'Til death do us part, or until I sue you.

On July 8, 2009, the Tyler Court of Appeals affirmed a judgment for monetary damages in favor of one spouse against the other. In Colvin v. Colvin, the husband sued his wife for personal injury damages caused by his wife in an automobile collision. Wife was the driver of a car and the husband was the passenger. Wife and a third party were in a collision, third party sued wife, and then husband intervened in the lawsuit and sued third party and wife (husband and wife were married at the time and are still so).

The trial court awarded damages to husband against wife, and wife appealed. On appeal, the Tyler Court Appeals affirmed the trial court’s ruling. Interestingly, the Colvin opinion does not mention whether or not husband and wife are still married.

TheColvin opinion presents an interesting situation. Under Texas law, community property is divided into two types: (1) joint management; and (2) sole management. The community property characterization is important because if one spouse is held liable for a tort (i.e. negligence) during marriage, then the court may satisfy the judgment by looking to the community property jointly managed by the spouses as well as the sole management community property of the non-culpable spouse. In result in Colvin is that in a sense the trial court could look to the community property jointly managed by the husband and wife, and the husband’s sole management community property, to satisfy the judgment.

As a Dallas divorce lawyer, our clients frequenltly are unaware of the concepts of joint and sole management community property. In a nutshell, if either spouse is held liable for tortious conduct during marriage, then all property other than the non-culpable spouse’s separate property may be used to satisfy the judgment.

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