If you can’t come to an agreement on the division of assets in a family case then you might have a trial. If you have a trial, then a judge might divide the assets in a way you don’t like, or think is unfair. What are your options if the judge awards the spouse assets you believe are separate property? Or awards your spouse a disproportionate share of the community estate?
You can file an appeal, and ask the court of appeals to overturn the judge’s ruling. The law requires that trial courts “order a division of the parties’ estate in a just and right manner considering the rights of each party and any children of the marriage. TEX. FAM. CODE § 7.001. That’s a pretty broad standard, and numerous factors are considered by the trial court, including the disparity of incomes or earning capacities of the parties, “benefits which the party not at fault would have derived from the continuation of the marriage, business opportunities, education, relative physical conditions, relative financial condition, and obligations, the disparity of ages, size of separate estates, and the nature of the property.” Murff v. Murff, 615 S.W.2d 696, 699 (Tex. 1981). That kind of sounds like the judge can do what they want if it reflects those conditions and a consideration of those factors. And that’s kind of right, the trial courts in Texas family cases are only held to an abuse of discretion standard. If you want to overturn a trial court’s ruling in a family case on appeal, you have to show the judge abused her discretion, which is a legal way of saying they really screwed up and didn’t follow the law correctly.
One way to challenge the judge’s ruling is to look at the evidence the judge considered in diving the estate. That is, did the consider any evidence that was “of a substantive and probative character?” If so, then it’s probably not an abuse of discretion on appeal. You’d probably want to argue on appeal there was no evidence on an issue, or if there was, it wasn’t substantive or probative.