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Parsons v. Parsons

Court of Appeals of Texas, First District

October 22, 2019

MONICA VASQUEZ PARSONS, Appellant
v.
PAUL G. PARSONS, Appellee

          On Appeal from the 310th District Court Harris County, Texas Trial Court Case No. 2017-77987

          Panel consists of Justices Lloyd, Goodman, and Landau.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          SARAH BETH LANDAU JUSTICE

         Monica Vasquez Parsons filed her petition for divorce from Paul G. Parsons. Paul answered. Monica and her attorney failed to appear at trial, and the trial court entered a post-answer default judgment against Monica. She filed a motion for new trial with accompanying evidence. The trial court denied the motion, and Monica appealed.

         In her sole issue, Monica contends that the trial court abused its discretion in denying her motion for new trial because she presented evidence that her failure to appear was not intentional or due to conscious indifference. We affirm.

         Background

         Monica married Paul in 2006. They did not have children. After 11 years of marriage, Monica filed a petition for divorce. Among the grounds for divorce, Monica claimed that the marriage had become "insupportable because of discord or conflict of personalities." Monica asserted that the court should award her a disproportionate share of the marital estate for several reasons, including "fault in the breakup of the marriage," "disparity of earning power of the spouses," "wasting of community assets," and "the size and nature of the separate estates of the spouses."

         Paul answered and filed a counter-petition for divorce. He requested a just and right division of the marital estate if the parties did not execute an agreement for the division of their estate. Paul also requested confirmation that certain property was his separate property and reimbursement from the community estate.

         The trial court amended its initial scheduling order to allow the parties time to attend mediation. When the parties appeared at the new trial setting, the trial court rescheduled trial because the mediator had not recessed mediation. Both parties received notice of a third trial setting. The parties scheduled a date to resume mediation, but Monica and her attorney did not appear at mediation. The mediator filed an impasse letter.

         On the day of the third trial setting, Paul and his attorney appeared and requested a default judgment when Monica and her attorney did not appear. Paul testified about why the parties were dissolving their marriage. Paul's attorney informed the trial court that Monica's attorney had not responded to his discovery requests. The trial court admitted the exhibits introduced by Paul's attorney. Paul's attorney also testified to his attorney's fees. After considering the evidence, the trial court entered a post-answer default judgment against Monica, granted the divorce, and awarded Paul $15, 612.61 for attorney's fees. The trial court's order divided the marital estate and stated that the division was just and right.

         Monica moved for a new trial, arguing that her non-appearance was due to a mistake or accident because her attorney had a "conflict with another case," she tried to "finalize arrangements for the substitute attorney to cover the trial setting," yet the substitute attorney failed to appear. Monica explained that she did not appear because she thought the trial had been reset. Monica's motion was supported by her attorney's affidavit. Paul did not respond to the motion.

         The trial court held a hearing on the motion for new trial. Monica's attorney explained that the substitute attorney who she had arranged to appear on her behalf had broken her ankle. Although the substitute attorney texted her about the injury, Monica's attorney did not receive the message in time. The substitute attorney did not appear at the new-trial hearing to testify. Based on the arguments of counsel and evidence, and after noting that Monica's motion for new trial said nothing about a medical emergency, the trial court denied Monica's motion for new trial. Monica appeals.

         Denial of Motion for New Trial

         Monica argues that the trial court abused its discretion in denying her motion for new trial because she presented evidence that her failure to appear was not intentional or due to conscious indifference and because she meets the new-trial test set ...


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