Siddiqui v. Siddiqui ((Tex. App. – Houston [14th Dist.] Mar. 3, 2009)(Hedges)
(SAPCR divorce appeal, pro se litigants, intervention by attorney for fees, child support guideline
AFFIRMED: Opinion by Chief Justice Hedges
Before Chief Justice Hedges, Justices Anderson and Seymore
14-07-00235-CV Zahoor Siddiqui v. Masoon Siddiqui and Queta Vera
Appeal from 257th District Court of Harris County
Trial Court Judge: Judy L. Warne
M E M O R A N D U M O P I N I O N
Appellant, Zahoor Siddiqui, a pro se litigant, appeals from a final decree of divorce dissolving his
marriage to appellee Masoon Siddiqui. In the decree, the trial court awarded past due legal fees to
appellant's former attorney, appellee Queta Vera, who had intervened in the divorce action. On
appeal, appellant challenges the awards made to both appellees. We affirm.
Masoon filed a petition seeking dissolution of her marriage to appellant. Appellant filed his own
pleadings asserting, among other things, claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress,
defamation, and assault. After the trial court entered temporary orders in the case, appellant filed
several motions for enforcement alleging violations of the temporary orders by Masoon. The final
motion for enforcement was heard at the same time as the final trial. During the course of the
proceedings, appellant was represented by three attorneys but ultimately represented himself at trial
and represents himself on appeal. One of his former attorneys, Queta Vera, filed a petition in
intervention seeking past due attorney's fees and expenses. In response, appellant filed pleadings
against Vera for professional negligence. At the close of trial, the trial court granted a directed verdict
against appellant's professional negligence claims. The court then granted the divorce, denied the
motion to enforce based on insufficient evidence of violations of the temporary orders, found no
evidence of intentional infliction of emotional distress or defamation, and found insufficient evidence
of assault. The trial court further found that appellant was intentionally underemployed and assessed
child support accordingly. In its final decree, the court named both parents as joint managing
conservators of the one remaining minor child and gave primary custody to Masoon and a standard
possession order to appellant. The trial court further ordered appellant to pay $4,666.39 to Vera as
past due fees and expenses, and $10,350 to Masoon's attorney for her fees. The trial court
additionally divided the marital assets and liabilities between the parties.
In his first two issues on appeal, appellant complains that (1) he was not timely served with the final
decree prior to entry, and (2) Masoon submitted various documents to the court just one day before
trial and never served them on appellant. In issues three through nine, appellant contends that the
trial court erred in (1) denying his motion for enforcement; (2) refusing to award damages for assault,
intentional infliction of emotional distress, and defamation; (3) awarding Vera $4,666.39; (4) dividing
the marital estate; (5) ordering him to pay child support on the basis of a job he had not had for four
years; (6) ordering him to pay $10,350 for Masoon's attorney's fees; and (7) refusing to find that
appellee Vera negligently represented him.
While we have compassion for the plight of the pro se litigant attempting to follow the rules of legal
procedure and substantive laws, and therefore construe pro se pleadings and briefs liberally, we must
still hold appellant to the same standard as a licensed attorney, requiring that he follow those same
rules and laws. Mansfield State Bank v. Cohn, 573 S.W.2d 181, 184‑85 (Tex. 1978); Cooper v. Circle
Ten Council Boy Scouts of Am., 254 S.W.3d 689, 693 (Tex. App.- Dallas 2008, no pet.). To do
otherwise would give a pro se litigant an unfair advantage over a litigant represented by counsel.
Mansfield State Bank, 573 S.W.2d at 185; Cooper, 254 S.W.3d at 693. Before a complaint can be
raised on appeal, it first must be made in the trial court in the form of a timely and sufficiently specific
objection, request, or motion. Tex. R. App. P. 33.1(a). If the appellant failed to make the complaint in
the trial court, it is not preserved for appellate review. Cayan v. Cayan, 38 S.W.3d 161, 164 (Tex.
