Aland v. Martin

Aland v. Martin, 271 S.W.3d 424 (Tex. App.--Dallas 2008, no pet.) involved real property that was the subject of a couple's division of community property incident to divorce. 271 S.W.3d at 426, 433. The wife's attorney, Linda Aland, filed a lien against the property to secure payment of wife's attorneys' fees. Id. at 426. That property was later awarded to the ex-husband. Id. at 433. The husband argued that Aland's lien was fraudulent and that her intent to harm him financially with that lien should be inferred because she: (1) did not have proper consent to burden the property with a lien; (2) burdened property that was solely owned by husband, despite the underlying debt being owed only by his ex-wife; (3) refused to remove the lien when asked. In reaching the conclusion there was legally insufficient evidence of an intent to cause injury, the court looked at the evidence at a whole and determined that the evidence was equally consistent with an intent to cause injury and the lack of an intent to cause injury. Id. It noted that the parties' divorce decree expressly addressed the lien, awarding the property to husband, but carving out the obligation to extinguish the lien to his ex-wife. Id. Both husband's and wife's attorney initialed a change to the decree language that deleted the requirement that wife pay off the lien within a certain time period. Id. at 432. Finally, when the wife did pay off the lien, Aland released the lien. Id. In Aland, the debt underlying the lien was legitimate--i.e., the parties agreed that the wife owed the money to the Aland--and the dispute was solely over whether it was proper to put a lien on the property later awarded to husband. Aland argued that her purpose in filing and maintaining the lien was to ensure payment for her services and, when she received payment from her client, she removed the lien burdening the husband's property.