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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:Margaret and Daniel Waite married in 1968. Daniel was a stock broker with Dean Witter Reynolds, though in 1991, the Waites sued Dean Witter for defamation and eventually secured a $15 million settlement. Several years later, Margaret sued for divorce. The property division was hotly contested, especially the $3 million left of the settlement. The trial court eventually approved of an unequal division of property, noting that Daniel had physically assaulted Margaret. Daniel was ordered to pay Margaret $20,000 for that. Daniel was granted $862,997 of the remaining settlement, which had been placed in the court registry, and Margaret was awarded the balance, more than $2.13 million. Daniel was awarded the family residence as well as a tax refund check due on the couple’s joint return. Upon judgment, Daniel withdrew the settlement proceeds from the court registry without objection from Margaret. Margaret then conveyed her $300,000 interest in the family residence, and Daniel immediately filed the deed. A few months later, Margaret endorsed the $5,705 tax refund check over to Daniel. At no time did Daniel ever accept any cash or property with any objection or qualification. On appeal, Daniel challenges the property division on appeal, as well as the state court’s jurisdiction to dissolve his marriage in the first place, a marriage he claims is purely ecclesiastical. This issue was previously litigated in an earlier appeal brought by Daniel after a trial court denied his motion to bar Margaret from relying on Family Code provisions. Margaret now files a motion to dismiss this appeal because Daniel accepted the substantial benefits awarded to him in the divorce decree. HOLDING:Appeal dismissed. The court describes the religious issues raised by Daniel as follows: Did the trial court impermissibly interfere with religious issues? Is marriage a religious covenant and not a civil status regulated by law? The court points out that in its first opinion, a majority of the court rejected the argument that the Family Code impermissibly interfered with solely religious affairs. The court reaffirms the principles underlying that decision, adding that regardless of whether couples view their marriages as a religious undertaking or a secular one, the state governs all legal aspects of the union. Furthermore, the Legislature has empowered family district courts to grant divorces and divide marital property. Thus, the trial court in this case was authorized to hear the case and adjudicate the parties’ rights. The court then explains that the acceptance-of-benefits doctrine is a substantive rule grounded in estoppel. It has nothing to do with informalities in an appellate record or procedural defects. Margaret’s motion to dismiss, therefore, was not required to be filed within a timetable set by the appellate rules. The acceptance-of-benefits doctrine may be set aside if the movant can show that his acceptance of the benefits was involuntary due to economic necessity, and that a reversal of the judgment will not affect his rights to the benefits he has received. Daniel claims that he meets the economic necessity requirement because he needed the money to pay for his daily living expenses and to complete repairs on the family home (which is his as separate property). The court finds Daniel’s affidavit is “largely conclusory,” and contains almost no factual support for Daniel’s assertions. His argument is further undercut by the absence of any statement that he was unemployed or had no other sources of income. The court turns back Daniel’s plea that he does not deserve such a result, that it is not fair to apply the acceptance-of-benefits doctrine strictly, noting that Daniel took 100 percent of what he was entitled to and that his affidavit is bereft of details. Finally, the court finds that a reversal of the award of property could affect Daniel’s right to them. The court notes that this exception is narrow and “does not tolerate chance or uncertainty,” that is, Daniel’s right to the property must be unquestionable. As the trial court already made an unequal division of property � based in part on Daniel’s assault of Margaret � there is a chance that another “just and right” division of the community estate would result in Daniel receiving less than he got. OPINION:Fowler, J.; Fowler, Edelman and Seymore, JJ.

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