App.- Houston [14th Dist.] 2000, pet. denied). Among other requirements, an appellate brief must
contain appropriate argument for the relief sought. See Tex. R. App. P. 38.1(h). The brief must also
contain appropriate citations to the record and to relevant authority. Id. Failure to make appropriate
argument or provide relevant citations will result in the overruling of the issue raised. See, e.g.,
Sterling v. Alexander, 99 S.W.3d 793, 799 (Tex. App.- Houston [14th Dist.] 2003, pet. denied).
In his first issue, appellant contends that he was not served with the final decree, and thus was not
able to review it, prior to entry. Under this issue, appellant complains not only that he was not timely
served but also that the decree is incorrect on several points, including that: (1) the case was heard
on a particular date, (2) the making of a record was waived by the parties, and (3) the parties entered
into a written agreement. In regards to the date the court heard the case, the decree makes apparent
reference to the date of entry, not the date of trial, as appellant suggests. Regarding the other points
raised by appellant, although he raised the issue of inability to review the decree in his motion for new
trial, and he makes numerous factual allegations in his brief, he has not provided any proof in support
of his accusations. The pleadings filed in the case, to which appellant cites, are not evidence. Grass
v. Golden, 153 S.W.3d 659, 660 (Tex. App.- Tyler 2004, orig. proceeding) (citing Laidlaw Waste Sys.
(Dallas), Inc. v. City of Wilmer, 904 S.W.2d 656, 660 (Tex. 1995)). The factual statements made in
appellant's briefs are not evidence. See Calp v. Tau Kappa Epsilon Fraternity, 75 S.W.3d 641, 647
(Tex. App.- Amarillo 2002, pet. denied) (disregarding factual statements not supported by record
references). Because appellant has not supported his factual allegations with evidence or citation to
evidence, we overrule his first issue.
In his second issue, appellant complains that appellee Masoon submitted various pleadings, exhibits,
and orders to the court just one day before trial and never served them on appellant. Appellant,
however, does not cite to any place in the record where he made an objection, request, or motion on
this basis, and our review of the record has discovered no such objection, request, or motion.
Consequently, this issue is not preserved for review. See Tex. R. App. P. 33.1(a). We overrule
appellant's second issue.
In appellant's third issue, he contends that the trial court erred in denying his motion for enforcement.
The court denied the motion based on a finding of insufficient evidence of violations of the court's
temporary orders as alleged in the motion. See generally City of Keller v. Wilson, 168 S.W.3d 802,
810-27 (Tex. 2005) (discussing standards governing sufficiency of the evidence). In his briefing,
appellant claims that Masoon violated the trial court's temporary orders by failing to timely attend a
program for divorcing parents and timely file verification of such attendance. Appellant further
complains that Masoon committed perjury by telling the court that she had properly complied with
these portions of the temporary orders and that since she lied in regards to that issue it means she
also lied on other statements, such as when she denied not surrendering the children to appellant on
his assigned visitation days. Appellant additionally asserts that Masoon talked to the children about
the case, controlled their daughter against him, and failed to timely register the children for
counseling, all in violation of the court's temporary orders. The burden of proof on the motion for
enforcement was on appellant. See In re M.M.S., 256 S.W.3d 470, 477-78 (Tex. App.- Dallas 2008,
no pet.). In her testimony, Masoon generally denied the allegations made by appellant. In his
testimony, appellant complained generally that Masoon did not let him see the kids and had turned
the kids against him. He did not offer any specifics. As factfinder, the trial court was free to accept
Masoon's generalized testimony and disregard appellant's. See, e.g., Graybar Elec. Co., v. LEM &
Assocs., L.L.C., 252 S.W.3d 536, 544 (Tex. App.- Houston [14th Dist.] 2008, no pet.). The items
appellant cites to in the clerk's record, such as Masoon's certificate of completion of the parenting
program, do not constitute evidence because they were not admitted as exhibits at trial or judicially
noticed by the court. See In re J.R.S., 232 S.W.3d 278, 280-81, 281 n.4 (Tex. App.- Fort Worth 2007,
no pet.). Based on the evidence actually in the trial record, we cannot say that the trial court erred in
denying appellant's motion for enforcement. Accordingly, we overrule his third issue.
