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Facts: Husband and Wife were divorced in 2005. In the decree, the trial court divided the “oil, gas or other minerals standing in the name of the parties or either party” equally between Husband and Wife as part of a just and right division of the parties’ marital estate. However, the decree failed to list any specific oil and gas interests and it did not award any of these interests to Husband as his separate property. Husband did not appeal the decree. Wife did not discover that Husband possessed oil and gas interests until 2013. Upon making this discovery, Wife instructed the properties’ oil and gas producers to pay her half of all revenue from those interests. Once Husband was notified, he filed a petition seeking a clarifying order that would confirm these interests as his sole and separate property.  Wife filed an answer stating there was no uncertainty in the decree and that she was entitled to half of all his mineral interests. Wife subsequently filed a motion to enforce the decree, in which she asserted Husband fraudulently withheld the identity of property that belonged to her. Husband raised several arguments in the trial court, including statute of limitations, waiver, estoppel, laches, and adverse possession. The trial court denied Husband’s petition for clarification and granted Wife’s motion for enforcement. Husband appealed.

Holding: Affirmed

Opinion: On appeal, Husband argued Wife’s claims should be barred by statutes of limitations because she did not bring her claim within four years, as is required for claims of execution of a lien on real property and fraud. The Court disagreed, holding that while Chapter 9 of the Family Code provides a two-year time limit on the right to enforce interests in tangible personal property, there is no corresponding statute of limitations regarding interests in real property. Because oil, gas, and other mineral interests are real property, the Court held the trial court had jurisdiction to hear and decide Wife’s motion to enforce. Further, the Court rejected Husband’s affirmative defenses of waiver and estoppel due to Wife’s affirmative acts to protect her property interests as opposed to waiving them. In making this determination, the Court looked to the fact that Wife discovered the interests, contacted producers, and hired counsel. Husband’s final affirmative defense of laches was also rejected by the Court because Wife did not substantially delay bringing suit after discovering the existence of the mineral interests. The Court further held that the decree clearly and unambiguously divided the mineral interests between Husband and Wife as part of its division of community property, thus, the trial court lacked jurisdiction to hold otherwise and could not alter the original divorce decree. Finally, the Court rejected Husband’s argument that he had “adversely possessed” the mineral interests for the requisite period since divorce because there was insufficient evidence to establish his possessory interest in the minerals.

Author Jodi Bender

Moore v. Moore, 11-16-00282-CV, 2019 WL 386517 (Tex. App.—Eastland Jan. 31, 2019, no pet. h.)