There is a strong presumption in Texas law in favor of marriage.  When a question arises as to the validity of a current marriage because of a prior marriage, the presumption says that the current marriage is the one that’s presumed valid. You would think there wouldn’t be very many cases on this issue, but I’ve actually seen a couple recently.  Here’s one of those:

In re A.M. is a case out of the Dallas Court of Appeals, released 12/16/13.  There, the husband (H2) argued that his marriage to Wife was void because Wife allegedly never divorced her prior husband (H1). In support, H2 provided documentation from two foreign governments showing no divorce between Wife and H1. Wife, however, provided a document, signed by H1, issued by an Islamic mosque in England reciting that Wife was “totally emancipated from the matrimonial relationship” with H1. Wife also provided a Pakistani divorce decree issued “in accordance [with] Mohammedan Law” which was also signed by H1. H2’s expert testified that H1’s alleged signatures to those documents were likely not genuine. Despite H1’s evidence to the contrary, the trial court found that Wife was divorced from H1 when she married H2—therefore the marriage between H2 and Wife was not void. Accordingly, the trial court granted the divorce between H2 and Wife and divided the community estate. H2 appealed.

The Dallas Court of Appeals held on to the fact that there was some evidence that the divorce between Wife and H1 happened. Since the trial court is the best judge of the credibility of the evidence, the trial court had discretion to believe Wife’s evidence and disregard H2’s evidence. Thus, the trial court properly disregarded the contradictory evidence in finding the prior marriage between Wife and H1 ended before the marriage to H2. “This presumption [in favor of the validity of the most recent marriage] is one of the strongest known to law; it is, in itself, evidence; and it may even outweigh positive evidence to the contrary.”

 

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Photo of Michelle O'Neil Michelle O'Neil

Michelle May O’Neil has 27 years’ experience representing small business owners, professionals, and individuals in litigation related to family law matters such as divorce, child custody, and complex property division. Described by one lawyer as “a lethal combination of sweet-and-salty”, Ms. O’Neil exudes…

Michelle May O’Neil has 27 years’ experience representing small business owners, professionals, and individuals in litigation related to family law matters such as divorce, child custody, and complex property division. Described by one lawyer as “a lethal combination of sweet-and-salty”, Ms. O’Neil exudes genuine compassion for her client’s difficulties, yet she can be relentless when in pursuit of a client’s goals. One judge said of Ms. O’Neil, “She cannot be out-gunned, out-briefed, or out-lawyered!”

Family Law Specialist

Ms. O’Neil became a board-certified family law specialist by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in 1997 and has maintained her certification since that time. While representing clients in litigation before the trial court is an important part of her practice, Ms. O’Neil also handles appellate matters in the trial court, courts of appeals and Texas Supreme Court. Lawyers frequently consult with Ms. O’Neil on their litigation cases about specialized legal issues requiring particularized attention both at the trial court and appellate levels. This gives her a unique perspective and depth of perception that benefits both her litigation and appellate clients.

Top Lawyers in Texas and America

Ms. O’Neil has been named to the list of Texas SuperLawyers for many years, 2011-2018, a peer-voted honor given to only about 5% of the lawyers in the state of Texas. In 2014-2018, Ms. O’Neil received the special honor of being named by Texas SuperLawyers as one of the Top 50 Women Lawyers in Texas, Top 100 Lawyers in Texas, and Top 100 Lawyers in DFW. She was named one of the Best Lawyers in America for 2016 and received an “A-V” peer review rating by Martindale-Hubbell Legal Directories for the highest quality legal ability and ethical standards.

Author and Speaker

A noted author, Ms. O’Neil released her second book Basics of Texas Divorce Law in November 2010, with a second edition released in 2013, and a third edition expected in 2015.  Her first book, All About Texas Law and Kids, was published in September 2009 by Texas Lawyer Press. In 2012, Ms. O’Neil co-authored the booklets What You Need To Know About Common Law Marriage In Texas and Social Study Evaluations.  The State Bar of Texas and other providers of continuing education for attorneys frequently enlist Ms. O’Neil to provide instruction to attorneys on topics of her expertise in the family law arena.