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What is a Summary Judgment in Texas?

A summary judgment is when a court disposes a case either because the party who filed the lawsuit or the petitioner does not have enough evidence to win the case or because a responding party or the respondent does not have a clear and proper defense to the allegations brought against him or her by the former. 

One of the parties can basically file for a motion for summary judgment to dispose of the case if the opposing party does not have any strong evidence to support their arguments in the case. 

This is applicable in family law cases. 

If the case deals with more than one issue, the parties can decide to have some of them decided via a motion for summary judgment before trial. 

Chances of settling also increases with the help of filing a motion for summary judgment. This is because summary judgment removes certain issues which the opposing party may argue about. This basically limits what a party has to present during trial.

Traditional Summary Judgment vs. No Evidence Summary Judgment

There are two different types of motions for summary judgment. These are the traditional summary judgment and the no evidence summary judgment. 

A traditional summary judgment is when a party with the burden of proof may file for a motion of summary judgment by proving that he or she is entitled to judgment as a matter of law by establishing affirmative defense or presenting each of the element of his or her own claim. 

Most, if not all, traditional summary judgments have to be backed by summary judgment evidence that is competent. 

On the other hand, a no evidence summary judgement, the party without the burden of proof is stating to the court that the opposing party has no affirmative defense or no evidence to support his or her claim, and therefore, the motion should be granted.

Issues that Involve a Motion for Summary Judgment

In family law cases, here are examples of claims that often involve a motion for summary judgment, specifically a no evidence summary judgment: 

  • Reimbursement claims in divorce cases;
  • Characterization of property whether or not it is considered as either community or separate property;
  • Enforcement of the premarital agreement by a trial court in relation to a divorce case.

Filing for a motion early in the case gives the party an advantage by allowing him or her to win on any number of issues in the case prior to the trial and ultimately decreasing the matters to be tried. 

In a family law case, if the opposing party has the burden of proof, this is a good scenario to consider moving for summary judgment when the opposing party does not have enough evidence to stand on with regard to his arguments in the case.

In the event that motion for summary judgment is denied, the next best thing to do is for the party to try to do so from a strategic point of view. Learning what the opposing party will be arguing during trial is not a bad thing.

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Mr. Hutton is a Divorce and Custody Lawyer based out of Round Rock, TX. His background is with child psychology at Arizona State University where he received a B.S. in 2006, and he continued this by working with the Children’s Right’s Clinic at the University of Texas School of Law where he received his J.D. in 2009. Throughout his practice, he has been a strong proponent of utilizing modern technology to improve his practice and the representation of his clients. He currently is the technology chair of CAFA of Travis County and is committed to improving and modernizing the practice of law in Texas. If you have any questions you can contact him at timothy.hutton@austintexaslegal.com

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