and productive of no possible benefit to society. See Maynard, 125 U.S. at 205, 8 S.Ct. 723. The Texas legislature could rationally conclude that public policy requires an accommodation to the unfortunate reality that a marital relationship may terminate without regard to the fault of either marital partner, and that such a relationship should therefore be dissolvable in law upon a judicial determination that the marriage has become insupportable.3 See Joy v. Joy, 178 Conn. 254, 423 A.2d 895, 896 (1979). Accordingly, we overrule appellant's assertion that section 6.001 violates, 1) the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution because it entangles the judiciary in religious issues; and 2) the Free Exercise Clause of the U.S. Constitution and the "rights of conscience" guarantee under the Texas Constitution, because it requires the judiciary to interfere in a religious dispute.

B. Free Institutions Clause of the Texas Constitution

Additionally, appellant argues that section 6.001 violates the "free institutions" clause of the Texas Constitution. Specifically, appellant asserts that the institution of marriage is one of the institutions protected by article I, section 1 of the Texas Constitution. We disagree.

Article I, section 1 of the Texas Constitution provides as follows:

Texas is a free and independent State, subject only to the Constitution of the United States, and the maintenance of our free institutions and the perpetuity of the Union depend upon the preservation of the right of local self-government, unimpaired to all the States.

TEX. CONST. art. I, § 1. While we recognize that marriage is often referred to as an "institution," the institution of marriage is not one of the "free institutions" contemplated in the language of article I, section 1 of the Texas Constitution. Instead, the language "free institutions" is a reference to institutions of state government necessary to ensure the right of local self-government. See Tex. Const. art. I, § 1 interp. commentary (Vernon 1997) ("The provision of Section 1 referring to the right of local self-government ... seems to be declaratory of the distribution of powers between the two governments, laying down the proposition that the right of local self-government remains unimpaired to all the states."); Davenport v. Garcia, 834 S.W.2d 4, 17 (Tex.1992)(orig.proceeding). Accordingly, appellant's reliance on the "free institutions" clause of the Texas Constitution...

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