Appealing The Division of Property in a Divorce Case

Appealing a Court’s Ruling on the Division of Property in a Divorce Case

Upon granting a divorce, a trial court must order the division of the parties’ community property and determine any claims for reimbursement by any of the martial estates in a manner it deems “just and right.” TEX. FAM. CODE ANN §§ 7.001, 7.007; see also Vallone v. Vallone, 644 S.W.2d 455, 459 (Tex. 1982). The party claiming the right of reimbursement bears the burden of pleading and providing the expenditures were made and are reimbursable. Chavez v. Chavez, 269 S.W3d 763, 768 (Tex. App.—Dallas 2008, no pet.). For purposes of the division of the parties’ community estate, community property consists of property, other than separate property, acquired by either spouse during marriage. TEX. FAM. CODE 3.002. Separate property consists of property owned or claimed by either spouse before marriage. 

In the case below, I go over what the law is for the division of property challenges on appeals and why the court affirmed the trial court’s decision. 

This appeal follows a trial court’s divorce decree dissolving a marriage between Appellant and Appellee. Appellant asserts the trial court abused its discretion in failing to reimburse the community estate for over $600,000 in expenditures on Appellee’s separate properties and by considering, in its division of property, debt from a home equity line of credit secured by another of Appellee’s separate properties. The Appellant’s separate property is labeled as “Swan”. Appellee’s separate property is labeled as “Flamingo”, “Wales”, and “Buckeye” (gift property). 

During the marriage, the Appellant and Appellee acquired assets valued at $351,126.47 and incurred $594,793.17 in liabilities. They used community funds to purchase separate properties. 

  • Community funds were used to pay separate properties acquired by both Appellant and Appellee. About $270,000 of community funds for Flamingo Property, owned by Appellee. This property was rented out for $3,000 a month and issued to Appellee as separate property in exchange for gold bars and an upgrade for the Appellant’s wedding ring.
  • The Wales Property was also paid with community funds for $210,000 along with funds from a home equity line of credit secure by the Buckeye property. 
  • A $23,000 reduction in Wales property mortgage came from payments made using community funds. 

Standard of Review on Appeal- Abuse of Discretion

The Appeals Court in this case reviewed the trial court’s property division for abuse of discretion. The Appeals Court will only reverse the trial court’s decision if the ruling was unreasonable or unsupported by the facts or circumstances of the case. Samlowski v. Wooten, 332 S.W.3d 404, 410 (Tex. 2011); Vallone, 644 S.W.2d at 460. 

Court of Appeals affirms the trial court’s decision

Appellant asserts that the trial court abused its discretion in reimbursing the community estate for only $23,000 in expenditures on the Buckeye property and failing to reimburse the community estate for any expenditures on the Flamingo and Wales properties at a value of more than $660,000.The Court held that because the Appellant ignored the connection in value of her separate properties and net equity value over  $625,000, she ignored the evidence that supports the trial court’s determination to not recognize the additional claims for reimbursement.

Although the community did not benefit from the expenditures on Buckeye and Wales properties, the court held that Appellant did. The Flamingo property was rented out for $3,000 a month and income produced from separate property is considered community property. Additionally, she received compensation for making the Flamingo property the separate property of Appellees. She received gold bars and an upgrade on her wedding ring. Because of the benefit the community estate received from the Flamingo property, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s ruling in not recognizing the Appellant’s additional claims for reimbursement to the community estate. 

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