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Lecuona v. Lecuona

Court of Appeals of Texas, Third District, Austin

June 15, 2018

Shawn Hall Lecuona, Appellant
v.
Mark R. Lecuona, Appellee

          FROM THE DISTRICT COURT OF TRAVIS COUNTY, 250TH JUDICIAL DISTRICT NO. D-1-FM-14-002342, HONORABLE KARIN CRUMP, JUDGE PRESIDING

          Before Chief Justice Rose, Justices Pemberton and Goodwin

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          BOB PEMBERTON, JUSTICE

         Shawn Hall Lecuona appeals from a final divorce decree that ended her marriage to Mark R. Lecuona. We will affirm the decree.

         Mark was the petitioner below, [1] and the sole ground for divorce on which he relied, and which the district court subsequently found, was the no-fault "insupportability" ground.[2] Shawn opposed the divorce on religious grounds and urged that Mark's suit, and particularly the no-fault "insupportability" standard on which he relied, unconstitutionally infringed her protected interests in what she viewed as an immutable "blood covenant" among the couple and the Almighty.[3] Shawn brings a version of this argument forward on appeal as her first issue and chief ground for reversal-she insists that the United States Supreme Court's decision Obergefell v. Hodges, [4] the decision striking down state prohibitions against same-sex marriage as violative of a "right to marry [that] is a fundamental right inherent in the liberty of the person" and protected by the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the federal constitution, [5] translates into a constitutional restriction against Mark's unilateral invocation of Texas's no-fault divorce law to end a marriage that she, for professed religious reasons, desires to continue.[6] We cannot agree that Obergefell, whose analysis is rooted in the Supreme Court's view of personal liberty, [7] either directly or by implication recognizes what would effectively be an affirmative constitutional right of one spouse to compel an unwilling other spouse to remain married, in derogation of both the other spouse's liberty and state divorce laws.[8] In the very least, Shawn's theory represents a significant and novel expansion of Obergefell that is not properly undertaken by this intermediate state appellate court.[9] We accordingly overrule Shawn's first issue.

         Aside from her arguments derived from Obergefell, Shawn brings two additional issues, each of which challenge the sufficiency of the evidence supporting the decree. In her second issue, Shawn insists that Mark failed to prove up the ground of insupportability. The record, including Mark's testimony, belies that contention. Shawn's assertions to the contrary ultimately implicate instead the district court's judgments as to the credibility and weight of the evidence presented.[10] We overrule Shawn's second issue.

         Shawn's third issue is predicated on her first two, urging that the district court lacked authority to divide the community estate because it had no authority to grant the divorce in the first place. This contention fails for the preceding reasons. Alternatively, Shawn asserts that the district court improperly characterized certain of her retirement accounts as community property despite her having established their separate character through clear and convincing evidence.[11] We review the district court's division of property under an overarching abuse-of-discretion standard.[12] To establish an abuse of discretion here, Shawn must demonstrate that she presented conclusive evidence that the accounts were separate property and that the mischaracterization materially impacted the district court's division of the community estate.[13] "Evidence is conclusive only if reasonable people could not differ in their conclusions."[14] The evidence fell short of conclusively establishing the separate-property status of the retirement accounts-it included a property inventory from Shawn herself in which she indicated that the accounts in question were community assets.[15] We overrule Shawn's third issue.

         CONCLUSION

         We affirm the district court's final divorce decree.

         Affirmed

---------

Notes:

[1] We refer to the parties by their first names because they share a surname.

[2] See Tex. Fam. Code ยง 6.001 ("On the petition of either party to a marriage, the court may grant a divorce without regard to fault if the marriage has become insupportable because of discord or conflict of personalities that destroys the legitimate ends of the marital relationship and prevents any reasonable expectation of reconciliation."). The parties had been married since 1994, but Mark alleged, without dispute, that the couple had been separated for approximately ...


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