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Worford v. Stamper, 801 S.W.2d 108 (Tex. 1990)

by | Feb 3, 2024 | Firm News

In the complex realm of family law, few matters are as emotionally charged and legally intricate as cases involving child relocation. The dynamics of separated or divorced parents, geographical distances, and the well-being of the children involved often intersect, giving rise to intricate legal battles.

One such case that has left a lasting imprint on the legal landscape is LENZ V. LENZ. In this blog, we delve into the depths of this landmark case, exploring the background, the pivotal court decision, and the broader implications it holds within the realm of family law.

Join us as we dissect the intricate web of legal reasoning, public policy considerations, and shifting judicial perspectives that LENZ V. LENZ encapsulates. Discover how this case has helped shape the approach to child relocation cases, moving away from strict presumptions to more nuanced, fact-driven evaluations. Whether you are a legal enthusiast or someone facing a similar situation, this blog aims to shed light on the complexities of child relocation disputes and the evolving legal landscape surrounding them.

The case of LENZ V. LENZ involves the separation and subsequent legal battle between two individuals, Romy and Rudi, who initially separated in Arizona and obtained a separation order. In this order, Romy was designated as the “primary residential parent,” and it expressed their intention to move to Texas while restricting the children’s residence to Texas.

Later on, the couple officially divorced in Texas, and Romy retained the right to determine the children’s residence within the state of Texas. Following the divorce, Romy filed a modification suit with the objective of establishing the children’s residence in Germany.

Court Decision:

The jury sided with Romy in this matter, which led to Rudi filing a judgment notwithstanding the verdict. However, the trial court decided to amend the verdict, allowing Romy to establish the children’s residence, but only in Bexar County.

Significance of the Case:

LENZ V. LENZ marked a significant legal milestone as it was the first time the Supreme Court had the opportunity to analyze a relocation case of this nature. The core of the Court’s opinion revolved around Texas’ public policy, which aims to ensure that children maintain frequent and continuous contact with parents who demonstrate their ability to act in the child’s best interest.

In their analysis, the Lenz Court extensively reviewed the standards applied by various other states in similar “relocation” cases. The importance of this case lies not only in the final ruling but also in the fact that it paved the way for a comprehensive examination of the principles governing relocation cases.

The opinion emphasized that relocation cases are highly dependent on the specific facts and circumstances involved, and each case should be carefully assessed. It also indicated a shift in the courts’ approach, moving away from a strict presumption against relocation towards a more flexible balancing test. This new approach allows trial courts to consider a broader range of relevant factors when making decisions in relocation cases.

801 S.W.2d 108

Patsy Stamper WORFORD, Petitioner,
v.
Willis G. STAMPER, Jr., Respondent.

No. D-0002.

Supreme Court of Texas.

Nov. 14, 1990.
Rehearing Overruled Jan. 30, 1991.
Robert N. Eames, Randolph W. Stout, Denton, for petitioner.

        Elton M. Montgomery, Stanley H. Peavy, III, for respondent.

PER CURIAM.

The issue in this case is whether the trial court abused its discretion in determining the amount of child support. Because we hold that the trial court did not abuse its discretion, we reverse the judgment of the court of appeals, 798 S.W.2d 573 and affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Willis G. Stamper, Jr., and Patsy Stamper Worford were divorced in 1975. Under the original divorce decree, Stamper was ordered to pay $180 per month in child support until his son, Trey, reached the age of eighteen. Trey was five years old at the time of the divorce. Stamper was also ordered to pay one-half of any expenses incurred on behalf of Trey’s medical disability and was required to maintain medical coverage for the benefit of Trey until the age of eighteen.

Worford filed a motion to modify the 1975 order in June 1986, requesting that the child support payments be increased and continued past the age of eighteen. It was undisputed by the parties that Trey would be unable to support himself after the age of eighteen due to various physical and mental handicaps. When Trey was fifteen years old, his developmental levels were between three and five years. His speech is unintelligible except to those closest to him and familiar with his responses. Trey also suffers from a dentofacial deformity which makes it difficult for him to chew his food and maintain proper hygiene.

Trey turned eighteen on January 9, 1988. The trial court entered a final modification order in July 1988, increasing Stamper’s child support payments to $1350 per month and extending such payments beyond Trey’s eighteenth birthday. Stamper was also ordered to maintain medical, dental, and hospitalization insurance for the benefit of his child and pay one-half of all medical, dental, orthodontic, and hospitalization expenses not covered by insurance. The court of appeals held that Patsy Stamper Worford showed a material and substantial change in circumstances, but reversed and remanded as to the amount of the order by summarily concluding:

[T]he trial court abused its discretion in rendering the new order because there is insufficient evidence to support the amount of payment required by the new order.

798 S.W.2d at 579.

In this case, no findings of fact or conclusions of law were requested or filed. It is therefore implied that the trial court made all the findings necessary to support its judgment. Lemons v. EMW Mfg. Co., 747 S.W.2d 372, 373 (Tex.1988); In re W.E.R., 669 S.W.2d 716, 717 (Tex.1984). In determining whether some evidence supports the judgment and the implied findings of fact, “it is proper to consider only that evidence most favorable to the issue and to disregard entirely that which is opposed to it or contradictory in its nature.” Renfro Drug Co. v. Lewis, 149 Tex. 507, 513, 235 S.W.2d 609, 613 (1950). The judgment must be affirmed if it can be upheld on any legal theory that finds support in the evidence. In re W.E.R., 669 S.W.2d at 717.

