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Leyendecker v. Uribe

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourth District, San Antonio

January 17, 2018

Helen LEYENDECKER, Appellant
v.
Romeo URIBE, Appellee

         From the 57th Judicial District Court, Bexar County, Texas Trial Court No. 2016CI04433 Honorable Antonia Arteaga, Judge Presiding

          Sitting: Marialyn Barnard, Justice, Rebeca C. Martinez, Justice Irene Rios, Justice

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Irene Rios, Justice

         Helen Leyendecker filed for divorce from Romeo Uribe, alleging they had an informal marriage. Romeo denied the existence of an informal marriage. In two issues, Helen appeals the trial court's order granting Romeo's traditional motion for summary judgment. In her first issue, Helen contends Romeo failed to establish a rebuttable presumption the parties never agreed to be married, or, in the alternative, that she rebutted the presumption by presenting evidence that raises a fact issue on whether she and Romeo agreed to be married. In her second issue, Helen contends the doctrine of quasi-estoppel does not estop her from claiming an informal marriage to Romeo.

         We reverse the trial court's judgment and remand the cause to the trial court for further proceedings.

         Background

         On March 14, 2016, Helen filed an original petition for divorce, alleging she had an informal (common-law) marriage with Romeo. In her first amended petition, Helen alleged the marriage commenced on January 1, 2000 and that the parties ceased living together on March 3, 2016. Romeo filed an original answer denying the existence of an informal marriage and asserting the affirmative defense of quasi-estoppel.

         On September 28, 2016, Romeo filed no-evidence and traditional motions for summary judgment. In the traditional motion for summary judgment, Romeo advanced two arguments. First, Romeo argued that because the parties ceased living together more than two years prior to the filing of the petition, there is a rebuttable presumption the parties never agreed to be married. See Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 2.401(b) (West 2006). Second, Romeo argued the doctrine of quasi-estoppel precludes Helen from claiming an informal marriage to Romeo because she filed federal income tax returns and enrolled in the Teacher Retirement System of Texas as a single (i.e., unmarried) individual. As part of his summary judgment evidence, Romeo attached his sworn affidavit, a transcript of his testimony given at a hearing on a motion to compel, Helen's IRS account transcript and 1040A forms for the years 2000-2003 and 2006-2015, and Helen's Teacher Retirement System enrollment forms from 2001 and 2013.

         The trial court signed an order granting only Romeo's traditional motion for summary judgment. Helen appeals.

         Standard of Review

         We review the trial court's summary judgment de novo. Merriman v. XTO Energy, Inc., 407 S.W.3d 244, 248 (Tex. 2013); Buck v. Palmer, 381 S.W.3d 525, 527 (Tex. 2012). In a traditional motion for summary judgment, summary judgment is proper when there are no disputed issues of material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Tex.R.Civ.P. 166a(c). When reviewing a summary judgment, we take as true all evidence favorable to the nonmovant, and we indulge every reasonable inference and resolve any doubts in the nonmovant's favor. Katy Venture, Ltd. v. Cremona Bistro Corp., 469 S.W.3d 160, 163 (Tex. 2015).

         A movant who conclusively negates at least one of the essential elements of a cause of action or conclusively establishes an affirmative defense is entitled to summary judgment. Frost Nat. Bank v. Fernandez, 315 S.W.3d 494, 508 (Tex. 2010). Once the movant establishes its right to summary judgment as a matter of law, the burden shifts to the nonmovant to present evidence raising a fact issue to defeat the motion for summary judgment. Briggs v. Toyota Mfg. of Texas, 337 S.W.3d 275, 282 (Tex. App.-San Antonio 2010, no pet.). When a trial court's order granting summary judgment does not specify the grounds relied upon, the reviewing court must affirm the summary judgment if any of the summary judgment grounds are meritorious. FM Properties Operating Co. v. City of Austin, 22 S.W.3d 868, 872 (Tex. 2000).

         Rebuttable Presumption

         In her first issue, Helen contends Romeo failed to conclusively establish that she moved out of their shared residence more than two years prior to the filing of the petition, and thus failed to establish a rebuttable presumption the parties never agreed to be married. In the alternative, Helen contends she ...


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