Division of property can be hotly contested in Texas divorce proceedings. In a marriage, some assets acquired are jointly owned, with both spouses named as owners. Others are community property owned by one party in name, but the other spouse has an interest in that property. Others yet are individually owned by one spouse or the other, and the presumption of community property status must be rebutted.
In a recent family law case heard in a Texas appeals court, the husband in the soon-to-be-ended marriage appealed a trial court decision that determined that a property acquired during the couple’s marriage was solely owned by the wife. The husband also appealed the trial court’s award of attorneys’ fees to the wife. The appellate court agreed with the trial court’s determination of property and upheld the divorce decree. The court did, however, reverse the portion of the decree that awarded the wife attorney’s fees.
Facts of the Case
The property in dispute in this case was a bar owned by the woman in the marriage. The trial court found that the woman signed a five-year lease for the property in 1990. In 1995, she renewed the lease with an option to buy before the marriage began in 1997. The property was purchased after the start of the marriage, just a few months later.
The trial court also found that several documents indicated the wife was the sole owner of the property and showed that the husband signed and acknowledged those statements. The property was sold in 2017, two years prior to the divorce filing, and the division of the proceeds is disputed by the husband.
The husband also disputes the trial court’s award of attorney’s fees, stating they were not authorized by Texas’s family code.
The appellate court held that the husband failed to make a showing that the division of property decreed by the trial court was not “just and right,” the Texas standard for fairness in division. Because the trial court made no findings of fact or conclusions of law and the husband did not request these findings, the appellate court could not analyze the fairness of the decision or reverse the decree.
The court did, however, agree with the husband that the award of attorney’s fees was improper because the relevant statute only authorizes the award of attorneys’ fees conditioned on unsuccessful appeal. The fees in question were not incurred during the appeal and thus were not authorized by the statute, according to the court.
Are You Facing a Divorce in Texas?
If you have disputed property, you may need an experienced divorce attorney to protect your interests. The attorneys at Guest & Gray handle a wide variety of family law cases and are well-positioned to help you navigate your Dallas divorce. Our attorneys know how difficult family law issues are for individuals to face and can handle your dispute with compassion and care while ensuring you are treated fairly. For your free and confidential consultation, give us a call today at 972-564-4644.