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Burden v. Burden

Court of Appeals of Texas, Sixth District, Texarkana

December 31, 2013

PAMELA LOU BURDEN, Appellant
v.
STEVEN BRADLEY BURDEN, Appellee

Submitted December 23, 2013

On Appeal from the 62nd District Court, Delta County, Texas. Trial Court No. 10614.

Pamela Lou Burden, Klondike, TX.

Peter I. Morgan, Assistant District Attorney, Sulphur Springs, TX.

Before Morriss, C.J., Carter and Moseley, JJ. Opinion by Justice Carter.

OPINION

Jack Carter, Justice

Page 306

Pamela Sue Burden appeals from an order declaring that she and Steven Bradley Burden were not common-law married. We find no error and affirm.

I. Background

In 1998, Steven and Pamela were ceremonially married. They formally divorced on September 24, 2002, in Delta County. Pamela testified that although she was aware of the divorce, Steven told her it did not mean anything. Thereafter, they spent some time living together, although the evidence of the length of time and the nature of their relationship is inconsistent. Steven testified that several years after the divorce, Pamela told him she needed a place to live. Since Steven owned a home in Delta County, which he acquired in August 2011, he allowed her to move into the house with him.[1] After a short period of time, Pamela refused Steven's request that she leave the home.

Page 307

According to Steven, he moved out of the house to avoid conflict. Ultimately, Steven attempted to evict Pamela from the residence, but she resisted such efforts and claimed their common-law marriage vested her with an ownership interest in the house.

Several witnesses testified that Pamela and Steven lived together for several years, that she helped him with food stamps and meal preparation, and that Pamela's grandchildren considered Steven to be their grandfather. The trial court acknowledged that the evidence showed they had resided together and attempted to refocus Pamela into lines of evidence that might be relevant to establishing a common-law marriage.

The trial court sustained hearsay objections to several of Pamela's proffered exhibits: insurance documents, her father's newspaper obituary (indicating that Steven was her husband), joint account bank statements from 2007, and letters from Steven's brother in prison that were addressed to Mr. and Mrs. Steven Burden. Steven also testified that he was unable to read or write and that Pamela may have placed his name on documents without his knowledge. Tax returns for several years after 2002 showed that Steven filed individually and claimed Pamela's granddaughter ...


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