IN THE INTEREST OF A.M.H. AND R.Q.D., CHILDREN
Appeal from the 310th District Court Harris County, Texas
Trial Court Cause No. 2015-61005
consists of Justices Christopher, Jewell, and Hassan.
appeals the trial court's final divorce decree. She
contends the trial court committed reversible error when it
(1) found the prenuptial agreement to be enforceable; (2)
made its just and right division of the parties' estate;
and (3) excluded expert testimony. We affirm.
and Michael met through a website called VietSingle in late
2005; he was 35 years old and she was about 24 years old at
the time. Michael lived in Houston and Kathy lived in
Vietnam. They communicated via telephone regularly. During
their courtship, Michael told Kathy that he wanted his future
wife to sign a prenuptial agreement to protect his assets.
Michael and Kathy met for the first time in person when
Michael traveled to Vietnam for Chinese New Year in 2007.
After the visit, Michael and Kathy continued to talk to each
other daily. One of the topics of conversation was
Michael's requirement that Kathy sign a prenuptial
agreement. In the summer of 2007, Michael traveled to Vietnam
and he and Kathy had an engagement party. During this stay,
Michael presented Kathy with a prenuptial agreement, which
was drafted by Michael's attorney Joseph Bui. Kathy had
the agreement translated into Vietnamese because she does not
speak or read English. Kathy requested a change to the
prenuptial agreement Michael presented to her, but no
revision was made at the time.
the engagement, Michael returned to the United States. Bui
prepared an application for Kathy's K1 90-day
fiancée visa, and she arrived in the United States in
June 2008. In August 2008, Kathy told Michael she was
pregnant with his child. Michael told Kathy that she still
needed to sign the prenuptial agreement, and she understood
Michael would not marry her unless she signed the agreement.
According to Michael, one paragraph stating that
"[f]uture earnings would remain separate" was
deleted in the prenuptial agreement per Kathy's request
on August 5, 2008.
Kathy's 90-day visa was about to expire, Michael found an
attorney who spoke Vietnamese in the phone book. He drove
Kathy to attorney Trang-Dai Vu Hoang's office for a
consultation, which lasted for one to two hours. Michael paid
Hoang's $100 consultation fee, but he was not present
during the consultation. After the consultation, Kathy and
Michael signed the prenuptial agreement in Hoang's office
on August 28, 2008.
and Kathy got married on September 3, 2008. Bui helped Kathy
with the paperwork to change her immigration status from a
fiancée visa to permanent residency. As part of the
process, Michael executed an affidavit of support (Form
I-864) as Kathy's sponsor. Kathy obtained her Green Card
in 2010; she became a United States citizen a few years
later. During the marriage, Kathy and Michael had two
children born in 2009 and 2012, respectively.
filed her original petition for divorce in October 2015.
Michael filed an answer and original counter-petition in
November 2015. The parties entered into a mediated settlement
agreement regarding child support and conservatorship on
October 12, 2016. Kathy filed an amended petition in April
2017. A bench trial was held with regard to the
enforceability of the parties' prenuptial agreement in
May 2017. After the bench trial, the trial court found the
prenuptial agreement was enforceable because it was
unambiguous, not unconscionable, and Kathy voluntarily signed
it. The trial court signed findings of fact and conclusions
of law on May 17, 2017.
trial court signed a final divorce decree on August 18, 2017,
incorporating the parties' mediated settlement agreement
and prenuptial agreement. Kathy filed a motion for new trial
on September 15, 2017, which was overruled by operation of
law. She filed a notice of appeal on November 16, 2017.
Enforceability of the Prenuptial Agreement
contends in her first issue that the trial court reversibly
erred by finding the parties' prenuptial agreement is
enforceable because the agreement is unconscionable, was
involuntarily signed by Kathy, violates federal law, and
violates the Texas Constitution.