In the fourth issue, appellant contends that the trial court erred in refusing to award him damages on
his claims for assault, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and defamation. The trial court
specifically found that appellant presented no evidence of intentional infliction of emotional distress or
defamation and insufficient evidence of assault. In support of this issue, the only relevant record
citations appellant provides are to (1) Masoon's testimony that they had a fight, (2) a neighbor's
testimony that he once saw appellant with scratch marks on his face, and (3) appellant's own
testimony wherein he accused Masoon of trying to poke his eye out. The record further reveals that
Masoon also testified that appellant was the aggressor and the abuser in the relationship, and that
the neighbor did not testify as to how appellant received the scratches he observed. As factfinder,
the court was free to believe Masoon's testimony and disbelieve appellant's testimony. See, e.g.,
Graybar Elec. Co., 252 S.W.3d 536 at 544. Although the testimony appellant cites may have been
relevant to his assault claim, it does not establish that the trial court erred in refusing to award
damages on that claim. See generally Morgan v. City of Alvin, 175 S.W.3d 408, 418 (Tex. App.-
Houston [1st Dist.] 2004, no pet.) (AA person commits an assault by (1) intentionally, knowingly, or
recklessly causing bodily injury to another; (2) intentionally or knowingly threatening another with
imminent bodily injury; or (3) intentionally or knowingly causing physical contact with another when the
person knows or should reasonably believe that the other will regard the contact as offensive or
provocative.). Furthermore, in his brief, appellant fails to provide any relevant citations to authority.
See Tex. R. App. P. 38.1(h). Accordingly, this issue is overruled.
In issue number five, appellant contends that the trial court erred in awarding his former attorney,
Queta Vera, $4,666.39 for her outstanding fees and expenses. During trial, Vera introduced her
billing records into evidence and testified regarding (1) the contract between her and appellant, (2) a
check from appellant that was returned for insufficient funds, and (3) the reasonableness and
necessity of the fees charged. In his testimony, appellant alleged, with limited explanation, that Vera
overcharged him, produced unuseable discovery, and turned against him at mediation. In his
appellate brief, appellant provides a further litany of conclusory allegations against Vera (and
Masoon) unsupported by citation to trial evidence. Appellant cites primarily to Vera's billing records,
which generally support her claims to fees and expenses due, and to the clerk's record. Nothing in
the clerk's record constituted evidence at trial unless admitted as an exhibit at trial or judicially noticed
by the court. See In re J.R.S., 232 S.W.3d at 280-81, 281 n.4. Appellant also does not assert any
particular legal argument as a basis for overturning the award. Because appellant fails to make
proper legal arguments supported by proper citations to the record, we overrule his fifth issue. See
Sterling, 99 S.W.3d at 799.
In his sixth issue, appellant contends that the trial court erred in its division of the marital estate.
Appellant specifically asserts that (1) the assets and liabilities listed for him in one of Masoon's
exhibits were four years old at the time of trial; (2) since that time, Masoon has “acquired new loans
and sold stocks, while appellant Asold bonds and . . . acquire more debt; and (3) appellant began but
was not allowed to complete repairs to the electrical system of the house. A trial court has broad
discretion in dividing the marital estate at divorce. Murff v. Murff, 615 S.W.2d 696, 698 (Tex. 1981);
Zagorski v. Zagorski, 116 S.W.3d 309, 313 (Tex. App.- Houston [14th Dist.] 2003, pet. denied). On
appeal, we will presume the trial court properly exercised its discretion and reverse only where the
trial court clearly abused its discretion. Murff, 615 S.W.2d at 698; Zagorski, 116 S.W.3d at 313.
Apart from the statements listed above, appellant offers no explanation of how the trial court abused
its discretion in dividing the marital property. Appellant also does not cite any authority in support of
his statements and the only record cites he provides do not support his position. Consequently, we
find this issue improperly briefed. See Tex. R. App. P. 38.1(h); Sterling, 99 S.W.3d at 799. Issue six
In his seventh issue, appellant contends that the trial court erred in ordering him to pay child support
on the basis of a job he had not held for four years. Appellant additionally asserts that the court
erred in ordering child support exceeding 20% of his disposable earnings for one child and 50% of his
disposable earnings over all. Generally, a trial court has broad discretion in setting child support
payments, and absent a clear abuse of discretion, the court's order will not be disturbed on appeal.
