Friday, March 26, 2010
Property Division in Divorce Decree & Res Judicata
RES JUDICATA EFFECT OF DIVORCE DECREE
Res judicata is an affirmative defense. Tex. R. Civ. P. 94. The party claiming the defense must prove: (1) the claims asserted in this case arise out of the same subject matter of the previous suit, (2) the claims asserted in this suit were litigated or could have been litigated through the exercise of due diligence in the previous suit, (3) there is a final judgment in the prior lawsuit. Barr v. Resolution Trust Corp., 837 S.W.2d 627, 631 (Tex. 1992). We take the transactional approach to res judicata. Id. Under that approach, the subject matter of a suit is based on the factual matter that make up the gist of the complaint. Id. at 630. Any claim that arises out of those facts should be litigated in the same lawsuit. Id. Res judicata applies to the property division in a final divorce decree, just as it does to any other final judgment, barring subsequent collateral attack even if the divorce decree improperly divided the property. Baxter v. Ruddle, 794 S.W.2d 761, 762 (Tex. 1990).
SOURCE: De Acetis v. Whitley (Tex.App.- Houston [14th.] Mar. 25, 2010) (real estate dispute stemming from divorce, enforcement of property division by contempt, res judicata based on divorce proceeding)