A court’s order of child support will not be disturbed on appeal unless the complaining party can show a clear abuse of discretion. Brito v. Brito, 346 S.W.2d 133, 134 (Tex.Civ.App.–El Paso 1961, writ ref’d n.r.e.). See, e.g., Sohocki v. Sohocki, 730 S.W.2d 30, 31 (Tex.App.–Corpus Christi 1987, no writ); Eggemeyer v. Eggemeyer, 535 S.W.2d 425, 427 (Tex.Civ.App.–Austin 1976), aff’d on other grounds, 554 S.W.2d 137 (Tex.1977). The test for abuse of discretion is whether the trial court acted without reference to any guiding rules or principles; in other words, whether the act was arbitrary or unreasonable. Downer v. Aquamarine Operators, Inc., 701 S.W.2d 238, 241-42 (Tex.1985).

According to the report of the court-appointed amicus curiae, Trey is in need of medical and therapeutical treatment including orthodontic and surgical treatment to correct dentofacial deformities, vocational evaluation and assessment, and speech therapy. Enhanced speech therapy alone may cost between $497 and $585 per month, according to the amicus’ report. As stated by the court of appeals, “the trial court had a difficult question to resolve” in determining what amounts would be covered by medical insurance. 798 S.W.2d at 578. It was clear, however, that some significant expenses, including maxillofacial surgery, would not be covered by the insurance policy Trey was covered under. Trey’s mother, Patsy Stamper Worford, testified that Trey’s basic needs increased 100 to 200 percent in the twelve years following the original divorce decree in 1975. Some testimony was also introduced that Trey would benefit from placement in an autistic treatment center, and that the tuition at such a school is about $28,000 per year. With respect to Stamper’s income, Stamper’s personal financial statements reflect a net monthly income of $6,620 and $7,520 for the periods ending May 1, 1987 and September 1, 1986, respectively.

Under Rule 5 of the Texas Supreme Court Child Support Guidelines in effect in 1987, the amount of child support for one child ranges from 19-23% of the first $4,000 of the obligor’s net resources ($760 to $920 per month). Beyond that, the court may order additional amounts of child support as appropriate, and may consider the income of the parties and the needs of the child in making this determination. Furthermore, pursuant to Rule 7 of the 1987 Guidelines, either party may request findings by the trial court concerning the amount of net resources available and the reasons that the amount ordered by the court varies from the amount computed by applying the percentage in Rule 5. In this case, neither party requested, and the trial court did not file, any findings pursuant to Rule 7.
Based upon Stamper’s net income and the special needs of the child in this case, we hold that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by entering an order of child support in the amount of $1350 per month. Pursuant to Texas Rule of Appellate Procedure 170, a majority of the court, without oral argument, reverses the judgment of the court of appeals and affirms the order of the trial court.
Worford v. Stamper, 801 S.W.2d 108 (Tex. 1990)

 

Understanding Divorce and Property Division in Brazoria and Galveston Counties: A Comprehensive Guide

Divorce can be a daunting journey, laden with emotional and legal complexities, especially when it involves the division of assets and property. If you’re navigating through these turbulent waters in Brazoria or Galveston County, understanding the nuances of local family law courts can be your beacon of hope. This guide, crafted by Ben Beveridge, the founder of the Beveridge Law Firm located in Alvin, Texas, aims to shed light on these complexities, offering insights to steer you towards informed decisions.

Local Family Law Courts: An Overview

In Brazoria County, family law matters are handled primarily by the 461st District Court and the 300th District Court. The esteemed Judge Bulanek presides over the 461st, with Judge Donnell serving as the associate judge. Meanwhile, the 300th is under the wise jurisdiction of Judge Bradshaw, with Judge Lehman as the associate judge. For those in Galveston County, family law cases are managed by the 306th District Court and the Galveston County Courts at Law 1, 2, and 3. These courts serve as the pillars of justice, ensuring fair and equitable resolution of family law disputes.

The Core of Property Division

When it comes to dividing assets in a divorce, the process can significantly differ between jurisdictions. Yet, whether under equitable distribution or community property rules, the goal remains the same: to achieve a fair division of marital assets. This includes identifying marital vs. separate property, valuing assets accurately, addressing debt responsibility, and understanding the tax implications.

Special Focus: Custody and Parental Rights

At the Beveridge Law Firm, we’re not just focused on the division of property; we’re deeply committed to ensuring that parents in Brazoria and Galveston counties strive for equal time with their children. We understand the challenges when court-ordered periods of possession are not honored, and we stand ready to enforce these orders, advocating for your rights and the well-being of your children.

Why Choose Beveridge Law Firm?

Navigating the intricacies of divorce and property division requires not just legal expertise but a profound understanding of local court systems. With a primary focus on Brazoria County and a secondary emphasis on Galveston County, Ben Beveridge and the Beveridge Law Firm are uniquely positioned to guide you through these legal challenges. Our deep-rooted knowledge of the local judiciary, combined with a commitment to fighting for your parental rights, makes us your ideal partner in securing a favorable outcome.

Let’s Connect

If you’re facing the challenges of divorce, property division, or custody disputes in Brazoria or Galveston County, don’t navigate this journey alone. Contact the Beveridge Law Firm at 281-407-0961 or submit your information at https://www.beveridgelawfirm.com/contact/. Our office is conveniently located at 410 South 2nd St, Alvin, Texas 77511. Let Ben Beveridge, a dedicated advocate for family law rights, lead the way to a brighter future for you and your family.