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In re Paul

Court of Appeals of Texas, Tenth District

May 3, 2017

IN RE TROY PAUL

         Original Proceeding

          Before Chief Justice Gray, Justice Davis, and Justice Scoggins

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          AL SCOGGINS Justice

         A suit for divorce may not be maintained in this state unless at the time the suit is filed either the petitioner or the respondent has been:

(1) a domiciliary of this state for the preceding six-month period; and
(2) a resident of the county in which the suit is filed for the preceding 90-day period.

Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 6.301 (West 2006) (emphasis added). For a second time, we are asked to determine whether the respondent, Judge William Bosworth of the 413th Judicial District Court, abused his discretion by finding that an informal marriage existed between relator Troy Paul and real party in interest Destiny Spillers and awarding interim attorney's fees to Destiny from Troy. See generally In re Paul, No. 10-16-00004-CV, 2016 Tex.App. LEXIS 4766 (Tex. App.-Waco May 5, 2016, orig. proceeding) (mem. op.). At issue in the first mandamus was the trial court's award of $425, 000 in interim attorney's fees to Destiny; however, the trial court has since awarded Destiny an additional $331, 000 in interim attorney's fees, for a sum total of $756, 000. See id. at *3. In the first mandamus, we concluded that the record evidence failed to establish that Destiny had met the ninety-day-residency requirement of section 6.301 of the Family Code at the time she filed her counter-petition for divorce. See id. at *7. Despite more than three-quarters of a million dollars in interim attorney's fees awarded, we once again conclude that Destiny has not satisfied the residency requirement of section 6.301 because the mandamus record does not show that she has filed an amended divorce petition after establishing residence in Johnson County for ninety days. We cannot get to the merits of any issue until the petitioner is properly before the trial court, and she is not yet there. Accordingly, we conclude that the respondent abused his discretion in entering the complained-of orders and, thus, conditionally grant Troy's petition for writ of mandamus.

         I. Background

         Many of the underlying facts in this dispute were recited in the first mandamus. See id. at **1-3. After the issuance of our memorandum opinion in the first mandamus on May 5, 2016, the trial court conducted a hearing on the residency requirement.[1] At the hearing on August 31, 2016, Destiny testified that she has rented a house on Vaden Avenue in Burleson, Texas, for ninety-one days before the hearing. Destiny confirmed that the house is located in Johnson County and that she intends to remain a resident of Johnson County. Despite this testimony, nothing in the mandamus record indicates that Destiny filed an amended divorce petition asserting that she now satisfies the ninety-day residency requirement of section 6.301 of the Family Code based on her lease of a house on Vaden Avenue. See Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 6.301. In any event, the trial court concluded that Destiny is a resident of Johnson County and that she satisfied the ninety-day residency requirement. At a later hearing on September 26, 2016, the trial court ordered that Troy pay to Destiny the original $425, 000 in interim attorney's fees, as well as $331, 000 in additional interim attorney's fees, for a sum total of $756, 000 in interim attorney's fees. The trial court also ordered Troy to pay temporary spousal support to Destiny and reaffirmed its earlier finding that Destiny met her prima-facie burden of proving that an informal marriage existed between Troy and her. Thereafter, Troy filed a petition for writ of mandamus in this matter.

         II. Standard of Review

         Mandamus is an extraordinary remedy that will issue only to correct a clear abuse of discretion when there is "no adequate remedy by appeal." In re Prudential Ins. Co. of Am., 148 S.W.3d 124, 135-36 (Tex. 2004) (orig. proceeding) (citations omitted). "A trial court has no 'discretion' in determining what the law is or applying the law to the facts." Walker v. Packer, 827 S.W.2d 833, 840 (Tex. 1992). "Thus, a clear failure by the trial court to analyze or apply the law correctly will constitute an abuse of discretion." Id. (citations omitted). In addition, a trial court clearly abuses its discretion if it reaches a decision so arbitrary and unreasonable as to amount to a clear and prejudicial error of law. Id. at 839. Regarding the resolution of factual issues or matters committed to the trial court's discretion, relator must establish that the trial court could reasonably have reached only one decision. Id. at 839-40. We cannot disturb the trial court's decision unless it is shown to be arbitrary and unreasonable, even if we would have decided the issue differently. Id. at 840.

         With respect to the "adequate remedy by appeal" prong, the Texas Supreme Court has noted that the operative word, "adequate, " does not have a comprehensive definition. In re Prudential Ins. Co. of Am., 148 S.W.3d at 136. "Instead, it is simply a proxy for the careful balance of jurisprudential considerations that determine when appellate courts will use original mandamus proceedings to review the actions of lower courts." In re Reynolds, 369 S.W.3d 638, 646 (Tex. App.-Tyler 2012, orig. proceeding) (citing In re Prudential Ins. Co. of Am., 148 S.W.3d at 136). "These considerations include both public and private interests, and the determination is practical and prudential rather than abstract or formulaic." Id. (citing In re Prudential Ins. Co. of Am., 148 S.W.3d at 136). Therefore, an appellate remedy may be inadequate when the benefits to mandamus review outweigh the detriments. See In re McAllen Med. Ctr., Inc., 275 S.W.3d 458, 462, 468-69 (Tex. 2008) (orig. proceeding); In re Team Rocket, L.P., 256 S.W.3d 257, 262 (Tex. 2008) (orig. proceeding). "Mandamus will not issue when the law provides another, plain, adequate, and complete remedy." In re Tex. Dep't of Family & Protective Servs., 210 S.W.3d 609, 613 (Tex. 2006).

         III. Analysis

         In his seventh issue, Troy complains about the trial court's handling of the residency issue. As noted in the first mandamus and above, section ...


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