Court of Appeals of Texas, Fifth District, Dallas
Appeal from the 255th Judicial District Court Dallas County,
Texas Trial Court Cause No. DF-17-23294
Justices Myers, Osborne, and Nowell
trial court rendered a final decree of divorce between Mother
and Father, the parents of I.B., and denied Father's
motion for new trial. Father appeals, challenging the trial
court's division of property and award of child support.
We affirm the trial court's judgment in part, reverse in
part, and remand for further proceedings on the amount of
child support to be paid by Father.
and Father were married in 2013. They ceased to live together
as spouses shortly after I.B.'s birth in early 2017.
Mother filed her original petition for divorce on November
filed a waiver of service. Father also signed and filed
Mother's November 6, 2017 settlement proposal letter.
Mother's settlement offer, however, expired on November
10, 2017, and Father's signature is dated November 30,
February 28, 2018, Mother filed a "Motion to Sign Final
Decree of Divorce," requesting that the trial court
render a final decree of divorce in accordance with the
parties' November 30 settlement agreement. The motion
recites that Father's counsel had not responded to
Mother's request to execute the proposed decree and had
not informed Mother's counsel of any objections to the
proposed decree. The record does not reflect a hearing or an
order on this motion. Instead, the next items in the
clerk's record are Mother's amended petition, her
motion to compel discovery, and her motion for mediation.
There are no orders on these motions.
an attorney filed an entry of appearance on Father's
behalf in February 2018, Father never filed an answer or
responded to any motion.
case proceeded to trial before the court on August 9, 2018.
Father appeared late, after Mother's testimony had begun.
He requested a recess until his attorney arrived, which the
trial court granted. Mother then completed her testimony.
When Father's counsel began Mother's
cross-examination, however, Mother's counsel objected
that "He's not entitled to ask any questions of my
witness on the judgment nihil dicit." The trial court
sustained the objection, and no further testimony was taken.
trial court rendered judgment on Mother's requested
relief, making findings on the best interest of the child and
a just and right division of the property. The trial court
rendered a final decree of divorce on August 22, 2018. The
decree includes a provision that Father must pay Mother child
support of $1, 666.36 per month. The decree also recites:
Respondent, [Father], waived issuance and service of citation
by waiver duly filed, made a general appearance in the case,
appeared in person and through his counsel of record, Bilal
Khaleeq, however, the Court rendered Judgment Nihil Dicit
against Respondent for failing to file an answer or any other
pleading putting the merits of Petitioner's case at
filed a motion for new trial, arguing that the evidence was
legally and factually insufficient to support the trial
court's judgment. He also argued that the trial court
erred by ruling that he could not testify at trial. At the
hearing on the motion, Father testified that he withdrew his
consent to the November 6 settlement letter because he
disagreed with its provisions about his visitation with
Although the record is not entirely clear, it appears that
Father had changed his mind by the time of the hearing and
sought a new divorce decree incorporating the settlement
agreement's terms. Father also testified that his annual
net income was $18, 000 to $19, 000, not $100, 000 as Mother
had testified at trial, but he did not offer any supporting
evidence. As he had at trial, Mother's counsel referred
to "bank statements that show that you made over $100,
000 in the course of six months," but Father testified
the figure was incorrect. The bank statements were not
introduced into evidence either at trial or at the hearing on
the motion for new trial. At the conclusion of the hearing,
the trial court denied the motion for new trial, explaining
that Father did not sign the settlement letter before the
offer in it expired, and the court "did not render
judgment on this agreement." Accordingly, the trial
court signed its "Order Denying Motion for New
Trial" on October 15, 2018. This appeal followed.