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Sorting Out Real Property Issues in a High Asset Divorce

Posted on in Complex Property Litigation

TX high asset divorceIn high asset divorce cases, the disposition of real property is often a major sticking point between the estranged spouses. When dealing with large parcels of commercial or agricultural land in particular, it may be necessary to actually subdivide the property. And even after the divorce becomes final, there may still be outstanding issues related to the property that lead to additional litigation.

Ex-Husband Held in Breach of Contract Over Post-Divorce Land Sale

The Texas Second District Court of Appeals in Fort Worth recently addressed one long-running dispute between two parties who divorced five years ago. The former husband and former wife in this case held 300 acres of land in Parker County as community property. Under the terms of their divorce decree, the former wife received 123 acres from that parcel.

Two years later, the former wife signed a contract with the former husband to sell back 32 acres. The contract included a written description of the land, together with an aerial photograph obtained via Google Earth. Under the contract, the former husband agreed to pay a $35,000 earnest-money deposit, which he would forfeit to the former wife in the event of a breach.

The former spouses failed to close the sale as provided in the contract. The former wife maintains the former husband “repeatedly delayed the closing.” She subsequently demanded $35,000 deposit as damages “in lieu of specific performance,” but the former husband refused to release the funds. This prompted the former wife to file a breach of contract lawsuit.

Before the trial court, the former husband “asserted a defense of the statute of frauds.” Basically, he argued that the sales contract was not legally enforceable because it did not contain a proper property description. Under Texas law, all contracts for the sale of real estate must be in writing and “sufficiently describe the property being sold.”

Here, the former husband argued the aerial photograph did not precisely identify the boundaries of the land being sold, and the contract itself “insufficiently identified” the property as “123 +/- acres” and “House and 32 acres.” Neither the trial court nor the Second District accepted this argument and granted summary judgment in favor of the former wife.

As the appeals court explained, the “123 +/- acres” was not ambiguous, but was rather a clear reference to the 123 acres the former wife received in the divorce. As for the Google Earth aerial photo, the court said it was the former husband who failed “to see the bigger picture.” While the former husband was correct that the photo did not indicate the precise boundaries of the 32 acres at-issue, it did outline a single area “right in the center of the photo.” Combined with the written description in the contract, this was sufficient to comply with the statute of frauds.

Speak with a Qualified Austin High Asset Divorce Lawyer Today

When dividing real property or any other substantial assets in a divorce proceeding, it is important for both sides to be on the same page as much as possible. The last thing you want is to go through the time and expense of a divorce only to find yourself back in court a few years later litigating unresolved issues.

So if you need advice from an experienced Austin high asset divorce attorney, contact Powers and Kerr, PLLC, at 512-610-6199 today to schedule a consultation.




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