Texas law, prenuptial agreements are generally binding and
enforceable. Matter of Marriage of I.C. and Q.C.,
551 S.W.3d 119, 124 (Tex. 2018); Marsh v. Marsh, 949
S.W.2d 734, 739 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 1997, no
writ). Such agreements are presumptively valid and
enforceable unless the party against whom enforcement is
sought proves that (1) she did not sign the agreement
voluntarily; or (2) the agreement is unconscionable and she
did not receive proper disclosures. Moore v. Moore,
383 S.W.3d 190, 194-95 (Tex. App.-Dallas 2012, pet. denied);
Marsh, 949 S.W.2d at 739; see Tex. Fam.
Code Ann. § 4.006(a) (Vernon 2006); Matter of
Marriage of I.C. and Q.C., 551 S.W.3d at 124.
has a 'strong public policy favoring freedom of
contract' that is 'firmly embedded in our
jurisprudence.'" Matter of Marriage of I.C. and
Q.C., 551 S.W.3d at 124 (quoting Phila. Indem. Ins.
Co. v. White, 490 S.W.3d 468, 471 (Tex. 2016)). The
supreme court has repeatedly stated that "parties
'shall have the utmost liberty of contracting, and that
their contracts when entered into freely and voluntarily
shall be held sacred and shall be enforced by
Courts.'" Id. Also, courts will
"rarely find a contract unenforceable on public policy
grounds" and "[p]remarital agreements are no
appeal from a bench trial, a trial court's fact findings
have the same force and dignity as a jury's verdict upon
jury questions, and we review the fact findings for legal and
factual sufficiency of the evidence by the same standards
used in reviewing the evidence supporting a jury's
verdict. Sorrell v. Estate of Carlton, 504 S.W.3d
379, 382 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 2016),
aff'd, 2019 WL 1967135 (Tex. May 3, 2019).
legal sufficiency review, we consider evidence in the light
most favorable to the findings and indulge every reasonable
inference that would support them. City of Keller v.
Wilson, 168 S.W.3d 802, 822 (Tex. 2005). If the evidence
allows only one inference, neither the factfinder nor the
reviewing court may disregard that evidence. Id. If
the evidence at trial would enable reasonable and fair-minded
people to differ in their conclusions, then the factfinder
must be allowed to do so. Id. at 822. Accordingly,
the ultimate test for legal sufficiency always must focus on
whether the evidence would enable a reasonable and
fair-minded factfinder to reach the judgment under review.
Id. at 827.
reviewing factual sufficiency, we consider and weigh all the
evidence; a judgment can be set aside only if the challenged
findings are so contrary to the overwhelming weight of the
evidence as to be clearly wrong and unjust. Sorrell,
504 S.W.3d at 382-83.
review a trial court's conclusions of law de novo.
Busch v. Hudson & Keyse, LLC, 312 S.W.3d 294, 299
(Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist] 2010, no pet.); see BMC
Software Belg., N.V. v. Marchand, 83 S.W.3d 789, 794
(Tex. 2002). If we determine the trial court made an
erroneous conclusion of law, we will not reverse if the trial
court rendered the proper judgment. Busch, 312
S.W.3d at 299; see Marchand, 83 S.W.3d at 794. We
uphold conclusions of law if the judgment can be sustained on
any legal theory supported by the evidence.
Marchand, 83 S.W.3d at 794; Busch, 312
S.W.3d at 299.
begin by addressing Kathy's contention that the
prenuptial agreement is unconscionable and therefore
unenforceable. In particular, she asserts the agreement is
• Michael knew Kathy was pregnant with his child
"when it was made clear that she either had to sign the
Prenuptial Agreement or return to Vietnam."
• "Michael knew there was no way for Kathy to
remain in the United States unless he married her."
• "[F]orcing a mother to accept a likely future in
which her child would seldom see his father should . . . be
held as a basis for unconscionability. This is especially
true when both the child and mother would be at risk of shame
and humiliation" upon return to Vietnam.
• Requiring Kathy to sign the agreement "to avoid
being forced to return to a third world country that is not a
member of the Hague Convention" is unconscionable.
• Kathy did not have any real bargaining power because
only one minor change was made to the agreement ...