In re Davis, 30 S.W.3d 609, 616 (Tex. App.- Texarkana 2000, no pet.). Here, at the conclusion of
trial, the trial court stated that it found appellant was intentionally underemployed and thus based his
child support obligation on a previous job. See Tex. Fam. Code ' 154.066 (“If the actual income of the
obligor is significantly less than what the obligor could earn because of intentional unemployment or
underemployment, the court may apply the support guidelines to the earning potential of the obligor.);
Schaban-Maurer v. Maurer-Schaban, 238 S.W.3d 815, 826 (Tex. App.- Fort Worth 2007, no pet.)
(discussing section 154.066). Beyond asserting that child support should be based on current
wages, appellant makes no argument explaining why the court erred in holding that he was
intentionally underemployed. In support of his argument that the court erred in awarding over 50% of
his disposable income, appellant cites the wage withholding order, wherein it states: “The maximum
amount to be withheld shall not exceed fifty percent (50%) of the Obligor's disposable earnings. As
appellee Masoon points out in her brief, this statement prevents an employer from withholding more
than 50% of appellant's disposable earnings but does not prevent the court from ordering him to pay
over 50% of his earnings. Because appellant has failed to make an argument explaining why the trial
court erred and has failed to cite relevant authority for the points raised, we overrule appellant's
seventh issue. See Tex. R. App. P. 38.1(h); Sterling, 99 S.W.3d at 799.
In issue eight, appellant contends that the trial court erred in ordering him to pay $10,350 for
Masoon's attorney's fees. Appellant first suggests that Masoon should be responsible for her own
attorney's fees because she instituted the divorce proceedings. Appellant, however, does not cite
any authority in support of this strict proposition, and we are aware of none. Appellant next asserts,
without citation to the record or authority, that Masoon did not plead for attorney's fees. Masoon's
pleadings, however, consistently contained a request that attorney's fees be awarded against
appellant. Appellant additionally states that he was charged with attorney's fees because he was
allegedly responsible for eight delays in the trial setting. Appellant then goes through eleven
continuances or resettings and attempts to explain why he did not cause them. Although Masoon's
counsel testified regarding the reasonableness and necessity of her fees and various delays in the
proceedings, she stopped short of blaming appellant for those delays. Furthermore, the trial court
said nothing in its findings or in the decree about the award of attorney's fees being based on delays
caused by appellant. Thus, appellant's arguments that he did not cause such delays do not
demonstrate, without more, that the trial court erred in awarding attorney's fees. Appellant offers no
further argument as to how the trial court erred in ordering him to pay Masoon's attorney's fees.
Consequently, we overrule issue eight.
In issue nine, appellant contends that the trial court erred in refusing to find that Vera negligently
represented him. To be successful on a professional negligence, or malpractice, cause of action, a
claimant must demonstrate: (1) the professional owed a duty to the claimant, (2) the professional
breached that duty, (3) such breach proximately caused injury to the claimant, and (4) compensable
damages occurred. Grimes v. Reynolds, 252 S.W.3d 554, 558-59 (Tex. App.- Houston [14th Dist.]
2008, no pet.). At the close of appellant's case-in-chief, Vera's attorney moved for a directed verdict
on appellant's negligence claims on the ground that appellant had failed to present any evidence
regarding duty, breach, or causation. The trial court granted the motion. In his briefing on this issue,
appellant does not cite to any evidence in the record establishing any of the elements of professional
negligence. Because appellant has not provided any relevant record citations, we overrule
appellant's ninth issue. See Tex. R. App. P. 38.1(h).
We affirm the trial court's judgment.
/s/ Adele Hedges
Panel consists of Chief Justice Hedges and Justices Anderson and Seymore.
 Appellant also complains under this issue about various delays he says were occasioned by
attorneys involved in the case. Appellant, however, does not explain how these delays support his
contention that the court erred in denying the motion for enforcement, and such a link is not obvious.