Compelling Texas Divorce Court to Specify Property Valuation

iStock-483613578A trial court that has divided property in a Texas divorce must provide written findings of fact and conclusions of law, including how it characterized and valued the assets and liabilities, if a party properly requests them. In a recent case, a husband challenged the court’s refusal to specify the valuation it used for the parties’ assets when there was no request for findings of fact and conclusions of law.

Wife Seeks Fault-Based Divorce

When the wife filed for divorce, she asked for a disproportionate share of the community estate.  She claimed the husband was at fault in the break-up of the marriage.

The wife submitted a spreadsheet of the assets she requested showing both her and the husband’s valuation of each.  She valued the assets she requested at $2,084,714, and the husband valued them at $2,585,450. She also presented a spreadsheet of the assets she proposed be awarded to the husband, with her valuation totaling $2,662,329 and the husband’s totaling $2,612,102.

The husband argued that the wife was at fault in the breakup of their marriage.  He requested certain assets he claimed had a total value of $2,246,586, and requested the wife be awarded assets that claimed were valued at $2,347,536.

Trial Court Grants Divorce in Wife’s Favor

The court granted the divorce and stated in its Memorandum of Ruling that the community property and debts were “awarded pursuant to the proposal included in [the wife’s] Amended Argument.”

At the hearing on the final decree, the husband argued the trial court adopted the wife’s proposal, but failed to indicate whether it adopted the wife’s valuations or the husband’s valuations, when both were reflected in the proposal. The court responded that it intended only to adopt the property division and not the values.

In the final decree, the court listed the property and debt awarded to each party, but did not state any values.  Neither party requested findings of fact or conclusions of law.

Husband Appeals Lack of Asset and Debt Valuation

The husband appealed, arguing the court erred by not indicating which values it relied upon.  The wife argued the court was not required to specify which values it used.   The husband argued this omission prevented him from determining if the property division was equitable or if the court used “manifestly unjust” valuations. The wife argued the husband waived any error by not requesting findings of fact and conclusions of law.

Pursuant to Tex. Fam. Code § 6.711(a), the trial court must state the value of the assets and liabilities in its findings of fact and conclusions of law “on request by a party.”  A part must file a request for findings of fact and conclusions of law within 20 days of the judgment being signed. The request must be in a separate document and must be titled, “Request for Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law.”  Tex. R. Civ. P. 296.

Appeals Court Finds Husband Waived His Right to Appeal Lack of Valuation

The husband did not file a request pursuant to Rule 296, for reasons he explained on appeal. The appeals court found that he waived the right to complain about the trial court’s failure to make findings on the value of the property.

Because there were no written findings, the appeals court had to presume the trial court made the findings necessary to support its judgment.  It could not determine if the court abused its discretion in the property division without knowing the basis of that division or the percentages awarded to each party.

The appeals court therefore affirmed the trial court’s ruling.

The husband in this case asked the trial court to specify which valuation it used, but did not do so in a formal request for findings of fact and conclusions of law.  A court could provide information on the valuations it used outside of such a request, but this case shows that the party cannot compel it to do so without making the formal request.

Property Issues and Appeals are Complex – Call McClure Law Group Today

An experienced Texas divorce attorney can help you navigate the complex issues involved in a divorce with significant community assets.  Schedule your consultation by calling McClure Law Group at 214.692.8200.

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