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Castillo v. Castillo

Court of Appeals of Texas, Thirteenth District, Corpus Christi-Edinburg

April 26, 2018

JUAN CARLOS CASTILLO, Appellant,
v.
AMY CASTILLO, Appellee.

          On appeal from the 309th District Court of Harris County, Texas.

          Before Chief Justice Valdez and Justices Benavides and Longoria

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          ROGELIO VALDEZ Chief Justice

         Appellant Juan C. Castillo appeals from the trial court's judgment granting his divorce from appellee Amy Castillo. By three issues, appellant contends that the trial court abused its discretion by awarding spousal maintenance, failing to consider appellant's motion to terminate temporary spousal support after a bankruptcy court divided and distributed the community estate, and requiring that appellant successfully complete a drug test before having unsupervised visitation with his children. We affirm.

         I. Background[1]

         Appellee filed for divorce and approximately three years later, appellant filed for bankruptcy. The bankruptcy court determined appellant's net resources and the division of the parties' property and debt, and it entered an order dividing the property, confirming the parties' separate property, and determining the parties' responsibility for certain marital debts.[2] In its findings of fact and conclusions of law, the bankruptcy court stated that, under the permissive abstention doctrine, it would abstain from determining spousal maintenance and child support. See 28 U.S.C. § 1334(c)(1) (providing that nothing in the code prevents a federal court "from abstaining from hearing a particular proceeding arising under title 11 or arising in or related to a case under title 11" in the interest of justice or in the interest of comity with State courts or respect for State law). The bankruptcy court then stated that under the principle of collateral estoppel, it was imposing an injunction to prevent the parties "from relitigating in the Family Law Court those issues already tried in this bankruptcy case." The bankruptcy court stated that "the detailed findings of fact that relate to this Court's division of the community assets and debts, to the extent that Texas law requires the Family Law Court to consider such issues in its decision on spousal maintenance and child support may not be retried in the Family Law Court." (Emphasis in original). The bankruptcy court said, "In an effort to enforce this long-standing principle, the Court will now impose a § 105(2) injunction against the Parties from relitigating these issues." Specifically, the court stated

The factors to be considered in the division of marital assets and debts-which have now already been litigated before this Court for 14 days-are substantially similar, if not, identical, to the factors to be considered in awarding spousal maintenance and child support. . . . For example, in dividing up the community assets, this Court, after listening to testimony adduced at trial, has determined that [appellee's] adulterous affair with Scofield occurred prior to her initiating the Divorce Action and thereby rendered her more at fault in the breakup of the marriage. . . . Additionally, as a result of the 14-day trial on the Motion for Division, the Court has made findings of fact regarding other factors-such as the length of the marriage, the Parties' earning ability, the Parties' physical and mental health, and the Parties' role in the dissipation of community assets. . . . As described in more detail below, these are the same issues that the Parties may now want the Family Law Court to determine in the Divorce Action in . . . determin[ing] the amount of spousal maintenance.
Second, the evidence introduced during the 14-day trial before this Court, and the resulting findings of fact made by this Court, make clear that such issues have in fact already been litigated. Indeed, this Court admitted voluminous and numerous exhibits, heard testimony from 16 witnesses, heard closing arguments from counsel, and has now issued the FOF and COL set forth herein. There is no question that numerous specific issues have been litigated during the trial on [appellee's] motion for division.
Third, this Court's making fact findings and analyzing the Just and Right Division Factors . . . are unquestionably "a critical and necessary part of [this Court's] judgment" relating to [appellee's] Motion for Division. In fact, these factors were, in large part, the only "issues" to be determined. Without this Court's evaluation and determination of these issues, it would not have been able to divide community assets and debts as requested by the Parties. Given these circumstances, this Court concludes that collateral estoppel applies here and, therefore, the Parties must be enjoined from relitigating the same issues in the Family Law Court.

         The bankruptcy court then entered extremely detailed findings of fact regarding the elements to be determined by the trial court.[3]

         On January 15, 2016, the trial court held a trial to determine child support and spousal maintenance.[4] Relying on the bankruptcy court's findings of fact and conclusions of law, the trial court granted the divorce, and awarded spousal maintenance and child support. This appeal followed.

         II. Spousal Maintenance

         By his first issue, appellant contends that the trial court abused its discretion by awarding spousal maintenance because appellee failed to establish her entitlement to spousal support and failed to provide probative evidence to overcome the statutory presumption against spousal maintenance. In addition, appellant argues that the amount and duration of spousal maintenance ordered is excessive.

         A. Standard of Review ...


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