Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Ward v. Ward

Court of Appeals of Texas, Ninth District, Beaumont

December 7, 2017

LISA RENEE WARD, Appellant
v.
VIRGIL BRENT WARD, Appellee

          Submitted on November 3, 2017

         On Appeal from the County Court at Law Liberty County, Texas Trial Cause No. CV1104837

          Before McKeithen, C.J., Horton and Johnson, JJ.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          STEVE MCKEITHEN CHIEF JUSTICE.

         In this appeal of a suit affecting the parent-child relationship, appellant Lisa Renee Ward argues that the County Court at Law: (1) lacked jurisdiction to modify or enforce the divorce decree, (2) abused its discretion by retroactively modifying or refusing to enforce the divorce decree, (3) abused its discretion by denying her motion to enforce, and (4) the 75th District Court lacked jurisdiction to transfer the case to the County Court at Law. We affirm the trial court's judgment.

         BACKGROUND

         Appellee Virgil Brent Ward filed a petition for divorce from Lisa[1] in the 253rd District Court of Liberty County, Texas. The record reflects that after Lisa filed her original answer, the trial court transferred the case to the 75th District Court. The Honorable Mark Morefield, judge of the 75th District Court of Liberty County, signed a final decree of divorce between Lisa and Virgil on August 15, 2012, in which he appointed Lisa as the joint managing ("primary") conservator with the right to primary possession of the parties' child, entered a standard possession order, ordered Virgil to pay child support, required Lisa to obtain health insurance for the child, required Virgil to pay maintenance to Lisa, and divided the marital estate.

         On January 7, 2013, Lisa filed a motion to clarify. In that motion, Lisa contended that Virgil had refused to equally split the parties' tax refund for 2011 because he refused to sign the check the IRS issued correcting Lisa's surname to her maiden name; failed to transfer ownership of an Edward Jones retirement account to Lisa; failed to provide Lisa information necessary to change the name on the note for the loan of a vehicle; failed to pay for horse feed; failed to pay child support "directly to Texas Child Support Disbursement Unit[;]"and might force Lisa to leave the homestead by refusing to stay current on mortgage payments. Lisa pleaded that although she has told the child to spend time with Virgil, the child refused to do so.

         On May 27, 2014, Virgil filed a petition to modify and order setting hearing for temporary orders, in which he asserted that, due to changed circumstances, the court-ordered child support payments were no longer in compliance with the guidelines in chapter 154 of the Family Code, and Virgil requested that the trial court decrease the payments and that "any decrease be made retroactive to the earlier of the time of service of citation on [Lisa] or the appearance of [Lisa] in this modification action." In addition, Virgil asserted that spousal maintenance should be either terminated or decreased, and he requested that any decrease be made retroactive. Virgil asked that the trial court enter temporary orders in accordance with his requests.

         The 75th District Court's coordinator scheduled a hearing for temporary orders on July 1, 2014. The 75th District Court's docket reflects that on July 1, 2014, a mediation order and Rule 11 agreement were entered. On September 18, 2014, Virgil filed a motion for enforcement of order by contempt and order to appear. In the motion, Virgil asserted that Lisa had failed to surrender the child to him for visitation on three occasions and requested that Lisa be held in contempt, jailed, placed on community supervision, or fined for each violation, and Virgil stated that he believes Lisa will "continue to fail to comply with the order." Virgil also alleged that Lisa had engaged in parental alienation because Lisa had "harmed or attempted to break the bond" between the child and Virgil. On September 22, 2014, the judge of the 75th District Court signed an "Order Assigning Case[, ]" in which it stated that the cause "is hereby assigned to the County Court at Law of Liberty County, Texas. The County Court at Law will have jurisdiction over this cause for all purposes."

         On November 16, 2015, Lisa filed her first supplemental motion to enforce and for attorney's fees and expenses. In her motion, Lisa alleged that Virgil had failed to transfer ownership of an Edward Jones account to Lisa as required by the divorce decree; failed to pay $2200 he owed Lisa as part of an agreed settlement; owed Lisa child support and spousal support in the amount of $8966.14; and was delinquent in making required payments on a Discover card that was issued to Lisa. Lisa also alleged harassing or improper conduct by Virgil.

         On December 21, 2015, the County Court at Law, Honorable Thomas Chambers presiding, conducted a hearing on Virgil's motion to modify and motion for enforcement, as well as Lisa's supplemental motion to enforce and motion to clarify. At the hearing, Virgil testified that he had not been able to visit the child since August 2012, when the child was fifteen years old. According to Virgil, he had a "great" relationship before the divorce, and he does not know why the child no longer comes to visit him. Virgil testified that he tried to exercise visitation, but the "gates were locked[]" and "[t]hey wouldn't answer the phones[.]" Virgil explained that the child will not respond to his text messages except to say "thank you" if he congratulates the child about something. According to Virgil, he communicates with the child via Facebook and email, but not very frequently. Virgil testified that he believes that if the child were to have a relationship with him, Lisa would "mentally destroy" the child. Virgil testified that the situation has destroyed him.

         According to Virgil, he mailed child support payments of $1570 per month, as well as alimony, directly to Lisa until January of 2013, when he began making child support payments through the Attorney General, and the Attorney General has not properly credited him for the prior payments made to Lisa. When the trial court asked Virgil what he wanted the court to do, Virgil stated that he wanted to settle the amounts of money, but opined that the trial court could not change his lack of relationship with his daughter. At the conclusion of the hearing, the trial court denied Virgil's motion for contempt for denial of visitation and found that Virgil owed no child support arrearage or spousal support arrearage. The trial court also found that Virgil had no other financial arrearage regarding payments ordered in the divorce decree. In addition, the trial court granted Virgil's motion to modify the amount of child support to $500 per month, beginning January 1, 2016, and continuing until the child graduates from high school. The trial court denied Virgil's motion to modify the amount of spousal support and denied the motions to modify possession and access because the child had reached eighteen years of age.

         The trial court's docket reflects that on February 11, 2016, the trial court called the case, and only Virgil's counsel was noted to be present. On the same date, the trial court signed an order in a suit affecting the parent-child relationship. In the order, the trial court denied Lisa's motion to clarify, denied Lisa's motion for enforcement and first supplemental motion to enforce, denied Virgil's motion for enforcement of order by contempt, and granted Virgil's petition to modify. The trial court found that Virgil owed no child support arrearage, no spousal maintenance arrearage, no money regarding the Edward Jones retirement account, no debt for horse feed, and no debt for the Discover Card. In its order, the trial court found that "the material allegations contained in the Petition to Modify are true and the modification is in the best interest of the child." Additionally, the trial court ordered Virgil to pay child support of $500 per month to Lisa until the child graduates from high school, and he ordered the Attorney General to return to Virgil any monies held to satisfy arrearages. ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.