Clarification and Enforcement of Texas Property Division

A court must order a just and right division of the marital estate in a Texas divorce.  Once the divorce is final and the property has been divided, the property division generally may not be re-litigated.  The trial court does, however, retain the power to clarify and enforce the division.  Tex. Fam. Code § 9.002; Tex. Fam. Code § 9.008. The court may not alter or change the substantive property division, but may render additional orders to enforce, clarify, assist in implementing, or specify the manner of effecting the property division. Tex. Fam. Code § 9.006.  A former husband recently challenged a trial court’s partial denial of his request for clarification and enforcement.

According to the opinion of the appeals court, the final divorce decree awarded the husband certain personal property, specifically including the outdoor furniture purchased from a particular person and any property the wife had removed from the homestead, including certain dining room furniture and two bronze statues.

Clarification and Enforcement Hearing

The husband petitioned for clarification and enforcement of the property division, alleging the wife had not turned over certain property awarded to him, including two bronze statues, certain patio furniture he had purchased from a specified individual, and certain dining room furniture.  He asked the court to order her to turn them over by a specified date, and to award him their replacement value if she did not.

At the hearing, both the husband and wife testified she had not given them the statues, with her saying she did not know what they were and was not in possession of them.

The husband presented a check dated May 2015 written to the person from whom he bought the patio furniture.  There were also photos showing patio furniture, which the husband identified as the furniture he had purchased.  He also testified the wife had taken some of the patio furniture from the marital home to her new home.

The wife agreed she had taken some of the items shown in the photographs, but claimed the patio furniture she had owned that furniture at the time of the marriage.  She also testified the patio furniture awarded to the husband had been returned to him through the receiver.

The receiver stated in an affidavit that they were present when the husband came to the marital home to get the outdoor furniture. According to the affidavit, the receiver helped the husband load the furniture into a trailer.  The receiver stated the husband did not indicate anything was missing or that the wife had kept anything.  The receiver said the husband removed a couch and chairs, a table and chairs, and outdoor heaters, and that was the only patio furniture the receiver had seen.

The husband also claimed the wife had not returned the dining room furniture that had been awarded to him.  The wife testified she had sold the dining room furniture.

The trial court granted the petition regarding the bronze statues but denied it for the other property.  In its findings of fact and conclusions of law, the trial court found the wife had possession of the bronze statues and that she had not turned them over to the husband.  The court found, however, the evidence was legally insufficient to determine who had possession of the other items.  The husband appealed.

The Husband’s Appeal

On appeal, the husband argued the evidence was “more than sufficient” to determine who had possession of the patio furniture.  The husband pointed out that he testified he had not received the patio furniture from the wife, photographs showed the patio furniture at the marital home, and that the wife testified she took some of the items in the photograph.

The appeals court noted, however, that the wife had also testified that the patio furniture she took was not the same patio furniture awarded to the husband.  She also testified that she did not have any patio furniture bought from the person in question.  She testified the husband had already retrieved all of the patio furniture he had been awarded.  The receiver’s affidavit also stated the husband removed from the marital residence the only patio furniture the receiver had seen without indicating anything was missing or the wife had taken any of it.

The appeals court concluded that, when viewed in the light most favorable to the trial court’s finding, the evidence did not show as a matter of law that the wife had possession of the patio furniture and failed to return it to the husband.  The appeals court concluded the trial court’s finding was not against the great weight and preponderance of the evidence.

The appeals court agreed, however, that the evidence was sufficient for the trial court to determine possession of the dining room furniture.  Both parties had testified the wife had not turned over the dining room furniture.  The wife admitted to selling the furniture, and the appeals court noted this admission meant she had possession of the property at the time of the sale.  The appeals court concluded that even when the evidence was viewed in a light most favorable to the trial court’s finding, the factfinder could not reasonably have a firm conviction or belief the wife was not in possession of the dining room furniture.

The appeals court reversed the part of the trial court’s order denying the husband’s request for clarification and enforcement regarding the dining room furniture and remanded to the trial court.  It affirmed the other portions of the order.

Call an Experienced Dallas Divorce Lawyer

In this case, the court determined the husband did not receive all of the property he was awarded in the divorce.  If you have not received property you were awarded in your divorce, a skilled Texas divorce attorney can advise you on whether seeking clarification or enforcement may be appropriate in your case.  Call the offices of McClure Law Group at 214.692.8200.

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