In a Texas divorce, there is a presumption that property possessed by either party during or on dissolution is community property. Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 3.003(a). Property’s characterization is determined by inception of its title. In a recent case, a husband challenged a trial court’s characterization of property conveyed by his parents.
Conveyance of the Property
According to the appeals court’s opinion, the husband acquired the property from his parents during the marriage. The deed was labeled a warranty deed. It identified the parents as the grantors and the husband, “A MARRIED PERSON,” as the grantee. It stated consideration of $10 and “other good and valuable consideration.” It also stated the grantor “grants, sells, and conveys to Grantee the property.” A corrected deed was filed in 2015 changing the legal description.
The wife testified the husband’s parents were paid $1,750 for the property from a joint bank account. The husband and his father each testified that just $10 was paid as consideration for the property. Both spouses were listed on the construction loan application for building the home on the property. That application indicated the title would be held “Jointly with Spouse.”
The husband claimed the property was his separate property and characterized it as an inheritance. He and his parents testified other relatives owned land in the area and the property was intended to be a gift for the husband to keep the family close. The husband’s father stated the wife’s name was deliberately omitted from the deeds because they wanted to give the property to the husband as an early inheritance.
Characterization of the Property
The trial court found the deeds did not reflect an intent to gift the property. It also found the deeds were unambiguous and parol evidence could not be used to show the property was a gift. The trial court therefore concluded the husband had not rebutted the community property presumption.
The property was acquired during the marriage so the community property presumption applied. Tex. Fam. Code Ann 3.003. The husband argued he rebutted the presumption because the deeds created a presumption the property was given as a gift.
When a court construes an unambiguous deed, it seeks to determine the parties’ intent from all the language within the deed. The actual language controls over any private, unexpressed intent of the parties.
Pursuant to Texas case law, a gift of property is given voluntarily, gratuitously, and without consideration. Neither the original or correction deed included language suggesting the property was conveyed as a gift. In fact, the deeds stated that consideration had been exchanged and that the property was transferred “for the consideration.”
The husband also argued he rebutted the community property presumption with testimony that the property was a gift. Texas case law has established, however, that parol evidence is not admissible to contradict the consideration recital to show the deed was actually a gift deed.
The appeals court determined the trial court was correct in concluding the husband had failed to rebut the presumption with clear and convincing evidence and affirmed the trial court’s judgment.
Contact a Skilled Dallas Divorce Attorney
In this case, the testimony of the husband and his parents that the property was intended to be a gift to him was insufficient to overcome the community property presumption in light of the consideration recital in the deed. An experienced Texas family law attorney can advise you regarding characterization of property. Call McClure Law Group at 214.692.8200 to schedule a consultation.