The Derbez v. Derbez divorce matter reminds lawyers that they must be familiar with their jurisdiction’s rules, procedures, and deadlines, and understand the complexity of the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments.
Mr. Derbez pursued a divorce from his wife in Mexico, where he resided, in 2015. Mrs. Derbez fought this divorce proceeding, arguing a lack of jurisdiction, but she lost. The divorce case apparently proceeded and the parties were divorced on April 19, 2016.
On August 2, 2016, Mrs. Derbez, who refused to recognize the Mexican divorce decree, filed a petition for divorce in Texas, where she resided. After some significant delays, the court finally held a merits-hearing on the divorce request on February 20, 2018. At this hearing, Mrs. Derbez testified that Mr. Derbez agreed to a variety of financial payments to her. When Mr. Derbez testified through an interpreter, he confirmed that he understood and agreed to what Mrs. Derbez said. At no point did either party bring the Mexican divorce decree to the court’s attention. Mr. Derbez claimed, later, that he told his lawyers of the Mexican divorce decree, but they dismissed that fact as being irrelevant. The lawyers also never asked Mr. Derbez questions at the merits-hearing, believing him to have agreed to the terms Mrs. Derbez put on the record.
Not until July 31, 2018, did Mr. Derbez file paperwork, with the help of a new lawyer, contesting jurisdiction and bringing the Mexican divorce to the attention of the court. He delayed months longer before providing translations of the Mexican documents and providing evidence of Mexican law.
In essence, Mr. Derbez missed all deadlines outlined in the Rules of Procedure to provide notice of foreign proceedings, a desire to enforce a foreign court order, and intent to rely on foreign law. Being far too late, the Court of Appeals Seventh District of Texas at Amarillo affirmed the Texas divorce decree, which included the financial undertakings agreed to by Mr. Derbez.