The division of property in a Texas divorce does not have to be equal, but should be “just and right.” Each party is responsible for providing evidence to show the value of the property so the court can make the division. A Texas appeals court recently considered what happens when parties do not provide information regarding the marital estate.
Conflicting Testimony Regarding Parties’ Relationship at Trial
According to the appeals court’s opinion, the husband was sixty and the wife was twenty-seven when they met and married. According to the husband, he met the wife on an online dating site and went to Monterrey, Mexico to meet her in person in October or November 2007. After spending time with her that night and the next day, the husband came back to the U.S. The wife denied meeting on a dating site and instead said they met at a hotel bar. They communicated via email and the husband visited the wife in Mexico a few more times. They married in February 2008 in Monterrey. The husband testified they did not have sexual relations or go on a honeymoon. He came back to Texas a few days later and the wife stayed in Mexico.
The husband obtained an attorney to get visas for the wife and her son. The visas were denied after an immigration interview in 2008. The husband claimed he had no further relationship or communications with the wife until late 2017 or early 2018 when she contacted him wanting to come to the U.S. He hired an attorney again. The wife obtained a visa in March 2018 and moved to Texarkana. There were substantial differences in the parties’ testimony regarding their relationship while they lived together and the reasons the wife moved to Dallas in 2018.
There were also discrepancies in the parties’ testimony regarding property. The husband testified he sent the wife money each month in 2008 and bought her clothes, a phone, a computer, and a vehicle. He denied acquiring any marital property. He said he bought a home in 2009 with funds received from selling property and denied the wife made any contributions to the home. The husband said he sold that house in 2019. He purchased a condominium, putting about 30% down. He received $11,000 when he sold the condo a few months later. He also testified he had a checking account with $40,000. He said he was listed during the marriage as joint owner of another condominium in Arkansas and had conveyed that interest, but said he never actually owned it. He also testified furnishings were included in the sale of the house. He also owned a Tahoe, but did not know how much it was worth.
Wife’s Testimony Found Not Credible
The husband presented a text message from the wife in 2018 stating that she was still paying for her house in Mexico. He understood that she bought that house while they were married. The wife testified she did not remember sending the message and said she had not paid for a house in Mexico. She also testified she did not have a vehicle or bank accounts in Texas. She denied having assets in Mexico acquired during the marriage, despite testifying she had a degree and worked all the time. She denied that the husband bought her the vehicle in 2008, but said he bought her a truck in 2018.
The trial court expressed concerns with the wife’s credibility due to inconsistencies in her testimony and her failure to acknowledge information that was proven through documentation. The court also noted concerns in the differences in the testimony between the parties and inconsistencies in each party’s testimony. The court was also concerned about the lack of testimony regarding the wife’s property in Mexico and the disposition of the husband’s assets.
The trial court granted the divorce on the grounds of insupportability and awarded each party the property in their possession.
The wife appealed, arguing the trial court abused its discretion in the property division. The appeals court noted, however, that “the parties were apparently less than forthcoming . . . in identifying the marital estate.” The husband denied acquiring any marital property and made vague claims of owning property and vehicles before the parties married. On cross-examination, however, he admitted he bought and sold at least two homes during the marriage, had $40,000 in a checking account, and owned a vehicle. The appeals court noted all of those assets were presumed to be community property pursuant to Tex. Fam. Code § 3.003(a), which presumes property possessed by either spouse during or on dissolution of marriage is community property.
On direct examination, the wife was only asked if had a vehicle or checking account in Texas. She denied owning a house in Mexico despite a text message in which she stated she was still making payments on a house in Mexico. She denied having acquired any assets in Mexico during the marriage even though she said she worked the whole time she was there.
Appeals Court Affirms Property Division
The appeals court noted the trial court had little evidence upon which to base a just and right distribution, but the issue was the fault of the parties. The appeals court noted that a party who fails to provide information about the assets making up the marital estate and their value cannot then complain that the property division was not just and right. The wife could not show that the trial court’ division was so unjust it constituted an abuse of discretion because she had not presented evidence of the value of any assets she acquired during the marriage.
The appeals court affirmed the trial court’s judgment.
Going Through a Divorce? Call McClure Law Group Today
This case shows the importance of evidence regarding the property in a marital estate. If you are concerned about a just and right division of property, an experienced Texas divorce attorney can work with you to identify and obtain the evidence needed to fight for a fair division. Call McClure Law Group at 214.692.8200 to set up time to discuss your case.