Married couples who choose to get divorced in Texas will be subject to a court’s determination of a fair and equitable property division between the parties. Younger couples who married at an early age and share finances can expect a marital estate to be divided roughly evenly. Marriages between older couples with independently established finances can be more complicated, especially if non-marital funds are commingled with marital assets throughout a relationship. The Texas Court of Appeals recently rejected a man’s claim to the equity in a shared home that he contributed $70,000 of his own money to renovate during the marriage.
According to the facts discussed in the appellate opinion, the parties to the recent case were married in Texas in 2010. Being an older couple, each spouse entered into the marriage with existing individual assets. Once married, the couple purchased a home together. The husband later contributed approximately $70,000 to renovate/construct a swimming pool at the new home. This money came from the proceeds of the sale of a property the husband had owned before the marriage. Once the parties filed for divorce, the husband requested that he be awarded a larger portion of the shared home because the renovations were paid for with his separate funds. The trial court rejected the husband’s requests, instead dividing the ownership of the marital home based on the amount each spouse contributed to the purchase price.
The husband appealed the trial court’s judgment, arguing that he was entitled to a larger portion of the marital home than his ex-wife, as he contributed his own money to the renovations. The applicable Texas law states that a spouse who contributes to a capital improvement on a shared piece of marital property is entitled to reimbursement for half the increase in value added by the improvement. The appellate court found that the husband never properly requested this reimbursement and that he put no evidence on the record to prove the actual value of the renovation. Because the procedures for reimbursement were not followed, and there is no evidence on the record that the renovations actually increased the value of the home, the court agreed that the husband was not entitled to additional credit for the renovation. As a result of this ruling, the husband will not receive any compensation for any of his money invested in the marital home before the divorce.